Reader's Corner: When Enough Is Enough

stop-on-pavementSome readers insist on reading a bad book. I can understand. No I can’t. The rationale for that type of reader behavior is usually this: I paid for it and I am going to finish it even if it kills me. The question is why bother? Why finish reading a story you strongly dislike? I mean if the story is flat out awful, I’m not making the effort to finish it when there are like ten other good books sitting in on my nightstand. I do differentiate bad books from books that are just slow to get started. What I’m talking about are books that have a bad start, period.

So, readers, tell me, when do you usually call it quits? The first chapter? The first 30 pages? The first sentence? When do you say: forget this crap, I’m reading something else. And really, it is OK for you not to finish every book that you start. Really.

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About Keishon

Voracious reader of just about everything.
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25 Responses to Reader's Corner: When Enough Is Enough

  1. Tee says:

    At one time, I was one of those that just had to finish a book. That’s changed, however–thank goodness! I no longer stay with a story if it outright is not working for me. But sometimes, as you say, it’s just a slow start and I want to be sure I’m not abandoning something good. If you really think about it, most stories, when you are about three or four chapter into them, either grab you or don’t. The reader has a sense of this. In one that’s not working, I’ll give it a bit more time just to be sure, then it’s over. As far as general timelines, some books are obvious after the first chapter. Some take three or four, as I mentioned. The ones I hate are those that get entirely stupid well into the story and you realize you’ve wasted some of your valuable time reading a nothing story.

    Let me tell you a quick tale, though, of a book I read many years ago that contradicts what I’m saying here. I began reading “Clan of the Cave Bear” and just could not get past all the fern and flora text. The story itself was very slow in the beginning and it just wasn’t grabbing me. I stopped and restarted about three times before I finally gave it up. My friend, having found this out, encouraged me to get beyond all that extra stuff and continue on. I did and somewhere in the book, without actually being aware, it had pulled me in and we bonded. But it took quite a while and well into the book, from what I recall. I’ve since read all the sequels and would read more if Auel would write them.

    But by and large, it it’s a book that I’m talking back to because of all the idiocy within it, I’m done with it, be it one, five or ten chapters in.

  2. Leah Braemel says:

    Like Tee above, I used to try to read a book through until the end no matter how bad. (There are ones I just couldn’t but I could have counted them on one hand.) That comes from the days when I used to live with my parents, out in the country, and we only got to the library twice a month and had no television. (this is back before the internet days. WAAAY before). So I would be stuck with either reading them or having nothing to do. That habit stuck even after I moved to the city.

    It’s only been in the last three or four years I’d put a book down and now I’m putting more and more of them down. If it hasn’t grabbed me in the first 50 pages – either for not liking their voice or not buying into their world – then I put it down. However, I have forced myself to read a couple of books lately because they were sent to me at great expense by friends who loved them so much they hoped I’d like them too. I felt I owed it to them to give the authors a chance. I actually read three books in a series one friend sent me because she loved it so much and so many other people had too – but I just couldn’t stand the world or the character. (It’s a huge name author, got about 20 books in the series – but I really didn’t like it) I never did end up finishing the third one. Now I’ve got 18 books left unread on my shelf and I’m not sure what to do with them.

    There are also certain things that set off my WTF meter and have me tossing the book across the room and I won’t finish it, even if I’ve read it three quarters the way through. The “and it was all a dream” sequence, the author who doesn’t know what a virgin is anatomically … yup, those books get tossed now.

  3. cursingmama says:

    I typically allow a book 30 pages to give me a reason to read it – unless it has come highly recommended from a trusted source or I’m supposed to review it. If a book is just outright poorly written and I wonder if the author could be the illegitimate child or mistress of the publisher I toss it long before the 30 page rule.

  4. I used to do this. Torture myself and finish a bad book. I would hem and haw about how bad it was and would drag the torture over a few weeks until it was over. I got over this after someone put things into perspective. They said, why waste your time on a bad book when there are so many good books waiting to be read. If you waste 2 weeks reading a book that you really don’t want to read, then you are denying yourself the pleasure of picking up a book so good you devour in 24 hours.

    Now, I give the book 100 – 125 pages. Since I usually read paperbacks, that gives the book 1/3 of it’s length to impress me enough to stick with it. Sometimes a book is not necessarily bad but just – not good. Those are the books that take me longer to read or just longer to realize I don’t want to read. I have a different rule for those cases. If by the end of one week I have not gotten to the middle of the book, I’ll put it aside (this is a week of active reading time not a week of ‘i’m too busy to read’). I might come back to it at another time (sometimes I’m just not in the mood for that type of book) but sometimes, after I step away from the book, I’ll know that I will never go back to it. And that is just fine with me.

  5. Bev Stephans says:

    Life’s too short to read bad books! There are too many good ones out there waiting to be read.

    A couple of years ago, I started reading a book that seemed interesting, but started to bog down around the middle. No problem! I just went to the last few chapters and found out how it ended and didn’t have to read all the boring stuff in the middle. I very seldom do this, but it seemed to be my only choice in this case.

    Usually, I can tell if I like a book within the first few chapters. If it has come highly recommended, I might give it a little longer.

  6. Jessica says:

    I am compelled to finish, and I don’t really know why. I would never try to defend it. I think you’re attitude is healthier and better. But I guess I feel like I have started something, I have to finish it.

  7. Megan says:

    Maybe 30 pps. Maybe. But sometimes I drop it after a chapter, if it doesn’t grab me. Life is too short to struggle through not-so-good books, not when there are so many good books out there waiting to be read.

  8. Wendy says:

    I used to be one of those poor saps who had to finish every book I started. I think the fear is that the book will get “better” and you’ll never know because you quit reading it. I was cured of this during my tenure with The Romance Reader. I finished every god-awful book I was assigned to review. Every. Single. Torturous. Word. So when I was reading a book on my “own time” – damn if I was going to force myself to read something I wasn’t enjoying.

    For category romances and “average” length books (300-350 pages), I give a book 50 pages. For longer books, I stick with it longer. For example, I gave up on Flowers From The Storm after reading 150 pages. Yes, I’ll admit it publicly. I’m a philistine who gave up on a Laura Kinsale book after 150 pages. And yes, I’m sleeping just fine at night šŸ˜†

  9. Tee says:

    Wendy: Yes, Iā€™ll admit it pubĀ­licly.Iā€™m a philisĀ­tine who gave up on a Laura KinĀ­sale book after 150 pages. And yes, Iā€™m sleepĀ­ing just fine at night šŸ˜†

    How funny, but how true, Wendy. Some things just don’t seem to matter as much when we look backwards at our actions.

  10. SarahT says:

    Back in the good old days, I used to force myself to finish books I wasn’t enjoying. I guess I felt I couldn’t bitch about them unless I read them through to the bitter end.

    These days, my reading time is too limited to waste on a boring book. As a result, the number of DNFs on my reading list has increased from one in a blue moon to a few per year.

    As for when I quit a bad book: it depends. A rare few are so woeful that I put them aside after the first chapter. I usually persevere until around page 50, just in case they improve.

    @Wendy: I’m a philistine who gave up on ‘Lord of Scoundrels’. While I’ve enjoyed some other Loretta Chase books. LoS was underwhelming.

  11. JenB says:

    I can’t finish a book I don’t like. If the book totally sucks, I’ll quit it after a couple of chapters. If it has some redeeming qualities, I might make it through half the book. But if it turns south and gets stupid at any time–even in the last chapter–I don’t feel bad about ditching it.

  12. Bookwormom says:

    If I’ve made it through the first chapter, then I’m likely to give a book roughly 100 pages. I suppose that ends up as 25-30% of a paperback depending on length. Sometimes I repeatedly stop & start & just can’t get moving forward. So I drop it. I’ve learned not to ‘force myself’ to finish any book. I’ve way way too many books in my TBR & borrowed from the library to struggle through. For example, I gave up on Twilight at page 30 but I stuck with Margaret George’s Helen of Troy until disc 8 out of 24.

    Sometime I can’t or won’t finish a book but I’ve read enough to wonder about the resolution, so I’ll read the last chapter or two so I know how things turned out. *shrug & laughs* I’m fickle. šŸ™‚

    ~Amanda

  13. Karen W. says:

    Amen, avidbookreader! Life is too short to struggle through a bad book. Especially when there are so many *good* ones out there waiting for me! I try to be fair and give a book about 100 pages, but I know a lot sooner with some of the bad ones. If it hasn’t grabbed me by then, it’s on to the next one.

