"To help them know when to give up, many professional readers apply the 50-page rule. If the book hasn’t grabbed them by then, they give it the heave-ho. Nancy Pearl, the librarian and author of Book Lust, reports that some people take this rule further and subtract a page for every year of age over 50. This way a 75-year old would give a book only 25 pages to prove itself. As readers mature they become quicker and surer judges of what they like."
Wow. I guess 50 pages isn't as bad as the 5 pages most agents ask to see. I can't decide on what to eat in five minutes, much less decide on a book in 5 pages. It seems a ridiculous standard. I judge a book by the last 50 pages much more than I do the first. But I've also been known to skip to the last chapter if a book is slow. If the last chapter grabs me, I'll go back and read the whole thing (but I admit to skimming here and there).
When I came across my first book in school that I hated but had to finish, my dad gave advice I use to this day: read the first and last sentence of every paragraph and all dialogue. I would never do this with a great book, but it's gotten me through some less than stellar ones.
In my life, I have put down three books. I was not compelled to go further. Only three times.
1. A Year in Provence, by Peter Mayle: Halfway through felt like an eternity. This book managed to bore me to tears with food and scenery. Not an easy task. I didn't give up on Eat, Love, Pray even when I swore I couldn't handle one more page. The food and scenery saved that book.
2. Count of Monte Cristo, Alexandre Dumas: To be fair, I think this book suffered from all the ones I could not put down during my academic years. I didn't get past page 25. I was expecting an action book, and those I don't wait around for as easily. If action can't grab me, what can? I must admit I have considered trying this one again. It's a classic.
3. Wicked, Gregory Maguire: I get a lot of heat on this one. Let me start by saying I enjoyed Maguire's Confessions of an Ugly Stepsister. I wanted to like Wicked, and I love the play. But the book failed to make me care about Elphaba and completely tarnished Glinda. When it entered the absurd (some might say fantasy-land), I was done.
I wish I knew the exact ingredients for a great read. I've described my Five Elements of a Good Read, but it's so subjective. Even my moods can affect how I connect with a book. And notice I said a great read, not a bestseller. Publishing companies predetermine most bestsellers. A bestseller does not in and of itself equate to a great read.
For the flip side, Mom and I listed our favorite reads in the last ten years in an earlier post. Be sure to check it out.
Have you ever quit a book? Why?