Catch Up If You Can (Weeks 11 & 12)

What does it take for you to give up on a book? How long do you give it to get interesting? Is there a point at which you’re so far into it, you might as well finish, even if it’s drudgery?

The most common reason I give up on a book is poor writing. I’ll endure almost any level of dry material or unfamiliar subject matter if the writing is tight and clear. Once in awhile I will give up on a book when the subject matter is too sensitive for the author’s level of expertise. (Usually, men trying to write about topics best left to women.) My make-or-break point is roughly one-third of the way through. This gives the book plenty of time to get into its subject matter, but I haven’t devoted enough time yet to consider it a waste to ditch it.

In Week #11, I quit my first book of this challenge, a biography. It was judgemental, poorly edited, and I kept losing track of everything I’d read. Just over one-third in, I quit. It wasn’t worth my time anymore. (It was also making me feel pretty bad about myself – which I really don’t need any more of in this day and age.) My policy for books I don’t like is generally that I don’t talk about them again. Reading is often a matter of taste, and unless the author did something particularly harmful, I’m just going to let it go. I don’t see the point of going on endless rants about things I don’t like.

Next, I read my way through a short novel/memoir/ethnography of a tribe of people in Sierra Leone. I didn’t love this book either. Muddling the lines between fiction and truth quite honestly confuses me. I’d need someone to explain the context of this one to me more before I really got it. With two books that really left me struggling to want to read, I turned back to my old standby: true crime. I’m currently reading Patricia Cornwell’s telling of the Jack the Ripper case, Portrait of a Killer. This is the only true crime title I have on the list. Jack the Ripper has never been one of the serial killers I was much interested in – I am much more familiar with modern cases – so it’s easy to see why this one remained on my shelf for so long. I’m not quite done, but so far it’s quite well-written and puts a lot of the events of the time in context. For instance, Jack the Ripper preyed upon prostitutes – and Cornwell explains just how easy it was for any woman to fall into this life in the day, because there were so few jobs women were allowed to hold. If her husband died or left her, she did not have any good options. As far as Jack the Ripper, as Mulder says in one of my favorite X-Files lines ever: “You see one serial killer, you’ve seen them all.” It’s the contrast between historical forensics and current that has me enthralled here.

My screenshots of my progress here reveal the haphazard way I’ve spent the last three weeks. This next week I change to a challenging schedule that will mean I either have to develop laser-like focus on getting my reading in or I will get so far behind I may not finish until the end of 2020! I’m ready for the challenge, though. Much of this schedule is self-created anyway, and if I weren’t half-terrified/half-thrilled I wouldn’t even be attempting it. Here’s to trying to do too much in too little time and making magical things happen!

Stats, Week 11 (change from week 10)

Books completed (total): 8 (+0)

Books to go: 51 (-1)

Pages read (total): 3060 (+210)

Pages to go: 19539 (-369)

Pages per day (all year): 41.35 (-1.19)

Pages per day to complete entire goal by end of year: 67.11 (+0.30)

Stats, Week 12 (change from week 11)

Books completed (total): 9 (+1)

Books to go: 50 (-1)

Pages read (total): 3351 (+291)

Pages to go: 19248 (-291)

Pages per day (all year): 41.37 (+0.02)

Pages per day to complete entire goal by end of year: 67.74 (+0.63)

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