Thursday, April 20, 2017

Q is for “Quitting”

Welcome to the Blogging from A to Z Challenge. Every day in April (except Sundays), I’ll be sharing a short bookish memory with you.

“Almost everyone can remember losing his or her virginity, and most writers can remember the first book he/she put down thinking: I can do better than this. Hell, I am doing better than this! What could be more encouraging to the struggling writer than to realize his/her work is unquestionably better than that of someone who actually got paid for his/her stuff?” – Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft

On Writing by Stephen King is my favorite writing craft book ever. That’s a huge compliment because I’ve read a lot of craft books, and I think they’re naturally boring. Stephen King proves that he has writing talent in On Writing because he manages to take a tedious subject and turn it into something you actually want to read about.



On Writing: A Memoir of the Craft - Stephen King


Part memoir, part master class by one of the bestselling authors of all time, this superb volume is a revealing and practical view of the writer's craft, comprising the basic tools of the trade every writer must have. King's advice is grounded in his vivid memories from childhood through his emergence as a writer, from his struggling early career to his widely reported near-fatal accident in 1999—and how the inextricable link between writing and living spurred his recovery. Brilliantly structured, friendly and inspiring, On Writing will empower and entertain everyone who reads it—fans, writers, and anyone who loves a great story well told.



The quote at the start of this post refers to writers, but when I read it, I also thought about readers. Do you remember the first book you DNFed (did not finish)? I hated reading when I was a kid and probably DNFed 99% of the books that were forced upon me, but by the time I was a teenager, I was a rabid reader. I read every book I could get my hands on.

I rarely DNFed books as a teenager, but there is one DNF that stands out in my mind. When I was fifteen, English class forced me to read Black Boy by Richard Wright. Fifteen-year-old me could not make herself care about Wright's rambling infatuation with communism. I know Black Boy is an important American classic and blah, blah, blah, but I was bored. Truly, mind-numbingly, bored.



Black Boy - Richard Wright


Black Boy is a classic of American autobiography, a subtly crafted narrative of Richard Wright's journey from innocence to experience in the Jim Crow South. An enduring story of one young man's coming of age during a particular time and place, Black Boy remains a seminal text in our history about what it means to be a man, black, and Southern in America.




I have a memory of shoving Black Boy off the edge of my bed and having this conversation with myself:

There are millions of books in the world.
I won’t live long enough to read all of them.
I tried really hard to read this book, and I hate it.
If there are millions of books in the world, why am I wasting time reading one I hate?

To be a happy bookworm, sometimes I have to DNF. Forcing myself to read something I don’t like makes reading feel like a chore instead of a hobby. I need my hobbies to be fun, not stressful. Making the decision to DNF can be hard sometimes, but life’s too short to read boring books.



Do you remember the first book you DNFed?






26 comments:

  1. I love On Writing too! Fantastic book. I'm not sure I remember the first book I put down, but I can think of two classics I tried to read multiple times and just couldn't finish. They bored me. The Hobbit and Lolita. Just couldn't. I should give them a shot again. I think I was in high school and college when I tried to read them.

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    1. I read The Hobbit as a kid. I still haven’t been brave enough to try Lolita. I’ve heard it’s a difficult one.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  2. I actually don't. It probably was one that a teacher told me I must read and I revolted against their authority.

    Me, it's hard for me to quit anything. My kids would tell you it's my strength and weakness.

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    1. Same here. It’s really hard for me to DNF books because I don’t like feeling like a quitter.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  3. I don't remember the first book I DNF but that's not important, why finish reading a book you don't want to? I used to think I have to finish reading every book I started it but now I realize, it's not necessary, not every book is for everyone and it's not too terrible to leave a book when you've lost interest in it.

    & 'on writing' is one of my favorite non-fiction, craft book that I read that didn't make me want to stop reading or skimp through.

    have a lovely day.

