Sunk costs are unrecoverable past expenditures. These should not normally be taken into account when determining whether to continue a project or abandon it, because they cannot be recovered either way. It is a common instinct to count them, however. --About.com
At what point do you stop reading a book you're not enjoying?
I find it easy to not finish a book I find boring. It's not a conscious decision--I simply stop picking it up and, after a while, realize I'm never going to pick it up again. I stopped reading Interview With the Vampire about five pages from the end. I just didn't care about it one way or another. I didn't stop reading it on purpose--I just stopped reading it.
But books I don't find boring but take an active dislike to? I'm not sure what to do.
I'm about two-thirds through Jonathan Franzen's much-praised Freedom, and quite honestly, I hate it. Not in the way I disliked, say, The DaVinci Code. To me, DaVinci just seemed like a penny dreadful that somehow went viral, infecting everyone except me. I easily finished DaVinci--in two sittings, as I remember--because it was so eager to be read that it was difficult to stop even when I liked virtually nothing about it.
Freedom is a different beast. It's a quote-unquote literary novel, praised by just about everyone, written by a novelist whose last book was praised by just about everyone. (That would be The Corrections, which I haven't read.)
Every character in Freedom is either a jerk, a whiner, or a whiny jerk. There are pages of dialog at a time that consist of two characters bitching at each other--plot is not advanced, theme is (to my mind, anyway) not developed coherently. Shouldn't I have a good idea what the book is about by page 352? I actually found myself getting angry at the book itself last night as I read before going to sleep. WHY AM I READING YOU WHEN I HATE YOU SO VERY, VERY MUCH? (As I posted on Facebook before turning out the light: "Am on page 352 (of 562) of Jonathan Franzen's Freedom and want to punch every single character in the face. Hard.")
I think I'm hung up on sunk costs. I've devoted this much time and energy to Freedom, so I feel like it's all a waste if I don't finish. If I were bored by it, I'd just put it down and never think about it again, like Interview With the Vampire. But somehow, I'll feel defeated by this damned thing if I don't plow through.
Incidentally, Freedom has not been nominated for a National Book Award, which everyone seemed to think was a given. Hmmm. Maybe I'm not the only one who doesn't get it.