Have You Finished That Book Yet?

Portrait of a Woman (Portrait de femme)

  • Have you heard of the Hawking Index?

It’s an attempt at an estimate of how far into bestsellers people read, and it’s named after A Brief History of Time, apparently one of the least-finished books ever written.

I’ve recently read suffered through a book by an acclaimed contemporary author, whose earlier novel I found very interesting. The experience got me thinking, and I’m not alone.

“…you should stop reading when…you aren’t impressed, lulled, entertained, lightened, depressed, remoulded, whatever you go to books for.”

— Tom Lamont, Observer writer

When I started the book I’m referring to I felt it was not my kind of read pretty much from the very beginning: it was doing nothing for me. I didn’t want to quit, though, and kept thinking, what if the next page, chapter…brings some kind of revelation?

“…if you give up on a book the minute you don’t like a character, twig a plot development, see quite where the author’s going with it all, have a sudden yen for a game of Candy Crush – then you’re going to miss out.”

— Alex Clark, writer and literary critic

The revelation never happened. I finished the book, and I felt two things: relief, because I was finally done with it, and regret, because I could have spent my time differently. Not once since I closed the book have I thought about the story, the characters…

Should all books be read from cover to cover? What say you?

Image: Paul Cézanne. Portrait of a Woman (Portrait de femme), c. 1898. Oil on canvas, Overall: 36 3/4 x 28 7/8 in. (93.3 x 73.3 cm). BF164. Public Domain.

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