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What makes you put a book down?

So, yesterday I picked up a book that I know I saw someone or other recommend. I rarely read books these days that I haven't had some kind of recommendation on, because I see so many recommendations I have to be picky even within those! Which actually makes me think I should probably also do a 'what makes you pick a book up?' post. Well, tomorrow. Why not do things backward?

Anyway. I started to read the book on my way to work. There was some interesting stuff going on, but there was even more confusing stuff, and for a large part of the time I was reading I was mostly trying to figure out what the heck was actually going on. However, I kept reading because I knew there was some reason I picked it up, and it was a well-known author (but don't worry, it was none of you), and, well, it was the only book I had on me.

But also, I find it hard to stop reading a book once I've started. Even if I really dislike it. Even if I have no idea what's going on. I feel as though I've entered into some sort of honor system, in which I must give the book a fair chance, which means reading all the way to the end.

Which is kind of silly, because it's not like I don't have enough other books I'd like to read. I am swamped with books. And my mind is swamped with all the books I know I should read after I've read all the books already sitting on my shelves and beside my desk and various other places at home. Not all of them are going to be to my taste--there's nothing wrong about that. So why would I keep reading a book that, honestly, may cause me to avoid reading altogether rather than go back to it?

Maybe it's because I'm afraid it's just me, and if I slug through it eventually I'll see the light and realize that I would have enjoyed all that other stuff if I'd been reading it properly? Or that even if I'm not enjoying some parts there's probably still things I could learn from it?

This particular book, I think I'll give another chance. Mostly because I didn't dislike it so much as find it really hard to follow. But if I put it down today feeling like I'm just not getting it, I'm going to try to make myself set it aside and pick up something else. And not feel guilty for doing so. And I may succeed on the first part, at least.

Is it just me? Or do other people feel this strange guilt about not finishing books they're not enjoying?

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baristababe
Apr. 3rd, 2008 05:22 pm (UTC)
I have a horrible, horrible time not finishing books. I even have guilt over not finishing series, but I'll almost always slug through a book. I can think of two that I have genuinely not finished. There are a few more that I won't put in that pile yet because I Will Finish Them Eventually Dammit. :)
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 12:54 pm (UTC)
Guess I'm not alone, then! :) Though I have no problem with stopping reading a series. It's actually something that's become a habit--I very rarely read an entire series because there's usually a point (usually two or three books in, sometimes only one) where I go, well, this is pretty good, but I can see the chances that I'll like the next book as well as this are slim, so I'll get out now while I'm still happy.

Which is also why I have never watched, other than scattered episodes, the seasons after 3 of Buffy. ;)
astres
Apr. 3rd, 2008 05:25 pm (UTC)
Well, my job is to finish those books that I really dislike and then review them. HAHAHAHA. It's only recently that I've stopped reading when I really don't enjoy things. Ahh, the pressures of university.
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 12:55 pm (UTC)
Yeah, I've had a couple books that really were not my thing, but I'd picked them to review, so, oh well! :P
fabulousfrock
Apr. 3rd, 2008 05:25 pm (UTC)
I have a very hard time putting books down...not the ones that really don't grab me at all. The worst are the "okay" books. They're interesting at first. I keep reading. By page 100 or so I'm dreading picking up the book. My whole reading lineup has hit a traffic jam because of this book. Yet, it's not BAD and I'm already a third of the way through it. I have to really remind myself that I have a whole pile of other books to spend time with and force myself to put it down.
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 12:57 pm (UTC)
It's definitely true that the "okay" books are harder to put down. If I absolutely hate a book, unless it's really really popular and I must find out why, I don't feel so bad about tossing it aside. But if I feel like there is *some* merit there...

And I have caught myself avoiding reading altogether to avoid reading a particular book. When I start doing that, I know it's time to pick up a new book.
cyn2write
Apr. 3rd, 2008 05:26 pm (UTC)
Oh, I know, I do end up putting down a lot of books I start to read, maybe one in five. And I feel guilty, especially if someone else read it and loved it, but my time is precious. I do the 50 page test. If it hasn't hooked me by page 50, I'm over it. There are just too many good books out there to waste time on one that isn't floating your boat.
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 12:59 pm (UTC)
I try to tell myself that! I guess it's just that I know I tend to be overly critical of books (writer brain picking things apart) so I like to give them a good long chance--and also my tastes tend to be different from a lot of people's so sometimes I'm going, okay, if I just get to the end, then maybe I'll understand... ;)

There have been books that I was so-so on at the beginning and then ended up loving, too, so I'm glad I do stick it out sometimes.
lefalcone
Apr. 3rd, 2008 05:36 pm (UTC)
I used to feel guilty for not finishing or even liking a book but I don't anymore. It was like I had to give myself permission to put it down and step away from it. Once I did, then I found myself putting down more books than I care to mention. Most of the time it's because something just isn't cutting it for me and there are times when I'm just too lazy to invest any time in it. But, the reasons I will put down a book are: no connection to the MC, taking too long to get anywhere (I don't expect tension or action on every page but I do expect something of significance to happen before I reach chapter five), bad dialogue (blech!), long passages of descriptive prose (snore).

