Wednesday, March 10, 2010

When do you stop reading?

I haven't been finishing a lot of books lately. Oh, I've started numbers of them, I just didn't bother finishing them. Is this a problem? Am I becoming too critical?

I like to think I'm saving my time. If I don't care about a character after 75 pages, if the prose is so purple I'm giggling while reading, will it get any better if I keep going? And by not finishing books, I can dip into hundreds of styles, stories and characters, give a number of books my attention... but perhaps this book-stopping habit is getting a bit obsessive. I feel like an agent, silently telling books: "Give me any reason to stop reading and I'll do it!" I worry I might miss a gem of a ending. Or even a gem of a middle.

It isn't even the bad books I'll stop reading; lately I'm giving up on okay books too. Monday I stopped reading a book with a fascinating plot and imaginative and beautiful world building. But the characters were flat as pancakes and the writing repetitive. I imagined if I continued reading I would get more and more annoyed at the author, whereas by stopping I felt I had an opportunity to enjoy her world, however briefly, and move on to something I could enjoy more. Course, now I'm working my way through another book that has received only rave reviews and I'm not sure I care bear to finish it.

How often do you stop reading? How many pages do you give a bad book? What makes you stop?

Last September, I blogged about what elements make me love a book, if you're interested.


  1. I've found that fifty pages is usually my limit. If I don't care about the characters or about what's going to happen next, I give myself permission to put the book aside. When I'm in revision mode, like I am now, my patience tends to run out even sooner; I tend to give up after a couple chapters.

  2. Before motherhood, I was more patient. Now, I pretty much stop reading when I'm put to sleep. This, of course, happens at the drop of a hat, but honestly, if I can't get into it, I just put it down. Maybe for a later date. Right now I'm reading GOING BOVINE and LOVE IT! I JUST finished MIDDLESEX and didn't love it but was too intrigued to stop. I'm babbling. I need caffeine.

  3. I read about 50 pages before giving up on a book that doesn't interest me. Usually I'm relieved, but sometimes I really wanted to like the book.

  4. It depends on why I'm reading the book. If I'm reading it for a specific craft purpose--to learn from it, I'll read more of the book.

    I typically might give the book 5 or 10 pages, then flip to a random place in the middle to see if it will be worth my time. Then I'll either continue reading, or set it aside.

  5. Oh, so glad to hear my fellow writers are book-stoppers too! I feel better!

    Sarah, I like the random middle of the book passage test. Might have to start trying that.

    Heidi, Going Bovine is definitely on my TBR pile. I've been a little hesitant over it, cause I love Bray's earlier series so much and know this will be completely different. But I keep hearing nothing but good things about it. Must get my hands on a copy.

    Luckily, currently reading Stolen by Lucy Christopher (a Bath Spa alum) and being blown away!

  6. "There are books of which the backs and covers are by far the best parts." —Charles Dickens

  7. I'm not a writer, and honestly I'm a bit obsessive, but I almost never stop reading a book. I think I can count on 1 hand the books I've given up on. Maybe I'm not as discerning, or I just hate to give up. I'm wondering, though, you've often cited how you've learned from both good and bad stories, does this hamper your learning, or does it mean you've been growing enough that you need more sophisticated lessons?

  8. Jennifer: Ohhh, now I'm so interested to know what books you HAVE given up on! =)

    Good hard question, too! Probably yes, leaving books early means I learn less from their mistakes. That said, I think a lot of lessons can be learned quickly: structuring a beginning, voice, likable characters, etc. Someone who gives up on books like I do doesn't learn as much about things like saggy middles and cliched endings. But then again, maybe I do... if that's a book's major problem, I will get far enough to discover that. Also, I do believe by quitting books early, I have a lot more opportunities to read, and therefore to find the books whose craft will be most useful to me.

    That said, I think a lot more about learning from good books than bad... I'm more curious how authors accomplish things than how they ruin things. Ruining things seems so easy. =) But you may be right, I may not be getting as much out of my reading bad books as I could.


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