  14. Life is just toooo short! I don’t have a hard and fast rule regarding when to drop a book, but usually if you haven’t grabbed me in the first 3 chapters I say, ciao. Also, if I put a book down and fail to pick it back within a week, I will put it back into my TBR pile, but if it happens again, I just donate it right on out of the house!

  15. ag says:

    Generally, I’d give any new authors about 5 chapters to convince me to continue. If the story hasn’t got me hooked by the end of chapter 5, it’s time to bid it adios. There were some exceptions to this rule of thumb, though.

    Like Tee, I wasn’t too enamoured of Auel’s Clan of the Cave Bear, but the sequels were more engrossing. Most recently, I struggled through Paul Theroux’s Blinding Light, as it came highly recommended, but halfway through, I decided that enough was enough.

  16. Ann-Kat says:

    Once upon a time I used to try finishing the flat out bad, no hope of ever getting better books, and in most of those cases I succeeded. The rationale was the one you mentioned: I bought (or was given, with high praise) this book and I’m going to finish it if it kills me.

    Then, I got older and wiser.

    Some of the time I’ll read a bad book as homework on how not to write, but other than that, if it refuses to get any better within 100 pages, I’ll set it aside and ponder what to do with it. (I try not to inflict any torturous titles on others, not even my enemies. Usually it will get donated.)

  17. Samantha says:

    Gosh, this was something I used to feel REALLY guilty about! I used to feel that I was cheating somehow if I didn’t finish. I would start something and it might take me forever to finish it, and meanwhile like you said, all these great books were just waiting on my TBR pile. Also, how did I really know that if I stuck with it I wouldn’t change my mind?

    Recently I’ve become less guilty when it comes to putting down a (IMO) “bad” book. I will wait until ~1/3 through before I decide to give up (either that or when a character(s) really gets on my nerves).

    I’ve gotten better at knowing what I like as a reader and what I know I can’t warm up to no matter how much longer I continue reading.

  18. senetra says:

    I give it 50 pages, then I read the last chapter. My reading time is limited.

  19. Silver says:

    I don’t have a hard and fast rule. If something bothers me while I read, I’d ignore it if it’s a one-time thing. But if it’s going to occur throughout the book, like juvenile writing, bad dialogue, etc. I give up, no matter where I am in the book. And I would avoid that writer forever and ever.

  20. Jennygirl says:

    If I don’t like a book, then no I don’t finish it. How long I give it though, depends on the book. Some I know by page 20, that it’s not for me, others I wait and give it more time, like 100 pages, before deciding to chuck it.
    I definitely don’t finish them though.

  21. Bookwormom says:

    OT- I commented above already, but I nominated you for an award.
    Click here.

    ~Amanda

  22. Trisha says:

    I also have no rule that I stick to. When I first stopped making myself finish every book I picked up, about six or seven years ago, I did try to stick to the 50 page thing. Now, it depends on the book. Sometimes I’ll put it down after 30 pages, some I’ll stick with it for 50, some half the book. It depends on why I want to put it down. Boring? Confusing? (And I think there’s acceptable confusing and bad confusing.) Grosses me out? Plain old bad writing?

  23. animemiz says:

    Hmm.. well as often as I read things as I do… sometimes reading a bad book is subjective. The author did put some time in it.. so as courtesy.. have to try and finish the book. if the book is pretty bad, then I usually skim..

  24. Tee says:

    animemiz: The author did put some time in it.. so as courĀ­tesy.. have to try and finish the book.

    That would be, to me, like feeling I would have to finish all the food on my plate that I ordered in a restaurant, even though I’m not enjoying it, because I owe a courtesy to the cook who put some time into preparing the dish. There was a time, several years back, when I felt similarly about finishing books I’ve begun reading, animemiz. But there came a time when I realized that I was just wasting my time if the story truly did not appeal to me. Believe it or not, that was a very freeing moment for me, because I no longer felt bound to go on with an unappealing story while other potentially good books patiently waited nearby.

  25. Avid Reader says:

    animemiz: someĀ­times readĀ­ing a bad book is subĀ­jecĀ­tive. The author did put some time in it.. so as courĀ­tesy.. have to try and finish the book.

    Hey animemiz, while I appreciate your opinion (along with every one else’s) we’d have to agree to disagree because finishing a bad book out of courtesy ain’t happening. I’m a consumer and not the author’s BFF.

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