Thursday, July 10, 2008

My Book Abandonment Rule

Things have been light in the review department this week because I haven't finished any books this week. In fact, I can't remember ever putting so many books down after I've read the first few pages. I used to ALWAYS try to finish a book even if it was excruciating. For some weird reason, I felt GUILTY for doing it. But then a couple of years ago, I realized that it was just plain silly to feel guilty. If I didn't like it, I didn't like it, and that was that, so I developed a "book abandonment rule" and told myself that if I wasn't into the book after the first 30 pages, I simply wouldn't finish it. And I've pretty much stayed true to that rule since. In fact, I actually often give up after 15 or 20 pages if I'm not into the book.

I strongly believe that a book has to hook a reader from the very beginning. Why waste my time on a book I don't like when there are so many more out there waiting for me?

What about you? Do you have a "book abandonment rule," or do you struggle with the urge to keep reading even if you don't like a book?


  1. I don't have a formal rule, but I will stop if a book isn't grabbing me. A good sign of this is when I fall asleep each night after reading one page - if the book can't keep me awake to read for a few minutes, then I probably need to try something else.

  2. I am actually struggling with closing a book right now. I have always felt this compulsion to finish a book. I think it's a genetic thing related to being German/Italian and Polish! I like your idea. Thirty pages seems about right ... I may try a 10-30 rule: if a book hasn't grabbed me by the time I finish 10% or 30 pages, whichever is more, then it's time to move on.

  3. Life is too short and there are too many great books to read - no one should feel compelled to finish an unworthy book.
    That said, I have tossed aside a book in disgust or boredom that I picked up months or years later and absolutely loved. Sometimes it's a matter of current mood or state of mind.

  4. My rule is similar to Terry's. I've always thought of it as 10%, but I give a 200 page book more than 20 pages.

    I started abandoning books about 3 years ago and it was so liberating. What is particularly bad, though, is when you end up sticking with a book halfway before you realize it really isn't going to get any better. Now I just need to get over that sense that I've "wasted my time."

  5. Yes, I abandon books. There are so many books and so little time! I've recently realized that since I've been blogging I've been reading books just to blog about them: and that goes against my abandonment philosophy. So I'm going to stop doing that.

    I usually give a book 50 pages, though.

  6. I typically don't abandon picture books no matter how bad. I've got that much time after all. But for everything else, I can and do abandon if it isn't grabbing me. There are two levels of abandonment. The "not-right-now" level which means that I may make a mental note to try again later--a week, a month, a year--to see if it works for me then. Or the complete-and-total abandonment level which means that I have no interest in giving it another chance. It's easy to do the first, a bit harder to do the second. But I have done it on occasion :)

    I typically go for 50 pages though if I'm considering complete-and-total abandonment.

  7. Wow...what a pleasant surprise to get home and see so many wonderful comments! Thanks so much everyone for offering your two cents!

    Jen: I've definitely had those moments when a book has put me to sleep after just a few pages. I normally try again the next night to see if I was just really tired or if it was the book. If I fall fast asleep again, it's on to the next book.

    Terry: background is German, too, and I always feel tormented if something remains unfinished. I like your 10-30 rule.

    Eva: I totally agree that it sometimes has to do with your current mood or state of mind. A few years ago, I was inspired to read the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the first time and only got through half of the first book. It wasn't that I didn't like it, I just didn't feel like wading through all of the details. I didn't get rid of them and am still waiting to be inspired to read them one of these days.

    Christie: It IS liberating isn't it? And I absolutely know what you mean about feeling like you've wasted your time with a book that just doesn't work out. I recently tried to listen to War and Peace in the car during my morning commute. I have never read it and was attempting to fit in more classics. I actually gave it a chance for 7 days before I decided to give it up and still feel that I could have spent that time listening to something I would have enjoyed more. Oh well.

    Rebecca: I went through something similar just a couple of months ago. I was reading books that really didn't interest me, but I felt that I needed to read them and blog about them because a publisher or author had sent them to me. It took a while for me to realize that some of the joy I had with reading and blogging was dying, so I decided to only read the books I was truly interested in. That was a very freeing moment for me.

    Becky: I love your "not-right-now" and "complete-and-total-abandonment" categories. For some reason, a lot of books lately have fallen into the "complete-and-total-abandonment" category for me, and I wonder if it's a particular mood I'm in or if I'm just choosing the wrong books.

  8. I get that same guilty feeling if I don't finish a book. It's silly I know-but I keep thinking it might get better. The thing is some of them do get better!Sometimes I will put a book aside and come back to it later when I can't find anything good to read.