On Not Finishing What I Started

Beginnings are such peculiar times. Especially the beginning of a new year, when you’re looking ahead to a fresh set of 365 days and thinking, “I will do All The Things this year”.

And then time rolls on and things happen, and you realize that it’s nearly a quarter of the way through the year, and those exciting things you told yourself you’d do beginning January 1 are not quite so exciting as you thought they’d be.

In my case, I was excited to get through a bunch of historical mystery series that I’d been reading off and on again. But three months into that goal, I’m starting to hit the wall. I’m not enjoying them anymore. In fact, it sometimes feels like I’d rather read my camera manual than pick up a historical mystery.

This feels strange, as historical fiction is one of my favorite genres, and these mystery series are usually a kind of catnip for me. I find a collection of characters I enjoy reading about, and their stories are wrapped up by the end of each volume so I don’t have to read an entire series to find out the conclusion of a single storyline.

But I think I’ve read too many of them in the past few months. In my rush to finish series for no other reason than to check them off a list, I’ve ended up burning myself out on them.

The solution to this problem is an easy one: stop reading historical mysteries for a while.

So that’s what I’m going to do. I’m hitting pause on this particular subgenre and moving on to something else. Back to regular fantasy, of course. I have a few historical biographies I’d like to get through, as well as some Tolkien books. I want to read a couple of versions of the Medieval poem Sir Gawain and the Green Night, or maybe Seamus Heaney’s translation of Beowulf. I want to dive into Ken Liu’s Grace of Kings, finally get to Kate DiCamillo’s The Tale of Despereaux, or reread Pride and Prejudice for the first time in a few years. I can’t read those books if I am steadily marching through a bunch of other series for the banal reason of “I said I would finish them at the beginning of the year”. Because that was then and this is now, and I want to do different things now.

And that’s perfectly fine.

Those historical mystery series will still be there if I want to go back to them in six months. They’re not going anywhere, and they don’t care if I don’t pick them up.

I’ll bid those mysteries adieu for now, see other books, and come back to them again later if I feel like it because reading solely to tick off an arbitrary box doesn’t always make for the best reading experience.

So if you’re in the same figurative boat as me, and you’re struggling through a series you’re reading solely to finish, take this as permission to just stop for a while and go on to something else. The books will still be there later on. I promise.

Life is too short for arbitrary reading lists. Go and read what you want.

10 thoughts on “On Not Finishing What I Started

  1. Makes sense. Over the years I’ve found I’m someone who has to mix it up all the time. I’m not a binge reader or watcher. I get bored quickly of too much of the same, even if it’s something I enjoy. I often can’t even read a simple trilogy straight through without reading something else between installments. It’s a great thing to get to know yourself and how you most enjoy reading, and to be able to switch things up when it seems right.

    I’m curious to read your thoughts on Grace of Kings. I just finished the first book and though I very much enjoyed it I can also see the perspectives of folks who didn’t. It’s a very different style than most of the typical western fantasy I’ve read, much more akin to the very little Chinese historical/fantasy I’ve read or watched, which I suppose makes sense.

  2. This is part of why I’m glad I read all sorts of things. If I get tired of one genre, I can just switch to another and be perfectly content.

    Another round of Tome Topple is coming up in the second half of April, so I’m planning to read Grace of Kings then. I’ve heard nothing but great things about it, so I’m really looking forward to it. I’ve read a few other Chinese fantasies, but I am by no means versed in it.

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