July 18, 2011

Books I Quit and Why

I love to read, and I pride myself on finding redeeming value in most books. After all, it does take courage to put your work out there. Recently I ran across an article by Steve Leveen, Giving Up on Books. In it he quotes information regarding the average number of pages before a professional reader gives up on a book:

"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.

The Three:

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?

5 comments:

Christine said...

Eat Pray Love - I just could NOT get into it. And I REALLY wanted to love it! There is another one about a violin and a boy in an orphanage, but it was so depressing I just couldn't finish it. I donated it to the library.

Unknown said...

Christine, I agree. I barely finished EPL. It was a book club choice, so I wanted to make sure I had good ammunition for why I hated it. ;-)

Thanks for stopping by!

Anonymous said...

Map of the World; I actually threw it across the room because I found the initial tragedy so disturbing. Fortunately, it was a paperback. Mindy Sawtelle

Unknown said...

Mindy, I know to never pick that book up. I got a chuckle imagining you tossing a book. Too funny! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I would also have to agree that EPL was tedious at parts but I did finish it. Mindy