Wednesday, December 14, 2011

In Which I Stop Reading

If you're reading the title of this post, no, I don't mean in general. I mean, stop reading a specific book.





No, I'm not going to say which book it is, though possibly you could figure it out with some clever googling. Also I never got around to putting it on my sidebar either, which ended up being a stroke of luck. I've met the author and she's super awesome and nice and smart and I've read another of her books and loved it, so it's not her or her writing, it's just this specific book.

I was reading the book, got 100 pages in, and just decided I didn't want to bother finishing the book. The book, which was urban fantasy, more or less, was filled with obscure historical and literary references I couldn't follow. It seemed like I needed to have an MFA in history AND literature to even follow the conversations the MCs were having with each other. It was like listening to inside jokes. You know it's supposed to be funny, but are missing some historical understanding - an "in" so to speak.

An example from the book:

"It was then I thought of Rudolph Rassendyll and shook free the shroud of emotions, of questions I could not ask. Shades of Prisoner Of Zenda!"

OK, I've never read Prisoner of Zenda, which is an adventure novel written in 1894, so I don't follow either of these references. Yes, this line fits with the MC and her experiences, but how can I understand the MC and her motivations if I can't even follow her references? And this is just one example in a book FULL of them.
Still, I'd wade through stuff like this if the plot was exciting or something, but I was 100 pages in and it was just barely hinting at excitement to come.

I think giving a novel 100 pages is plenty to decide if I want to keep going with it.

I never used to do this. There used to be a day, and it wasn't that long ago, where, if I started a book, I finished it no matter what.

Now, not so much. There are just so many great books out there that I want to read, I just can't really waste time on reading something I'm not enjoying. Also, because, if I'm not enjoying the book, I take a lot longer to read it, so it takes even MORE time away from reading something I might enjoy, or even love.

So what about you? Do you finish everything you start? Or do you ever stop? And how long do you give the book before you give up on it?
.

25 comments:

DL Hammons said...

I am EXACTLY like you! I never used to quit on books, until I started considering myself a writer and I lost my patience with what I considered sub-par work. In my opinion, 100 pages is plenty to make that determination.

Sarah Pearson said...

I don't read everything, for the same reason as you. I'm never going to read all the books I want to in my lifetime, without spending times on the ones I don't.

Maria Zannini said...

I used to be very OCD about finishing books, but not anymore. The book that broke me was Dianetics by L. Ron Hubbard.

It's the only book I have ever thrown away because I couldn't even give it away. In my line of work (advertising) we used to call that kind of writing, 'snow'.

I think 100 pages is more than generous on whether to read on or not.

Hannah Kincade said...

You know my rule 40 pages, sometimes 50. There are far too many books on my list.

K. Turley (Clutzattack) said...

I think I've put down 4 books in my life since it bothers me to not finish what I start. I read half way through each of them, but knew around the 3rd chapters of each I was no longer reading for pleasure.

100 pages is more than enough.

Cherie Reich said...

Yeah, I used to always finish a book. There were only a few I didn't finish because I had to turn them back into the library. Lately, if the book isn't pulling me in, then I have to let it go. There are too many books to read and not enough time to read them. That said, I do try to give them at least 10%-20% to pull me in. If they can't do that by then, it's over.

vic caswell (aspiring-x) said...

i feel guilty about not finishing books. especially if i spent money on it... or EVEN WORSE! if i've met the author online or something. but i'm really really trying to let myself be alright with not finishing a story i don't enjoy. it doesn't mean their work is bad- just not for me. it's hard, but life is sooooo short!

mshatch said...

I will put a book down if the characters don't interest me or the writing is just plain bad (imo). I didn't used to, but there are so many good books out there there's no point wasting time on the bad.

Lisa-Marie Jordan said...

I know what you mean. I set one book aside a few weeks ago because I was struggling with it, and I felt SO guilty! But, since then I've read two books that I enjoyed SO much, that I don't feel quite so bad anymore. I do want to finish the unfinished book, but maybe not right away.

Carrie said...

I never used to quit reading a book but somewhere along the way I realized that life is too short to struggle through books that aren't resonating with me.

Alex J. Cavanaugh said...

The last book I slogged my way through was The Terror. Now I don't keep reading if it doesn't grab me.

Ninja Girl said...

Hey Falen,
I've had this happen a few times. Actually, pretty recently, I've given up on two books :/ I always feel bad about it, but...there are so many other great books to read. I usually give it to page 50. If it can keep me interested until then but I still have doubts, I'll go 20 to 30 more. It sucks whenever I decide to stop, but sometimes it just happens *shrugs*. Hope you're doing well,
Ninja Girl

Caledonia Lass said...

