Monday, May 4, 2009

When to Give Up on a Book

“I firmly believe every book was meant to be written.” – Marchette Chute

Recently I ran across When to Put a Book Down on The article addressed the question of how many pages to invest in a book that you aren’t enjoying before giving up. For me this is a dilemma.

I have only given up on a few books before reaching the end. Maybe knowing firsthand the amount of work involved in writing makes me feel as if I have to give every book I pick up a fair chance. I convince myself that if I keep going, the story or characters will eventually grab me. When I’m having trouble getting into a book that comes highly recommended, I feel as though I must be missing something and keep reading in search of what that something is.

Nine times out of ten, if I don’t like the book by the first fifty pages, I’m not going to like it period. Yet I continue to slog through it and upon reading that last page, I want to throw the book across the room and scream, “Why did I waste my time on this!”

Of course, there’s that one in ten that comes along and I reach the end and think, “Wow, that was a good book, after all. I’m glad I stuck with it.”

Cynthia Crossen, the author of the article, expressed my own feelings very well when she said, “But I never feel good about stopping. Whoever's to blame—the author or me—something has failed. It's especially dispiriting when the book has been pressed into your hands by a trusted friend.”

She suggested an interesting exercise, “Some educators ask young readers who want to stop reading a book to fill out a "Stop Reading Form," explaining what they don't like about the book. I think this would be a good exercise for everyone—to devote a few minutes to analyzing why you and the book are parting ways. You might start seeing a pattern.”

How many pages do you give a book before you give up? If you stick with one you don’t care for are you usually glad or disappointed?

Thanks for stopping by.

Tags: Marchette Chute, when to put a book down, getting into a book,


Anonymous said...

I think the art of the "slow build" is a dying one in contemporary fiction. The book that takes several chapters to build up to where the meat and intensity of the story really takes off. A), people are so used to immediate gratification and busy and all, they want to be stimulated from the git with a read, and B) well - not many authors work on that skill anymore.

The last book I read that did it exceptionally well was "Shogun" - it took almost 100 pages before the story heated up, and yet I was captivated all during the build up.

Then again, as you say, slow boring starts to a book CAN be a solid indicator that it's just a lousy book! LOL

Regan Black said...

Martin said it well.

And I love the stop reading response idea for readers of all ages, but especially for kids that used to love reading and then claim to outgrow it.


Regan Black said...

Please excuse me, Marvin, for the typo!


L. Diane Wolfe said...

Guess I've been lucky - really can't think of a book I gave up on or was truly awful...

L. Diane Wolfe

Helen Ginger said...

I've given up on a few books. Sometimes I just lose interest. On at least one occasion I realized the book made me angry, so I quit. I've got too little time and too many books to read to keep reading something that doesn't appeal to me.

Marvin, Shogun may have taken 100 pages to build up, but the writing keeps you reading and anticipating.


Morgan Mandel said...

I usually don't even buy a book if it doesn't seem appealing to me, so it has to really disappoint me before I'll give up on it.

Morgan Mandel

Galen Kindley said...

I hate to give up on a book. I really do, and rarely do. Call it a point of pride, or, a stubborn streak. Why I feel this way is a mystery. In terms of pages, the further I go, the more likely I am to stick to the bitter end. So, not sure I have a good number for you. As an interesting adjunct, I have several books on my shelf in the Unread category...been that way for some time. Is this a manifestation of, "I'm afraid they'll be bad, so, I won't even start them?" Sigh.
Best Regards, Galen

Karen Walker said...

Hi Jane,
This has changed for me over the years. I never used to stop reading, but now time is at such a premium that if I'm not engaged in the first 50 pages, I do stop. It is harder when I've received the book from a friend, because I'm not comfortable saying I didn't like it when they recommended it highly. I have to admit I've told little white lies in this area.
By the way, the same it true in memoir as it is in fiction. You must keep the readers' interest. I think that might be a problem in my recently published memoir, "Following the Whispers." The narrative takes the reader from early childhood through to present time, and for many of those years I was having problems. It may sound like one long whine to some until I begin to recover and heal. Ah, well.

Karen Walker

Nancy J. Parra said...

Hi Jane,

I used to religiously read a book from cover to cover-whether I like it or not. I think I felt obligated once I started. It wasn't until four years ago that I finally put my first book down. That was the tipping point. Perhaps because I read for pleasure and if I'm not having fun then I move on. My time is too limited to waste.

Bob Sanchez said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Bob Sanchez said...

Hi Jane,
At first I thought you were asking about a writer giving up on finishing writing, which would also be interesting.

But giving up on reading a book? Sure. Though I generally like her work, one of Sue Grafton's novels stopped me cold with a mind-numbing passage. A couple of years later I tried it again and stopped reading in the same place.

With Tom Clancy's Red Storm Rising, I made it about 80 percent through--a pretty significant time investment--before deciding that not only were the good guys destined to prevail over the evil commies, but I really didn't care.

There is a lot of truly fine writing in the world, and never enough time to read it all. So unless I have committed to finishing it to write a review, I'd prefer to cut my losses just as soon as I realize the book isn't for me.

Bob Sanchez

Bob Sanchez said...

“I firmly believe every book was meant to be written.”

Yes, but I firmly believe not every book was meant to be read.

Bob Sanchez

Jane's Ride - Novelist Jane Kennedy Sutton's journey through the ups and downs of the writing, publishing and marketing world