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 
  3. The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt 
  5. White Teeth by Zadie Smith 
  7. Middlemarch by George Eliot
  9. Guns Germs and Steel by Jared Diamond
  11. 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
  13. The Underground Railroad by Colson Whitehead 
  15. Catch 22 by Joseph Heller 
  17. Moby Dick by Herman Melville 
  19. Ulysses by James Joyce 
  21. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy 
  23. The Handmaid's Tale by Margaret Atwood 
  25. Alias Grace by Margaret Atwood
  27. The Godfather by Mario Puzo
  29. Big Little Lies by Liane Moriarty
  31. Slouching toward Bethlehem by Joan Didion
  33. A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
  35. The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison
  37. Kindred by Octavia Butler
  39. Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro 
  41. Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
  43. War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy