The In-Between Books

Over the years I have developed a pretty good sense about which books will interest me and which won’t. I don’t like wasting much time on a book that I can’t get into, and have learned to give up on them pretty quickly. Of course, there are those books that pull me right in, fiction or nonfiction, and I am lost, and don’t want to stop reading.

Then there are the in-between books. These are book that I my finely-honed sense of what I will like tells me that I will like a book, and then gets erratic, like a compass caught in a magnetic field. These books puzzle me because they are interesting, and they generally do hook me, but I have a hard time making it through them, and often give up, only to return to them again and again.

These in-between books have been on my mind lately because I’ve recently tackled two of them. The first was Stephen King’s Insomnia. I think I started that book three or four times and never made it through–until last week. I had read The Stephen King Companion by George Beahm while on a road trip for work, and it once again brought Insomnia to mind. I decided once and for all that I would tackle it–and I finally did. It was an okay book. Not the among King’s top tier, but it kept me interested and entertained and I was glad to have made it all the way through it.

Finally finishing Insomnia gave me the courage to tackle another in-between book by Stephen King: Lisey’s Story. For a time (I don’t know if this is still the case) this novel was King’s personal favorite. Several friends told me how much they enjoyed the book. On three separate occasions, I have tried to get through the book, once making it nearly halfway before giving up. It looks like I’ll finally finish that one, too, later today.

Lisey's Story

There have been other in-between books: I’ve made it halfway through The Count of Monte Cristo twice, but have never gotten any farther. I’ve started Dan Simmons’s The Abominable three times, fascinated by the meta-fictional prologue to the book–but never made it more than a third of the way through that one, either.

In-between books are rare for me, and that is a good thing. What bothers me most about in-between books is that I get the sneaking suspicion that in these cases, the problem that prevents me from finishing is not the book, but me. As I have said, there are books that draw me in, and books that I know won’t interest me. Each case is fairly clear-cut. But with the in-between books, the typically do draw me in, and yet I am incapable of making it through the book. As I make my way through Lisey’s Story, I am beginning to think that is because I need to be in the right frame of mind, and carry around the right set of experiences before attempting these books. This gives me hope that I will, eventually, make it through other in-between books I have encountered in the past, and will encounter in the future.

Published by Jamie Todd Rubin

Jamie Todd Rubin writes fiction and nonfiction for a variety of publications including Analog, Clarkesworld, The Daily Beast, 99U, Daily Science Fiction, Lightspeed, InterGalactic Medicine Show, and several anthologies. He was featured in Lifehacker’s How I Work series. He has been blogging since 2005. By day, he manages software projects and occasionally writes code. He lives in Falls Church, Virginia with his wife and three children. Find him on Twitter at @jamietr.

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1 Comment

  1. I seem to have more half-read books in my Kindle app than completed ones, lately. I’m reading pretty good books but I temporarily lose interest, and move on to another half-read book for a time. Now and then I’ll start a book by one of my preferred authors, and I finish those pretty quickly.

    I guess that makes most of my half-read books my in-between books.

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