I figure there are tons of books out there awaiting my attention that to waste time on one I don't like is cheating myself out of a great reading experience. There's nothing wrong with not liking a book.
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:00 pm (UTC)
Maybe that's part of the reason for me--I'm worried that if I give myself permission to set down books that aren't doing it for me, I'll become so picky that I'll miss books I might have liked just 'cause they didn't grab me right away. ;) But yeah, nothing of significance happening by chapter five is pretty darn bad.
cruelest_month
Apr. 3rd, 2008 05:43 pm (UTC)
I feel that way if I buy the book, but I think that's probably why I get most of my books from libraries now because there's less guilt somehow. I have less of an investment, I guess. I can read five pages and abandon it and return it the next week. That and my time outside of class and work is often not very much to speak of when I have projects.

One of the few books I did read all the way through that I sort of loathed was because a classmate had it and it's been pretty popular with adult female patrons. But I wanted to be able to talk to my friend about it and I didn't want to return the book to her unread so that gave me the extra incentive.
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:02 pm (UTC)
I have actually gotten books as gifts that I could tell I would never in a million years have picked up on my own, or that I started couldn't get into at all, and then pretended that I read it to the person who gave it to me. Though I don't think that's happened since I was a teenager. :D
robinellen
Apr. 3rd, 2008 06:01 pm (UTC)
I sometimes feel guilty, but that's usually only when I 'know' the author. The rest of the time, I'm afraid I tend to think 'Life is short' and just toss it aside.

Things that make me put a book down are pretty much when I realize I'm only going through the motions; I'm not really that interested. The best test for any book is whether or not it will hold my attention while I'm exercising -- if not, I usually put it down.
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:04 pm (UTC)
I'm actually more nervous to read books by people I "know" than by people I don't--because what if I don't like it! I'd rather think, well, I'm sure I'd like it if I got around to it, than find out I don't like it. Though so far I've been lucky and liked all the books I've read by people I know online. :)
sarah_prineas
Apr. 3rd, 2008 06:14 pm (UTC)
Oh, no. I abandon books all the time, no guilt. I give 'em 30 pages and if they don't grab me, that's it. They get abandoned for lots of reason, most of them subjective: voice doesn't work/seems inauthentic, plot tension lapses, the writing is clunky or flat, I don't care about the main character, the main character is passive/doesn't act as a protagonist (which I can take sometimes, but not usually), the peripheral characters are flat, etc.

I figure, not every book is going to be right for every reader, and if the book doesn't work for me, then I wasn't the right reader for it. And I move on to the next one...!
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:05 pm (UTC)
That's a good way of looking at it--just not the right reader for this book!

And agreed on the dislike of passive MCs. I can put up with almost anything as long as the MC is *trying*. ;)
mandyhubbard
Apr. 3rd, 2008 06:19 pm (UTC)
I had to come up with a 75 pages rule. I used to be like you, but then I read a Fern Michaels book and I was SURE there was a reason everone else liked her but...nope, the ending sucked too.

So I give ANY book 75 pages. If the book is really lucky and i'm stuck in the waiting room at the dentist, I might get past that. But if after 75 pages I'm not hooked, i put it down and walk away, but still count is as a "book read".
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:06 pm (UTC)
75 sounds like a good amount--though I think if I was that far in, unless I really disliked it, I'd probably keep reading just 'cause I was already that far in. Thankfully I don't read too many books I hate, mostly books I end feeling kind of 'meh' about.

And yeah, sometimes it's hard to figure with those 'everyone likes them!' authors... :)
stacyking
Apr. 3rd, 2008 06:56 pm (UTC)
I'm usually reading multiple books at once, so it's easy for a book I'm not enjoying to wind up abandoned. I often won't notice that I've given up reading it until I return it to the library/bookshelf and discover a bookmark still tucked between the pages!

