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Putting Down A Great Book: Losing Interest

A photograph of copies of Vanity Fair, Anna Karenina, and David Copperfield

It’s a common occurrence. You’re really enjoying a book but for one reason or another you put it down for a bit and then start to become indifferent. The book you were really enjoying that great when you’d put it down… you’re leaving it on the table unfinished. Perhaps you’ve started another book or you’re just not reading now, at the moment. And you leave it and leave it and become less and less interest.

This has happened to me so much, though I think it’s something you get better at avoiding in time, simply because you realise how it occurs. It will still happen, even then, but more likely due to other responsibilities than because you’re actively avoiding it.

Why does it happen and why do we lose interest? I think there are two reasons. The first is that once you put the book down you’re going to start forgetting it. You’re going to forget the greatness and its impact on you, even if you don’t forget the feeling itself. And it’s a slow process of forgetting, at least at first, slow enough you reason with yourself it doesn’t matter today, you’ll pick it up tomorrow. Rinse and repeat. Thinking of my own experiences I’d say the forgetfulness declines dramatically after a certain point, even if that point differs per book, situation, and person.

The second reason is that you’re not holding it in a place of importance. You were, but now you’re not. It loses the effect it was having because you decided not to read it. If it’s not a priority a book’s something you’re going to forget.

As such, a book will lose its hold on you as you find other things to do. And when you reach that day on which you ask yourself why you didn’t finish it, you’ll often forget that you put it aside.

I’m finding this with The House On The Strand. It’s only been a week since I read the first glorious 40 pages and it’s been because I want to concentrate on my Netgalley list; but already the wonder I felt about the concept, the fantasy, has lost its hold on me and whilst I know I’ll return to it soon (to avoid the trap) that happiness I had is more an indifference. It’ll likely return, but still. (Maybe I should say I lost my hold on the book rather than the other way round…)

In my case the process happens most with books that I find daunting, I know that. Putting down a book such a book leaves me back to being daunted, no matter that I’d conquered it previously. So I find Du Maurier daunting for the length and cultural and thematic importance – I’ll lose my grip if I leave it.

What has your experience of this concept been? What do you think causes it, whether in general or for you personally?



May 11, 2015, 2:09 am

This doesn’t happen to me, but sometimes if I am really tired I will go to bed without reading if my current book is just meh. If I think a book is amazing, I can’t stop reading.

Tracy Terry

May 11, 2015, 12:04 pm

Hmm, thought provoking.

I can’t say I’ve ever thought about the whys and wherefores of this until now though I certainly know what you mean about becoming indifferent about a book.

Literary Feline

May 11, 2015, 5:10 pm

I had never really given it much thought–but now that you mention it, it does seem to happen to me quite a bit more than I probably want to admit. Especially in recent years (in the time I have begun to think of as After the Child). Especially with audio books, which I have to actively make time to listen since it doesn’t come naturally to me.

With those and print/e-books, it’s so easy to get distracted by more pressing priorities (family and work), and while I may be enjoying the book while I’m reading it, if it doesn’t have its hooks in me, it’s easy to continue to be distracted and not return to the book right away. Some books call to me even when I don’t have the time to read and it’s easy to dive back into them. But for others, like one of the ones I am supposed to be reading right now, I’m finding it too easy to ignore it. :-S And it’s not because it isn’t good. Ho hum. I find it cases like this, I need to make time to read the book to remind myself of its “worth”. Then usually I go on to finish the book without it languishing too long untouched.

There are times when I decide the timing may not be right for a book when I don’t seem to be making time to read it, but am able to get into other books just fine. And then there are the times when I come to the conclusion that maybe the book just isn’t for me after all.

Margaret @ BooksPlease

May 12, 2015, 9:36 am

This happens to me a lot. It’s not that I don’t want to read a book it’s more that I want to read other books too and usually one will eventually take over and I’ll read it to the end. Sometimes I go back straight away to the book I put down but often I’ll start a new one, which is why I have several books on the go at once. I find it works best reading non-fiction and fiction in tandem.

Maybe I just have a butterfly mind :)

Suzanna Linton

May 12, 2015, 4:03 pm

Sometimes, I’ll leave a book unfinished because, after leaving it unfinished for a while, I start to see flaws in the plot or characterization. Or, there’s something happening in the book that I was able to ignore (like a whiny female character) while I read it but now that I’ve put it down, I can’t imagine making myself endure it again just to finish the book. I think that comes from my tendency to be incredibly picky about what I read.


May 12, 2015, 7:56 pm

This has happened to me a few times (happened recently with Half of a Yellow Sun). Although mostly I find that if I love it that much I’ll just read and read till it’s done.



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