How to Deal When a Book Falls Short

I just finished We Have Always Lived in the Castle by Shirley Jackson. It was her final novel, published in 1962. It is considered a classic, iconic, and an acclaimed masterpiece. What more: It’s by Shirley Jackson, an author who I feel deeply devoted to. Her themes, skill with subtle suspense, and social commentary are exemplary. I was thrilled when I took We Have Always Lived in the Castle out from the library. There’s a movie adaptation coming out sometime this year, so I wanted to read it as soon as possible.

My face when I finish a book that I didn’t love:

But my excitement was squashed by the end of the novel. It’s not that I didn’t like the book, but I didn’t love it, and I really wanted to love it. The book just didn’t live up to my expectations. Part of the problem was that I didn’t quite understand what happened. The other possible problem: My expectations were too high, and I was expecting something different. 

I researched the novel afterwards and it made me think that there are some ways to deal with your disappointment when a books falls short. 

1. Do research on the book

If you read and don’t quite understand the content of a book, or why the book received such positive reviews, do research. You may find that you missed a major plot point or a few. Perhaps you didn’t understand the theme, a metaphor, or stylistic choice. 

Some books were groundbreaking at the time of their publication. Reading and researching what people thought of the book when it came out can help you understand the hype behind the book. Of course, some people don’t want to have to research a book to like it, but the story behind a book is interesting. Sometimes more interesting than the book itself!

2. Talk to someone else who read the book

In my case, I talked to a coworker who also didn’t love Jackson’s novel, which made me dislike it a little more. But talking to someone who really understands the book, or is just as confused as you, or has some other feelings about it, will help you deal. Like doing research on a book, talking to someone will make you realize what you missed. I’ve been in situations where someone talked me into liking a book because I realized I had misunderstood everything! 

3. Keep reading, hope it gets better, then vent

If you’re halfway through a book and you’re not loving it, keep reading. Or don’t- I know it’s contradictory advice, but sometimes you need to power through a book and sometimes you just have to put it down. If you do keep reading, you may like it. If you don’t, vent about it! That’s what friends are for. 

If you’re really hating the book, and feel the struggle isn’t worth it, then by all means, put the book down! You’ll only hate it more if you read through the whole book.  

4. Read a new book immediately

Don’t waste any time: The longer you go without reading a good, new books, the more your dislike for a book will fester and grow. 

5. Revisit the disliked book later

Take a moment to recognize the greatness that is Aaliyah (above). Ok, now continue with the article:

Some of you may not want to do this, especially if you hated the book, but revisiting an old book that you once disliked may change your opinion. After doing research on We Have Always Lived in the Castle, I realized there were major things I missed. Because I wasn’t thoroughly enjoying the book, I paid less attention, thus missing key themes and Jackson’s overall point in the novel. Whoops! I’m going to give myself some time and then I’ll take a stab at the novel once more. If I’m let down again, then I know that I truly didn’t love the book.


Featured image courtesy of