What to Do when You Can’t Get into a Book|The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

As much as you wish this is not true, you can’t make yourself like every single book you read. In fact, if you do, then we have a little problem; You are probably not going out of your comfort zone, which is how you become a better reader. I think this is impossible though, because even when you try to avoid reading different kinds of materials, you will still stumble upon one or two book that you can’t get into no matter what.

I’d like to share a fable that I came across recently (by the way don’t let this stop you from reading it because just like all books there are also people who are madly in love with it). It is called The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas, by John Boyne. No clue about the plot is revealed on the book jacket except that the nine-year-old protagonist will arrive at a fence which you would never want to encounter. All I am going to say is that this fable takes place in the midst of a historical event :). It said that knowing about the plot before reading this would spoil it, although by the 30th page or so you can already figure out what the historical event is. You know more than the characters. Oftentimes, you will find yourself knowing what happens next already, but here’s the catch: It is told through the eyes of a nine-year-old, which provides a unique and innocent view on this subject. However, the thing that made me want to give up on this book is the way the author tries to portray a child’s innocence. Being innocent does not mean being unobservant. If he was of a younger age then it’s understandable, but I really don’t think a nine-year-old would have no idea whatsoever about what’s going on around him. When I compare him with the children in other books, it really made me wonder if Boyne is trying to make children look like…well, idiots.

But I finished the book anyways. I told myself I must keep reading till the last page, and when you find yourself reading a book you don’t like, I suggest you to do the same too. Here’s why:

You might like the book later on. When I got to the end, I actually thought the book was quite alright. The author left a lot of things unsaid at the end which made me think for a while, and I always appreciate books that make me think. Just because a book has a terrible beginning does not mean it doesn’t have a great end. Sometimes, it indeed doesn’t have both, but maybe when you think about it afterwards, you might start to change your mind.

Other people can’t say your opinions are biased because you’ve only read the beginning. Read the book and figure out why it’s bad, so that either you will prove your view right, or they’ll convince you that the book is really a good book actually :D.

Learn to make lemonades. Treat it as an experience for you to learn what makes a book not work. A lot of times you will be forced to read a book you don’t like, so practice finding something you like in every book (yes this is something you can get better at by practicing). If you keep on thinking the book is bad, then it’s going to be bad.


25 responses to “What to Do when You Can’t Get into a Book|The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas

  1. First of all.. like the theme 😀

    Secondly, you got my attention when you said that if you aren’t exploring books you are not going out of your comfort zone. That’s very very true for me. I mostly buy books by authors I have already read. The main reason behind is that books are too expensive that I don’t like wasting my money on some book I would never read till the end. Second main reason is that there are so many books to read by my favorite authors that I decide I’ll read others when I am done with my favorites. 🙂

    But every now and then I decide to explore other authors as well, this is when I hear my friends talking about some books or authors I have no clue about. At that moment I don’t feel like a reader.. I feel an outsider in the company of book worms.. (That is also because my friends don’t read the authors I love, Stephen King to name one :D)

    In the quest to discover new (for me) authors I landed myself into “Balance of Power by Richard North Patterson”, and I loved the book. Loved every word of it. And now as he too has made into my list of favorite authors, I am following the pattern of reading all his books..

    • If you don’t want to spend money on a book you don’t know about there’s always the option of borrowing them from the library :D. And also I haven’t read anything by Stephen King yet, gotta add that to my list because a lot of people have told me about him lol. Thank you for commenting sparkle ^_^

  2. I skipped the book altogether and just watched the movie. Wasn’t too impressed with the plot.

  3. I saw the movie the boy in the stripped pajamas, and now I will probably read the book.

  4. Very true! I try to finish every book I read, no matter what I think of it. Sometimes it gets better, sometimes its worse, but in the end I read the whole darn book so I feel like I can have an opinion on it. If you don’t finish it, how do you really know what kind of book it was? 🙂 Nice post!

  5. You make some excellent points, all valid. One of the best books I ever read was I Claudius by Robert Graves. But I only came to that conclusion after several false starts.

    Also, I can be contrary and simply not in the mood for a particular read. Picking it up a few books later can often make a difference.

    Nonetheless, I do, on occasion, give my permission to chuck what I’m reading. There are so many books and so little time. I can’t see persevering through something I’ve given good opportunity and decided unworthy.

    • That’s kinda true too about life being too short to read all the unworthy books. I guess it also depends on your personality, like I’m the type who likes to finish what I started for everything I do, not just reading 🙂

  6. I agree with you in the point that reading to the last page prevents people from saying that your opinions are biased. However, for me that’s not the point of reading. There are so many books out there that I can’t read all the good books I’d like to read, so why would I waste my time on one that doesn’t make me want to finish it? I just move on to a more gripping book and maybe try to start it again a few years later – people change after all. Recently I finished Hemingway’s Old Man and the Sea which I could never finish in the past. Although it’s not so long I found it just utterly boring. Now, a few years later I actually quite enjoyed it. I’d say: put it back on the shelf and take it down a few years later.

    • But I would say that it’s really hard to convince yourself to read it later if you didn’t like the book.The thing is if you keep on reading stuff you like and putting off books you don’t like for later, you are probably going to read a lot of similar materials and not coming back to the stuff you disliked.

  7. True, but there could be a rule of reading one book you didn’t like in a set time, like one a year or something.

  8. Quite useful tips for people like me who can’t usually get into a book. And i will try the ways for sure to finish a book.

  9. Great post! I recently finished the Count of Monte Cristo,which has a slow first 2 or 3 chapters.But I kept reading it, and it turned out to be one of my favorite books ever. So, yeah, I agree with you 🙂

  10. Pingback: Are You a Book Juggler? | Deborah Serravalle, Writer

  11. While I have not read this book, I’m well aware of what it feels like to keep turning pages when I just want to put the book down and move on. One of my daughter’s elementary teachers had a rule that if they got past the first five pages abandoning the book was not allowed. I’ve kind of tried to stick to that which means I finish everything because I can always make it through five pages.

  12. I just read this book not too long ago! I actually really enjoyed it. It is hard sometimes to know how a child will react to the war since we can only view the situation in hindsight (which is always 20/20 right lol). Furthermore, it is just as easy to be ignorant at the age of 40 as it is at 9. Sometimes we are not capable of seeing the world how it really is for a part of us knows it will b e our unravelling.

    • I still can’t get over the fact that he does super ignorant stuff like mispronouncing Auschwitz (Really? Out-with? Has he taken German before? Actually Out-with doesn’t even sound German…). He lived there for a year. He got corrected. Yet he still pronounced it wrong. But You have brought up a very good point that I hadn’t thought about actually. It never occurred to me that maybe Boyne wants us to relate Bruno’s ignorance with our own.

  13. I keep track of the books of I read. I pretty much read 1-2 books per week. During summer break it can be more. Occasionally I will take longer to finish a book – perhaps with a nonfiction book or a book that is a more difficult read. As long as I am happy to curl up with my book and read it, even in small chunks I will read it. Sometimes I will begin a book, like someone else mentioned, realize that I’m not in the mood for that particular book and read it later on. I will enjoy the book so much more. But sometimes it does take me a while to get into the story and for the most part I will give a new book or author a decent chance. But when I find myself exasperated by bad writing, unbelievable or annoying characters (when they’re not supposed to be annoying) then I will abandon the book. There are WAY too many good books out there waiting for me, for me to waste my time on something I am not enjoying. Reading is an escape for me and if I dread going to the escape, well, it’s just not worth my time!

  14. Sometimes it’s hard to get into a book for no particular reason. Then I pick it up 6 months, a year, five years later and I devour it. I say, “I can’t believe it took me this long to read this amazing book!” Of course, that’s not always the case.

  15. Great post! I agree. Sometimes you don’t like the book as a whole, but there’s often little gems hidden within the pages. :O)

  16. Perhaps as the oldest reader commenting here (I turn 60 tomorrow) I find myself with less and less patience for books that don’t arouse and hold my interest fairly soon. As a writer, and an avid reader, I used to force myself to finish everything I read. No longer. I’ll die before I finish everything I’d like to read, so why waste time on stuff that doesn’t engage me? That said, books resonate–or not–at different periods of one’s life. There are books I loved as a kid (Narnia series) but make me wince now; books I was forced to read as a hs student that were completely inappropriate for someone so young (Scarlet Letter), but perfect for a middle-aged adult, and a few things that I read as a young man (On the Road) that I don’t dare revisit, for fear that I’ll break the spell that once enthralled me. And there are some things that I reread and find myself loving decades after having first read them (short stories by Cheever and Wm. Trevor, the novels of John Updike, Dickens, George Eliot). Don’t force yourself to read a book just because someone says you should. There’s no sin in dropping a book that doesn’t hold your attention. Ken

  17. Being innocent does not mean being unobservant.


    With reading books I don’t like, the problem is my mind shuts off and sends me into sleep. else I get miffed, as with Clancy’s right wing nonsense.

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