It took me a little while and a couple of bad books to finally decide that if I don't like it, I drop it. I do try to slog my way through if I have been asked to review something. But after reading awful book after awful book, I find I just can't do it anymore. I've got tons of things on my own TBR list to pass up for something that sucks. XD

Nate Wilson said...

Before last year, I never stopped reading a book partway through. But I've gotten over that. Life's too short to read things that no longer hold my interest. (I suspect my wife would prefer I stop reading even more books, such as the one I just finished. Sure, it was by a winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature, but all I did during the last 3/4 of the book was pick out everything the writer did wrong.)

Jessica Silva said...

I thought I wasn't the type to stop reading even if I didn't liked it, but that's not true. I did that a lot in high school (hehe), in college, and with a few books I've picked up over the years for pleasure reading. I haven't picked up a book recently that I just couldn't finish (sometimes I can keep reading if it means I can keep poking fun at the book, for instance), but there are other things I'm not afraid to indiscriminately stop reading should the story disappoint me.

Anne Gallagher said...

I did this for the first time last summer when I found a romance book by a famous author that I'd been dying to read. I got about 3 chaps in and threw it across the room. It was like she wrote it on crack. Like it was her first totally newbie work and had never been edited, just thrown out there to see if it would sell.

If you can't read it, put it down. I never used to be like this either, but now there's so many I WANT to read, why stick with something I hate. That's worse than sitting through trigonometry.

TL Conway said...

I feel so much better after reading all these comments. It's like they're in my head!

I used to be a devoted reader. But now, there are so many more books I want to read, coupled with an alarming decrease in available time to read, that if it doesn't work, I put it down.

Just this summer, I was more than 1/2 way through a popular MG book and then realized reading it was becoming a chore. I had to put it down, but made sure to take it as a learning opportunity by identifying what didn't work for me.

Mary Aalgaard, Play off the Page said...

It makes you wonder you they got published. We writers hear that you have to hook them in the first page - first sentence, even, and the first chapter better be a killer. So, why do we plow through 50-100 pages wondering, What the __?
I don't like it when there's a reference I don't get. I feel stupid and frustrated. I can accept it in older works, maybe pop references to another time, but current novels. No.

LisaAnn said...

Agreed. Too many good books and not enough time to waste on the bad ones. I try really hard to finish all the books I start, but I've put down two this year, and it was within the first few chapters on both. (Definitely "partial" length!) It wasn't that either was dreadful; they just began to feel like a chore, and reading should be fun, you know?

Kelly Dexter said...

Same here! I used to finish every book, no matter what. Not anymore! I really hate leaving a novel unread, but as time passes and my writing gives me a different perspective, there are some instances in which I just can't do it.

Wendy said...

I am always amazed when people tell me they have read the same book several times. I know there are books that probably deserve to be read over and over because the writing is so good... but there are SO MANY good books to read. I just can't do it. And, same as you, I can't stick with a book that can't redeem itself. Same reason.

raelynbarclay said...

Like you I used to finish everything I started, the only exception being The Princess Bride -- never could get into that book -- I think because I saw the movie before stumbling across a copy of the book at a second-hand store. But in the last year, as my study of craft has become more serious, if the author hasn't hooked me within the first 50 pages, or approximately the 1/4 mark, I put it down. If I love the author, I may give the book a second chance because I am a mood reader. Generally, it is a matter of too many books and not enough time :)

Lola Sharp said...

I'm with Hannah...50 page rule. And sometimes I know within 20 pages. I have never had a problem quitting a book or walking out of a movie theater. My time is too valuable.

But I'm dying to know what book it was!

Teebore said...

I've gotten better about this. I can pretty much count on one hand the books I've started but never finished, but most of those are recent additions to the hand, so I'm getting better about letting go (in terms of fiction, at least. I start and stop history books all the time, and have no compunction against doing that).

It just feels so much like quitting, even though I know I shouldn't waste my time with it. Usually, it happens with books I want to like but don't, so I slog through it, hoping it'll get better.

The worst is when you get 3/4 into a book and then it turns into a slog. I mean, you're so close, you may as well finish it, but man, is it hard. That just happened with a book I was reading, and I'm glad I powered through and finished it, but for awhile there my reading of it really slowed down, which was unfortunate.

Michael Offutt, Supra-Genius said...

No. I toss books aside all the time. You are perfectly validated as a reader to decide if something isn't for you. I felt the same way about Twilight. I got 100 pages in and gave up. Kudos to the author for her legions of followers. She doesn't need me to depend upon.

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