I generally have a few piles of books around my house — I impulse-buy a lot. I start reading most of them, but only rarely finish one.
I usually feel lousy about this — it's my fault for being too easily distracted, for having too little self-discipline, for being a gormless flake, etc.
So, I take great solace from the words of Francis Bacon. Back in 1597, Bacon — a philosopher and onetime attorney general of England — published his Essays, in which he pointed out that not all books ought to be read all the way through. As he wrote:
Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention.
TESTIFY, my friend.
The challenge, as a reader, is figuring out which book is what type. I probably toss aside books I ought to give a second chance, and "swallow" entirely. On the other hand, particularly with nonfiction and poetry, I really enjoy the odd mental connections that come from semi-random access with super-bursty periodicity: Flipping through a book, reading a passage, then putting it aside for a hour/day/month/year/decade, when I flip it open again to another rando passage.
BTW, it's worth reading entire paragraph in which that passage of Bacon's occurs, because damn, he was on fire — opening by enjoining us not to read not with preconceived notions, then concluding with his famous tripartite dissection of the cognitive value of reading vs. writing vs. conversing:
Read not to contradict and confute; nor to believe and take for granted; nor to find talk and discourse; but to weigh and consider. Some books are to be tasted, others to be swallowed, and some few to be chewed and digested; that is, some books are to be read only in parts; others to be read, but not curiously; and some few to be read wholly, and with diligence and attention. Some books also may be read by deputy, and extracts made of them by others; but that would be only in the less important arguments, and the meaner sort of books, else distilled books are like common distilled waters, flashy things. Reading maketh a full man; conference a ready man; and writing an exact man. And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know, that he doth not.