Friday, October 28, 2005

Are you a quitter?

I'm short on time today (my favorite sister is coming to spend the next few days with us--woo-hoo), but since reader comments are usually the most interesting part of this blog, anyway, I thought I'd try to provoke some.

How do you handle a boring book? Are you able to walk away, or do you stick with it to the bitter end? Here's what Terry Teachout says:

I expect a lot out of the books I read, and when they fail to deliver the goods, I toss them aside with a clear conscience and no second thoughts. Life is so very short—and so often shorter than we expect—that it seems a fearful mistake to waste even the tiniest part of it submitting voluntarily to unnecessary boredom.

On the whole, I agree with that. But sometimes I believe I might glean something useful (if not entertaining) from even a bad book, so I'll stick with it. Admittedly, quite a lot of skipping and skimming occurs, but as long as I can envision a payoff, I'll keep going. Even when I'm not enjoying a novel, I might be inspired by something in it; a surprise ending, a well-drawn character, some bit of cleverness I might adapt for my own work. For the most part, however, I'm able to close a boring book and never look back. In some cases I'll skim the last few pages just to see how everything turned out, but I'm not usually tempted to do even that.

So, how about you? What makes you put a book down? Can you put a book down, even if it's boring? Do you have an unfinished book on your nightstand that you're planning to give another shot when you're more in the mood for it?


Katie Hart said...

I used to finish all books I started (unless there was something bad in them). Now I wouldn't feel obligated too (it would depend on how far I was in the book), but I often have no choice. With review books I have to finish them - unless they're a very badly written self-published book, in which case I have the option of complaining to my editor. :-) Though there have been a few royalty-published ones I've wanted to throw across the the room.

Marianne McA said...

I can leave a book that offends me, but apart from that, I'd always finish, though I might skim heavily. In a way that determination to finish a book 'just because' seems part of what made me a reader in the first place.
That is - I can read quickly, and fluently, and have a decent vocabulary - all of which makes reading highly pleasurable for me now; but I developed those skills by doggedly persevering through books that didn't always offer much instant gratification to a ten year old. If I had it in me to be a book abandoner, maybe I wouldn't have made it as a reader in the first place.

Goddess said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Goddess said...

While I am not afraid to quit when a book reveals itself to be dull, or badly written, or just not my thing, I have a different 'problem' most of the time.
I like to have several books on the go at once (can't read hardcovers in bed, don't want to read a library book in the bathtub...) and I have a tendency to get distracted and put a perfectly wonderful book down for months at a time while I pay attention to a newer, shinier book that shouts louder.
I do tend to return to the poor neglected ones. Eventually. But, to be honest, I have favorites which I rarely (or never) finish. After all, the first page of 'Out of Africa' is the one of the best things ever written in my opinion. Is this book then allowed to be a favorite, even if I've never managed to finished it?

Kristin said...

I have kept reading a dull book, hoping it would get better (usually based on who the author is or who might have suggested I should read it). I have stopped reading a dull book when it was a crap-shoot paperback I picked up at the library and have no vested interest in whether or not I finish.

Usually, I will put down a book and refuse to finish if I find it offensive rather than boring. Once I read only one chapter of a cop-type mystery (by a well-known author) because it has an unnecessary amount of swearing (and I am pretty tolerant of bad language in books). But it got distracting. Another book was overly-graphic when it didn't need to be. The image in my head was so horrific, I just couldn't read another word. I am also very intolerant of bad grammar (and it does slip by the editors) or plain, old weak plot/character. I won't waste my time on it.

Robin Bayne said...

I have been looking forward to Diana Gabaldon's newest "A Breath of Snow And Ashes" for a long time, but now that I have it I can't get past the first hundred pages. It's on my night stand, and I hope one cold winter evening I will get back into it.

pacatrue said...

I'm with Goddess on this one. I do two different things. If it's a novel, I usually (but see below) power through it unless it's awful, though I might start skimming for a while. For nonfiction, I like to have several books all going at once. If it's less than five, then I'm being really dilligent and controlling my attention. I actually also have a book like Goddess' Out of Africa. I started reading Crime and Punishment once and thought the first few chapters were utterly tremendous. But somehow I put the book down and have never gotten back to it. It doesn't lessen my belief that the book is tremendous though. Same thing with Beloved. I remember being blown away by the prose of the first few pages and thinking this is as close to poetry as prose can get, but I never have gotten back to it. But I still think of Beloved as a model for writing. None of this makes sense does it?

jessiegirl said...

I tend to read across all genres and so with different styles i have different tolerance levels. The highest are in fantasy, horror and sci fi. I think I give them more leeway more from them because by definition they are removed (at least a little bit) from the strict confines of reality.

In my view mystery and romance are a little more tied to reality and so the definition of what is a bad book is stricter. I can put down lesser quality books in these genres and not feel guilty. Well not too guilty. Though this isn't counting genre cross overs which are somewhere in the middle.

There is only one book that has been so bad I couldn't finish it. It was a romance novel about a woman who falls in love with (and becomes) a mermaid and well the integration of the magical elements into the books reality was just so bad i couldn't go past page 30. But I guess that is what I get for buying a book because the had sparkles on it.

Bonnie Calhoun said...

I have only had one book recently that I couldn't get past page 60. I'm in a group that does reviews and unbeknowst to us, a self-published book slipped in several months ago. it was God aweful and I couldn't read it.

I only read Christian fiction, other than Tom Clancey, Nelson Demille or Clive Cussler, so surprise over content never causes me to put it down.

I have had the occasion for a book to put me down! I only allow myself to read on the treadmill (or I'd never get any exercise). Every once in a while I get so involved with what I'm reading that I stop moving....It's not a pretty sight! Needless to say the area BEHIND the treadmill is clear of projectiles. (It happened last night....again)

Camy Tang said...

My thinking is that I do not have time to waste on a bad book. If it doesn't grab me by the end of chapter two, it's not getting read. I have absolutely no qualms, and I don't care if a billion other people thought it was the best thing since sliced bread.


Margery Scott said...

I'm like an editor - the author gets the first three chapters to hook me. If she doesn't, it's gone. There are too many books, too little time to waste on a book I'm not enjoying. I do like to analyze *why* I don't like it, what didn't work for me. At least I'm learning something.

Kristi said...

I can't not finish a book I've started... but like Brenda, I'll skim it, skip ahead and get to The End as quickly as possible. I've even been known to read the first chapter, hate the book and skip all the way to the final page... I know, I'm a nut.

Meg Allison said...


I tend to stick with a book I don't like, too. With a lot of skimming and skipping as you mentioned. I think I just keep hoping it'll get better. LOL!

~~Meg (aka Allicat @ eHarl) ;)