The Sunday Salon: Book Finishing Slump

by Kim on August 23, 2009 · 26 comments

The Sunday Salon.comI realized this morning that I have not finished a single book in the month of August. Part of it’s because I’ve been slogging along with Infinite Jest, which takes a lot of time. Even though Infinite Summer officially ends September 22, my goal is to finish the book before classes start just because I don’t think I’ll have the mental energy once I’m doing school reading.

As for not finishing any other books, I don’t have an explanation for that. It seems weird. The thing is, I think I’ve just got so many books in progress that I just haven’t committed to finishing a single one of them. Off the top of my head, I can think of seven books in progress:

  • An ARC copy of Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffinger which I’ve been carrying around in my purse to read when I have spare moments in public
  • A book on the history of blogging, Say Everything, but Scott Rosenberg, which I’m focusing on reading a chapter a day so it gets returned to the library on time
  • My copy of Love Stories in This Town by Amanda Eyer Ward for the Random Reading Challenge, which is currently at the bottom of my priority list
  • Given and Standing by Words by Wendell Berry for the Literary Road Trip, which I started but haven’t read in a while
  • Bonk, by Mary Roach, which Boyfriend and I are reading together
  • And, of course, Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace, which I am so close to finishing (ie on page 700-ish of 960-ish)

I feel like I might have a case of reading paralysis — there are so many books that want my attention that I can’t seem to focus enough on any of them to just finish it. It’s early here and I expect Boyfriend to be asleep for at least a couple more hours, so maybe I can make some good progress this morning. Or, I’ll start with my Google Reader or work on some blog posts… it is so darn easy to get distracted!

UPDATE,  Sunday at 7:57 p.m.: I finally finished a book — Say Everything by Scott Rosenberg. Awesome book on the last 15 years of web history and blogging. I can’t wait to write the review.

Do you ever find yourself in a book finishing slump? How do you get out of it? Which of my in progress books should I commit to finishing right now?

Also, a quick thank you to anyone who nominated me for an award for Book Bloggers Appreciation Week. I was lucky enough to be nominated four times — Best Nonfiction Review Blog, Best Writing, Most Altruistic Blog, and Best Blog Name. I’m really flattered, so thanks!

{ 26 comments… read them below or add one }

Ann August 23, 2009 at 9:16 am

I wrote about this earlier in the week because for almost the first time in my reading life I find myself reading more than one book at once – and it feels like committing reading bigamy. Today, however, I am going to finish a book. I am… I really am…..

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bermudaonion August 23, 2009 at 6:30 pm

I don’t know how you can read so many books at one time! I usually don’t have trouble finishing books since I only read one at a time. Congratulations on your nominations!

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Nicole August 23, 2009 at 6:35 pm

Congratulations on your nominations! I haven’t been able to really finish anything this month either. I think I am just distracted by the gorgeous weather that we have been having. I just have no focus. I finally finished a book today.

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Jen - Devourer of Books August 23, 2009 at 6:43 pm

I don’t blame you having trouble finishing a book when you’re reading that many! The most I can do is usually 2 actual books and an audiobook. On the other hand, though, I can’t believe you’re reading “Her Fearful Symmetry” and not able to concentrate! I really ate that book up (you know, I always want to say ‘I just devoured that book’ but then feel silly about it since it is my blog name…). I’d recommend concentrating on one or two and finishing them, so you have a couple fewer to think about, at least.

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charley August 23, 2009 at 7:16 pm

Congratulations on your nominations! I experience reading slumps, too, and I can never determine the cause.

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Trish August 23, 2009 at 9:16 pm

I was in a reading slump earlier this month when I did NOT want to read my current book. It was for a book club, so I suffered through it, but any other time I would have abandoned ship. I followed it up with Eclipse (Twilight series) and that did the trick. Hope you unslump soon!

And congrats on the nominations!

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Lu August 23, 2009 at 10:56 pm

I’m so infinitely jealous of you that you have a copy of Her Fearful Symmetry!

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Karen August 24, 2009 at 4:20 am

I had a book finishing (and even starting!) slump about a month or so ago. I think I had a similar problem to what you are describing – I just had so many books on the go I felt totally overwhelmed by even picking one up. I made a decision to just concentrate on one book at a time for a while and it has made a huge difference. It was really hard at first – I am so used to reading as my mood takes me but I really feel it has helped me enjoy and appreciate my reading more.

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Jenny August 24, 2009 at 7:50 am

I cannot even begin to articulate how jealous I am that you have an ARC of Audrey Niffenegger’s new book. I am so excited for that book to come out!!

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Steph August 24, 2009 at 10:13 am

I have been in a bit of a reading slump of late, so I definitely sympathize. But what you’re expressing (about not being able to make it through a single book) is specifically why I am a monogamous reader! I just can’t handle having so many books on the go, because inevitably they fall by the wayside in favor of a single read (which I might as well just read exclusively anyway!). When I’m in a slump like you are, I often just give myself a few days where I don’t pressure myself to read. And then I either start picking up books and seeing what sticks, or I just randomly pick something and start reading and just power through. The reading slump happens, and it sucks, but just know it won’t last forever! And be thankful we’re not those people who are ALWAYS in a slump and NEVER read!

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Jackie (Farm Lane Books) August 24, 2009 at 10:18 am

Having so many books on the go always means that you have difficulty finishing any – I try to stick to just one or two at once, otherwise I just can’t really get into them.

