Seriously, I’m Having Book Troubles.

There seems to be a theme on the interwebs today: book abandonment.

Tanya at 52 Books or Bust had to give up on a book that she really wanted to love; over at Another Book Blog, we discussed how many pages you gave a book before ultimately walking away; and Lindsey from Reeder Reads did some scientific (twitter) research to find out what makes people break up with their books.

If you’ve been kicking around here for a while, you know that I love biographies about women, especially royal women. They are my cat nip. Marie Antoinette, Catherine the Great, Queen Victoria, the Duchess of Devonshire,  the six wives of Henry VIII, the five granddaughters of Queen Victoria – these ladies are my jam. I can’t get enough.

A couple of weeks ago I turned my attention to a biography of Lucrezia Borgia. I thought it would be right up my alley: beautiful, powerful family, some intrigue and scandal. This should have been my thing. And it just was not. I struggled to get through 150 pages and then realized that it wasn’t going to get any better and I needed to stop. Note to self: biographies of women from the 1400s will tell their story based on the men in their lives.

queen anne

On the same library trip when I picked up the Borgia biography, I carried out Queen Anne: The Politics of Passion. The portrait that they used for the cover is beautiful and with a title like that, one that held all the promise of scandal…well I was pretty sure that this was going to be a delicious read.

It started out that way. Queen Anne’s father, James II, caused a scandal by marrying beneath him in secret and then when his new wife was pregnant with his child and they had to come clean about the secret marriage, he thought he could get out of it and denied she was his wife. So those were her parents.

This time the problem is not one of a lack of researchable materials. Anne Somerset has done an impeccably thorough job of putting together the life of Queen Anne. The problem is that Queen Anne was kind of an asshole. And not in a good way. She picked fights, she was sulky, she could barely walk before she was 40 because she was so fat, and she was not well educated. She was pregnant 17 times and none of her children survived past the age of 10. Actually only one of them even made it past the age of 2 or 3.

I’m also finding myself wandering off when I read because so much has to be explained about the time and the politics that were causing such upheaval. In trying to describe Queen Anne’s reign, we have to understand the political climates and ruling personalities in Spain, France and the Netherlands. Entire books can be written about the politics of any one of these nations – it’s too much.

I really want to finish this book but I’ve been working on it for days and I’m only just into the 200s of a 500+ page book. I would probably have fewer reservations about walking out on Queen Anne if I hadn’t already done it to Lucrezia Borgia a couple of weeks ago.

My bad book luck is apparently not quite through with me.

Would you keep going or walk away?

27 thoughts on “Seriously, I’m Having Book Troubles.

  1. The only time I feel guilty abandoning a book is if I want to finish it for a challenge or something. Otherwise, I bail. There are too many good books out there to waste time reading ones I don’t like.

    I hope your luck changes soon!

  2. I would try something else, and see how that goes! You could always go back to this one later if you wanted to. I’ve been trying not to force myself to finish things I’m really not liking lately, and I like it a lot!

  3. First of all, labeling our decision to stop reading a book as abandonment is loaded with heavy guilt. I do not have a relationship with a book. If I eat a tuna sandwich and it doesn’t agree with me am I supposed to finish it?

    • I’m a lapsed Catholic – everything is tinged with guilt 😉

      But your comment has really intrigued me. I do think of reading books as a relationship. You put a fair amount of time into reading, getting to know characters and their history, working through their day to day or being with them at their best and worst. That is totally a relationship. So when that relationship breaks down, or isn’t working for you, you do kind of have to make a judgement call: will this be worth it? As a reader who is a sucker for a quality ending, sometimes I want to find out the ending – it might change my mind on the book. But I guess with a biography, I can just google Queen Anne.

      • I’m so close to agreeing with you about the time we invest in reading can qualify as a relationship; on the other hand I invest time in a movie, yet have no problem turning it off should it not work for me. I wonder why we are more emotionally attached to books?

      • Very true. And I’ve noticed I’m more attached to actually reading a book versus an audio book or even an e-book. There must be a definition chemical connection with emotions when we touch something, like when we physically turn pages versus swiping them.

  4. I am bummed about your bad Lucrezia book! I have these two on my TBR list – Lucrezia BorgiaL Life, Love, and Death in Renaissance Italy and The Borgias: The Hidden History.

    Queen Anne does not sound like fun. A good Anne Boleyn book on the other hand…

    • I went through a massive Tudor phase with the result that now I can’t read any more about them. I know how it all goes down. I’m still pretty into the Yorks but those days are waning quickly. I was hoping that the Stuarts would have something for me. But maybe I skip them and go straight to the Georges.

      Maybe the Lucrezia book will speak to you like it just didn’t to me. And a history of all the Borgias might be way better.

  5. I don’t like leaving books unfinished, though sometimes I wonder why I continue reading. In your case, since the book is from the library and you don’t like Queen Anne, I would say it’s OK to stop reading. As others have said, there are too many good books out there to force yourself to read something you really don’t enjoy.

  6. I need to learn the skill to turn away. It’s so difficult. Also, I’m a one book at a time reader, so I really have so much invested. If a book is just not doing it for me I end up just slogging through it at a much slower pace and I’m exhausted by the end. Then there’s such pressure to get a really good read next time around. Luckily, lately I’ve been having luck with friends’ recommendations and it hasn’t happened in a long while. Currently though I’m reading Neil Gaiman’s American Gods, and while I am enjoying it, it’s not the same attachment I’ve had to his other two books I’ve read. It’s not going to be a DNF; however, I am disappointed with my less than usual pace and so I think I need to also learn the skill of reading multiple books at once.

    • It is actually a skill to be able to walk away from a book. It’s really hard. It does get kind of easier but for me, it’s still a big deal every time I get to that point. I only read one book at a time. I’ve tried reading multiple books at a time but I don’t find that I get through any of them any faster and at least one of them ends up being the redheaded stepchild, the one that you’re like “I don’t want to read that one!” You need to blaze through a couple of shorter books to get that mojo back!

  7. Pingback: Reading Italy: The Deadly Sisterhood | The Paperback Princess

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