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Do I HAVE to finish it?

July 13, 2009 by PatLeach

My Facebook status today states that I don't feel compelled to finish books that I don't find compelling.  Many people seem to agree with me on that.

The book that inspired my status is "American Made: The Enduring Legacy of the WPA: When FDR Put the  Nation to Work" by Nick Taylor.  I was reading it because it's on this year's American Library Association Notable Books List.

VERY interesting and timely topic.  The first 100 or pages set the tone for what our nation was facing at the start of the Depression, as FDR was preparing to take on the presidency.  The questions raised at the time, such as the role of the federal government, the effectiveness of massive spending, and the ability to know when the economy was turning around, seemed SO applicable to 2009. 

My complaint is that Taylor misses the opportunity to make this book really sing by weaving in the stories of actual people whose lives were impacted by the Works Progress Administration.  I want to be upfront in saying that I usually prefer a book where I care about somebody.  I'm generally interested in the history of this time period, but not interested enough to keep reading, without that connection to people.  "The Worst Hard Time" by Timothy Egan, the One Book One Lincoln featured title from 2007, weaves stories throughout the book, and I'd say this is what made it readable despite its brutal topic.

So I'm putting this one down.  Often, I set books aside with the idea that I might return later, thinking that maybe when I'm in a different mood, a book will work for me.  I don't think that's going to happen here.

I'll move along to either the final One Book One Lincoln selection that I haven't at least sampled, "What Is the What?" by Dave Eggers, or perhaps to another of the thick nonfiction titles on the Notables List--maybe "Defying Dixie: the Radical Roots of Civil Rights, 1919 to 1950" by Glenda Elizabeth Gilmore.

How okay are you with putting a book down once you've started it?  Is what you're reading now compelling?  Share!

Tagged in: reading, Good Reads, Notable Books, "One Book One Lincoln",

Comments 1

Handbasket said:
Great topic! It's hard for me to not feel guilty when I put a book down. But as I've grown up and become more busy with less time to do my favorite thing (read), I am doing this more and feeling better about it. I recently returned a novel I was almost 100 pages into; I just didn't care about any of the characters (you are so right about needing to care about somebody). Once I was reading a very long fiction book that I found to be so annoying, I threw it in the trash can when I reached the last chapter. (I realize it was wrong to throw it away. . . I should have donated it)

Sometimes, I plow through because the subject matter is just so interesting to me and I want to collect the facts. The Defining Dixie book sounds intriguing!

I'm got two books going right now, and one of them is a physician's critique of the US healthcare crisis and his recommendations for fixing it. . . It's very interesting but not all that engaging (lacks personal stories); but I will finish it because of its timeliness and my desire to educate myself.

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