In some cases, especially when the recommendation comes from someone whose taste I respect, I'll try again months or years later. What I want/need from my reading materials can change significantly based on my mood, present interests and distraction levels. For instance, I don't think I finished 'Wuthering Heights' until my late 20s, despite having tackled it half a dozen times before then!
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:08 pm (UTC)
It's funny how you have to be in the right place for some books. The one I noticed that most with was THE CATCHER IN THE RYE. I read it when I was 16 or so and thought it was just okay, nothing special. Then re-read it in my early twenties and though, hey, this is actually pretty darn good!
haikujaguar
Apr. 3rd, 2008 07:06 pm (UTC)
I used to feel that way, yeah. But then I realized that most of the books I was having trouble finishing didn't get better by the end, so it was a spectacular waste of time, most of the time.

And then my free time got cut really sharply.

Now, if I'm not engaged within a few pages, I toss it in the library/sell-back pile, and my only regret is having paid the money for it.
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:09 pm (UTC)
I guess I usually get at least a little out of most books, so I don't feel like they're a waste of time... but definitely if I had less time to read, I'd become a lot more picky fast!
rj_anderson
Apr. 3rd, 2008 07:48 pm (UTC)
If I'm not enjoying a book, I start skimming faster and faster and faster until I am leaping ahead several pages at a time and finally I read the last page of the book and think, "Well, that's done then."

If a book is so bad that I actually put it down without even doing that -- and it does happen from time to time -- then it earns a special place of honor on my mental list of Really Bad Books. It doesn't have to be full of gratuitous gore and incomprehensible plotting and random sex scenes to earn a place like that (although it helps) -- it just has to be so tediously written that I simply. don't. care.

Most books, though, I do read straight through -- albeit quickly, because that's how I read everything. I figure, if I really love it, I'll get that much more out of it on the second/third/fourth read.
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:12 pm (UTC)
I'm a really fast reader, too! It's a habit I must have picked up as a kid--sometimes I start skimming (especially during long paragraphs with little action) without even meaning to, it just happens automatically and if I notice I catch myself and make myself go back and read it properly (unless I'm not really enjoying the book that much in the first place). I don't really like it, though, because I think I'm missing things, and most books I don't end up going back and rereading because there are so many new books I want to check out. Working on it, though. And I've gotten better--there were times in high school when I was re-reading a book and realized that I'd skipped a whole page (turning two together) without even noticing. *facepalm*
mysticturtle
Apr. 3rd, 2008 08:19 pm (UTC)
I have a hard time putting books down once I've started them. I can usually find something to keep me reading in any book I've decided to pick up and if not I tend to slog my way through anyway. I can tell I shouldn't have read it if I get to the end and can't remember a thing about it. I know more about Johnny Tremaine from what other people have told me than from what I remember myself.

Sometimes I can avoid this by realizing that nothing interesting has happened yet and I'm a third of the way into the book. "Nothing interesting" is mostly about plot but it also has to do with how much I care about the main characters.
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:13 pm (UTC)
That sounds like a good way of looking at it--if you're not interested, why keep reading? :)
deva_fagan
Apr. 3rd, 2008 11:00 pm (UTC)
I have a very hard time putting down a book if I feel like I've already invested time into it. I was actually just experiencing that recently with a well-reviewed book I had wanted to read for a while... I liked about the first 75 pages and then I started having doubts. But I just ground thru to the end because of that guilty feeling.

I can stop and set a book aside if I don't care for it and I realize it by say 30 pages or so. Though there are some books I have read even if I haven't quite cared for them, just to know what all the fuss is about (big name YA books, mostly).

I think I need to get over that guilt and be okay with setting things aside though. I also have a giant list to read!
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:16 pm (UTC)
I think I'm the same way--at least, often I don't realize that I'm not really enjoying a book until I'm quite a ways in, and then it's like, well, might as well finish it now. I seem to be picking books well enough that I can't remember the last time I had a book that I already knew I disliked it from the first thirty pages. Just a fair number of books where I'm like, well this is okay, maybe it'll get really good as it goes... hmmm, still just okay, well let's see how it ends... Yeah that was really just... okay. ;)
neeshadm
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:04 am (UTC)
I usually feel really let down when I'm wanting to like a book, but just can't connect with it for whatever reason. I'd rather put it down than keep feeling like that. It's like putting it (and me) out of our mutual misery. I'd rather it end up in the hands of someone who can better, um, appreciate its merits.
megancrewe
Apr. 4th, 2008 01:18 pm (UTC)
I like that way of looking at it! (That it's worse to keep reading when you're not 'appreciating' it.) Though I guess I keep thinking in those cases that if I just read a little further, get to know it a little more, I will start appreciating it. :P Which generally does not happen, but hey, a few times it has.
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