I’m pleased to hear you have finished a few now.

Congratulations on your nominations! All well deserved – good luck for the short listing (not that I think you’ll need it!)

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Liz August 24, 2009 at 2:13 pm

I’ve been in a horrible slump as well, at least as relates to fiction. I’ve started a bunch and just not been interested enough to finish. I’ve perused several books on productivity and self-improvement (and have been motivated to declutter!), and finally am reading, and nearly finished with, the latest Mary Higgins Clark, which has “heart” somewhere in the title.

I’m about to order the Julie Child cookbook, which isn’t really “reading.” I got inspired — like thousands of others — by the new movie, which I reeally enjoyed. And I like to cook.

I’m also just really enjoying — if that’s the right word, given the somber subject matter — a book on how an orphan girl survived World War II, after German nationals were forced from their homes. It’s called “Abandoned and Forgotten.” It’s a memoir, but also shows how that war, any war really, impacts a country’s civilian population in ways big and small. In the author’s case, it’s about how her non-political, simple farmer family and others in similar positions who did not bend under Hitler’s regime was vulnerable to persecution and prosecution, without benefit of trial. And I guess “enjoy” is suitable, because it also shows the resilience of the human spirit.

And I’m going to put that blogging book on hold at the library. It sounds very interesting!

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justicejenniferreads August 24, 2009 at 3:22 pm

I don’t read more than one book at a time if I can help it. When I’m in school, I’m usually reading two or three books at a time and it drives me insane so when I don’t have to be reading more than one book at a time, I don’t. It helps me stay focused and helps me finish books in a more timely manner.

But I have still been in your situation. There are some books that are just difficult to finish for whatever reasons. It can be because they’re so good you don’t want to finish them or are so horrible you can’t bear to read another page. And other times, it’s something else … some unspeakable thing that you can’t describe.

Best of luck getting out of the slump and into finishing some books! I can see that you’re already making progress. Go you!

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Kim August 24, 2009 at 3:55 pm

If you’re committing reading bigamy, I have no idea what crime I’d be accused of! It was nice to just focus on one book all afternoon yesterday — I think I just need to do that and I’ll finish these off in no time.

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Kim August 24, 2009 at 3:55 pm

Thank you :)

I usually have 2-3 going at a time — one at home, one that I’m carrying around in my purse, and another random book for some other purpose. Seven is too many, even for me.

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Kim August 24, 2009 at 3:56 pm

Yes, the weather is a major culprit as well. I want to take advantage of all the sun before it’s gone. I should just take a book to the park — two problems at once.

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Kim August 24, 2009 at 3:57 pm

Her Fearful Symmetry is the book I’ve been taking in my purse to read during lunch and other breaks I have while I’m out and about. It’s great, so far, but I’m just reading it in pieces. I think if I sat down to read it in an afternoon I could do it — I’m loving the book. But yes your advice is sound… focus!

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Kim August 24, 2009 at 3:58 pm

I wish I knew the cause, then I could diagnose it and move on. I’m sure I’ll feel better once I finish a couple of these and feel like I can move on.

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Kim August 24, 2009 at 4:01 pm

I think Her Fearful Symmetry will do the trick. I’m focusing on that one next and so far it’s pretty awesome.

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Kim August 24, 2009 at 4:01 pm

I’d be jealous of me too ;)

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Kim August 24, 2009 at 4:02 pm

I’ve got my pile of library books and “books I should read next” sitting on a chair next to my computer, and I think they sort of mock and intimidate me. I should hide them, then I wouldn’t worry so much. I like the idea of one at a time, but I think for me two at a time is more easy to do — I can’t just focus on Infinite Jest because it’s too heavy to carry around!

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Kim August 24, 2009 at 4:03 pm

I was beyond surprised that I was offered an ARC copy of it — I have no idea how that happened other than I reviewed The Time Traveler’s Wife a long time ago. I think that must be how they found my blog to offer it. Either way, it’s pretty exciting — it’s probably the “biggest’ ARC I’ve been offered.

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Kim August 24, 2009 at 4:04 pm

Excellent point — I would hate to not read at all. Just reading one thing has never worked for me… I like having different books for different purposes (usually a lighter book to take with me when I go out and a bigger book to read at home).

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Kim August 24, 2009 at 4:05 pm

Me too, it was nice to get one done yesterday. And it was a library book, so that’s a doubly lifted pressure to my reading list :)

And thanks for the luck. I’m not really expecting to be short listed, but that would be truly awesome!

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Kim August 24, 2009 at 4:06 pm

I love getting motivated to declutter. I’ve been trying to do that in prep for school starting, but I’ve only been marginally successful.

The blogging book is great — it actually inspired me a lot about my blog and the idea of blogging in general. Plus, it pointed out a bunch of blogging connections I never knew about. It’s a book that I’d buy to have in a collection if I came across it at a reasonable price.

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Kim August 24, 2009 at 4:08 pm

Yeah, reading a lot during school is hard, although I can’t say I have too hard of a time doing it. I sometimes like the distraction of getting to switch my brain into different modes of thinking for each class.

I think Infinite Jest is really what’s holding me up. I can only read a little at a time, and because it’s taking such a long time it sort of demoralizes me from reading other books. That’s sort of backwards, I guess, but I blame the book! Too bad it’s actually really good and I’m excited to be reading it :)

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