Sunday, October 28, 2012

To Give Up or Not to Give Up

I don't remember ever really thinking about this issue before becoming a book blogger, but now it seems to be the all-important question: when do you give up on a book?

My fourth grade teacher, Mrs. Hammer, said she gave a book 20 pages. If she wasn't intrigued by then, she quit reading. I thought that was a pretty good rule until I realized just how short 20 pages can be. You've barely gotten into anything in 20 pages. I don't know if it's really much better, but I feel that 50 is much more adequate. Maybe because 50 is my per-day-page-goal, but I also think that something needs to have at least happened by then.

But this is all a pretty new topic for me. I actually don't remember making a conscientious decision to stop reading books that didn't interest me. I just set them aside while I started something new, as if I were just taking a break, but then never ended up picking them back up.

Now, since I'm (supposed to be) reviewing these books and I've listed on GoodReads which ones I'm currently reading, I feel a bit more obligated to stick with them so I can accurately review them. And if I don't follow through and finish a book, I'm burdened with a self-imposed guilt trip.

For example, this past week I was so excited to start The Casual Vacancy by J.K. Rowling. I knew it hadn't gotten great reviews, but I wanted to read it because I respected Rowling as an author and storyteller. I knew it would be nothing like Harry Potter, and was excited to see what else she could produce. Unfortunately, after 88 pages I had to put it down. I hadn't found one likable character and in general, the storyline was just kind of depressing.

My dilemma, therefore, was: do I need to finish the book to give it a fair shot, even if it means disliking it the whole time, or give it up and move on with my life?

Well, I gave it up. But I'm curious:

What do you do when you don't like the book you're reading? Do you feel obligated to stick it out until the end, or do you have a page limit?


  1. hmmmmm... for me I don't think its ever really a conscious decision- much like you were talking about, you set them down because you aren't super engaged and you want to read something else and then potentially don't actually come back to it. Although I've realized recently that I do, from time to time, come back to books months and years later and end up re-reading and finish them and liking them a lot despite not getting sucked in the first time around.

    1. The same thing happens to me. I think so much of it just depends on my mood. I think for a lot of books I have to be in the right frame of mind, so I don't like thinking that I'll just never come back around to it. Who's to say it might not be just what I'm looking for later?

  2. 50 is reasonable. 20 might be a little early.

  3. Mine isn't a conscious decision either. It's more that they just sit abandoned on my nightstand for a long time and get dusty -- I think that's when I decide to move on.