Do you ever start a book and find it hard to get into? Do you keep reading but find your mind wandering before you realize you don’t remember that last few paragraphs? Somehow you keep flipping the pages, but you don’t have a clue what you just read? The story isn’t what you thought it would be, or it doesn’t grab your attention, the characters aren’t relatable, or you just plain don’t enjoy the way it’s told?
I used to pride myself on finishing every book I started. No longer. And just as I used to make myself finish every book, I used to keep every book I bought, no matter whether I liked it or not. No more.
I can now put a book down if it doesn’t grab me or if it’s a struggle to keep going. If I start thinking of groceries I need, instead of focusing on the story, then clearly something’s not working. Sometimes there’s a twinge of uncertainty - will it get better if I just keep going a little longer? Sometimes there’s a smattering of guilt - someone worked so hard to write it, publishers thought it was worthy - who am I to banish it to the dust pile?
But as I get older, I like to think I get a little wiser. The timeframe allotted to a bad read varies but generally if it hasn’t got my attention by about a hundred pages or so, then away it goes. A woman in a book club I belonged to once proudly proclaimed that she knew within the first four pages whether she’d continue reading or not. This seemed a tad hasty to me, a rather harsh judgement so soon out the gate, but I suppose we all have our limitations of attention.
For some, it’s not just a matter of interest that determines whether a book holds up or not. There are certain story lines that are deal breakers and sometimes they can crop up unexpectedly.
I have a friend who can’t read anything with animal cruelty (understandably) and another who can’t read any book that centers on unjust accusation (interestingly). I’m not sure I have definitive categories that are off limits, but if there’s too much gratuitous violence, I’m just not into it. Especially if the victim is female.
It’s not often that I put a book down once I’ve started it. But there’s a finite amount of time and a world of good books that I’m just never going to get around to. Why spend precious time with those that don’t hold my attention, whose characters don’t grab me, or that has bad writing, or a poorly conceived plot?
I think most readers are picky – or they ought to be. Why waste precious reading hours with books you don’t enjoy? Life is short. Read what you love.
How about you? Do you ever stop reading a book part-way? Is there a point of no return for you? Are there deal-breaker plot points you won’t read? Love to hear your thoughts. And don’t forget – wash your hands, wear a mask, stay hopeful.
In the meantime, happy reading!