    ~ my Q post - Query - ask me anything~

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    1. Totally agree. Life’s too short to read boring books.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  4. King's book On Writing is a classic. I read it a decade or so ago. You're right, he made it fun. As for a DNF--probably "Last of the Mohicans" which I tried to read in Jr. High as I was living on Mohican Trail (and I haven't since tried to read it). I did read Black Boy, but it was in my politically radical days.

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    1. I can see how Black Boy would be great for people who are interested in politics. As a fifteen-year-old, I didn’t care. Maybe the book would be more interesting to me now?

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  5. I've put down books, and I'll continue to DNF those reads I can't stand to complete. I'm embarrassed to say this, but I couldn't get through Moby-Dick for my American Lit course. It was "ugh". I don't regret it, and I can't say I'll definitely go back and push myself through it. I didn't like it, and life's short, and I want to read something I enjoy.

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    1. I’ve heard that Moby Dick is tough to get through. A lot of people hate it.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  6. I so don't remember my first DNF. I know I didn't used to do it a lot though. Now I am not afraid to!

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    1. I’m still kind of afraid to DNF, but I’m getting better.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  7. I don't remember my first DNF book, but I remember a book club book, The Polished Hoe, and NOT being able to get past the first chapter. Only two people in book club finished it, and one of them only managed by reading 10 pages a day - literally. She would read to the end of the tenth page, and then put the book down. We called it "The Polished Hoe" method of reading..

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    1. LOL, I’ve used that method to get through a few textbooks in my life.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  8. I used to be a serial book starter so a lot of books fell by the wayside because I set them down and never picked them up again, but the first significant DNF book was The Great Gatsby.

    I was sixteen and my English teacher selected three of us to read it for a unit of work, as though it was a big treat. I made it the furthest (two chapters in) before we all conferred amongst ourselves and refused to go any further.

    Funnily enough, I read it a couple of years ago and actually really enjoyed it.

    Cait @ Click's Clan

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    1. A lot of teenagers seem to hate Gatsby. I read it as an adult and thought it was okay.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  9. I think I usually finished assigned books. I remember being seriously pissed because I slogged painfully through Walden while my classmates all used Cliff Notes, and guess who got a C on the final? Shoulda read the Cliff Notes, I guess.

    I also have an "abandoned midstream" shelf on Goodreads, and looking through it, I see a lot of a) weak sequels, b) books I found dumb or boring and c) books that required more mental effort than I was capable of at the time.

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    1. I don’t think I could have survived college without Cliff Notes. I tried to read all the assigned books, but some of them were too tedious for me to handle.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  10. I agree about DNF'ing- sometimes it's necessary. Although I don't remember my first DNF. I don't do it that much but it happens occasionally. What sucks is when it's a book everyone is raving about, and I just quietly set it aside and move on lol.

    I've never read that writing book but it sounds great.

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    1. YES! I felt like that with Mistborn. People are obsessed with that series, and I quietly added it to my Goodreads DNF shelf. Nothing to see here. Move along, friends.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

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  11. I don't remember my first one. I usually finish the books I start. Though I tend to avoid the extra long books anyway.

    Lawrence Durrell's Balthazar and Anais Nin's Delta of Venus are my most famous DNFs.

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    1. I haven’t read either of those. I’ll have to look them up.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  12. I read so many books as a kid and I don't recall my first DNF. I am a proud DNFer! If I'm not enjoying a book, I don't finish it and feel no guilt at all. I'm all about reading for fun and entertainment, so if I don't like it, I move on to something else. I read 'On Writing' and liked it. I thought King wrote nicely about the issues.

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    1. I wish I could be more like you. I DNF, but it’s always a big struggle.

      Aj @ Read All The Things!

      Delete
  13. I believe in the DNF for all the reasons your 15 year old self stated. Too many books, too little time. I actually laughed, because I remember my daughter having a similar experience with Black Boy. I guess I was lucky my english teacher had us read Native Son, because I remember that Wright book being ok.
    Sam @ WLABB

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  14. I've yet to finish Stephen Kings's "On Writing." But I feel this is my fault as a reader for being easily bored and not forcing myself to push through the opening pages. All my friends love it and say it gets interesting. So one of these days, I hope that I will finish it.

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