The Sunday Magazine·Sunday Edition

When do you decide to stop reading a book? Three book enthusiasts weigh in

Have you ever found yourself knee-deep in a book you dislike, wondering what on earth you are doing there?
Have you ever found yourself knee-deep in a book you dislike, wondering what on earth you are doing there? (Shutterstock)

We've all done it: paid $35 for a book, or gone on a long waiting list at the library and, full of hope, sat down to read — only to find ourselves knee-deep in disappointment.

The writer's style might be more annoying with each page. Or we might feel like throwing the book across the room. 

Or, if the book is laughably bad, we might hope for the chance to mimic Groucho Marx who once told a writer, "From the moment I picked up your book until I put it down, I was convulsed with laughter. Someday I intend to read it."

So, what to do? Abandon the book...or persevere? 

We decided to consult three avid readers about these urgent life questions.

  • Elizabeth Renzetti is a columnist with the Globe and Mail, and author of the novel, Based on a True Story and the forthcoming book of essays, Shrewed. For years, she was the books editor at the Globe.
Elizabeth Renzetti, columnist with The Globe and Mail. (Submitted by Elizabeth Renzetti)
  • Kerry Clare is the editor of the Canadian books website She has been writing about books for more than a decade. You can see her work in many magazines and on her own blog Pickle Me This.  And she's the author of the new novel, Mitzi Bytes.
Kerry Clare, editor of the Canadian books website (Submitted by Kerry Clare)
Nicole Blades, Canadian novelist, public speaker and journalist. (Submitted by Nicole Blades)

Click 'listen' above to hear the discussion.

Here is a list of the books mentioned by our guests:

  1. Lincoln in the Bardo by George Saunders 
  2. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt 
  3. White Teeth by Zadie Smith 
  4. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  5. Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
  6. Walk It Off, The True and Hilarious Story of How I Learned to Stand, Walk, Pee, Run, and Have Sex Again After a Nightmarish Diagnosis Turned My Awesome Life Upside Down by Ruth Marshall
  7. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead 
  8. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller 
  9. Moby Dick by Herman Melville 
  10. Ulysses by James Joyce 
  11. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy 
  12. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood 
  13. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
  14. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  15. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  16. Slouching toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion
  17. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
  18. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  19. Kindred by Octavia Butler
  20. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro 
  21. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  22. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy