October 29, 2011

Rerun Saturday: Books I Quit and Why

I enjoyed a wonderful day with my family. My initial thought was to leave the blog blank today. But a thought came to me... why not use Saturdays to rerun old posts? The thought: rerun favorites or simply ones people seemed to miss the first time around.

Today I'm rerunning Books I Quit and Why, originally posted July 18, 2011.


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?


Addendum: I think my opinion of a book is all about mindset. I originally read Diana Gabaldon's Outlander after the birth of my third child. I got through it, thought it was okay, and moved on. A few years later, everyone seemed to be talking about it. I picked up book two and devoured it and then book three and four (I stalled again at that point).

One of these days, I'm going to attempt to reread all three of the books above. Who knows? I may find something I missed the first time around.


Rachael Harrie said...

Hi Tia, interesting to hear your thoughts on why you don't continue reading! You've won a prize with my Second Campaigner Challenge but I don't have your email address - can you please contact me on rachael[dot]harrie[at]gmail[dot]com asap so I can get the donor to email you.



Tia Bach said...

Thanks, Rachael. I sent an email, but just in case... it's etjrbach[at]yahoo[dot]com.

Annalise Green said...

Sometimes I think I quit more books than I finish. When I was a kid, I read a lot and I think I hardly ever put a book down. The older I get, the more picky and easily distracted I am. Oftentimes I'm putting down something that I think is a good book, that a lot of other people probably enjoy, but that is just Not For Me.

So I'm not sure I would get offended if anyone put down my book, because I think that what a lot of people mean when they say they hate a book, is actually just that the book is Not For Them and/or Not Their Cup of Tea, Thank You. I put down a lot of books, but my actual experiences of OMG THIS IS A HORRIBLE BOOK is few and far between.

My experience was kind of opposite of yours. I loved Wicked but couldn't get into Confessions of a Wicked Stepsister! But I should try again, I didn't give it much of a chance.

Julie Glover said...

I have the same 50-page rule. But I established that rule when my high school junior English teacher said to keep reading Last of the Mohicans even though the first 50 pages weren't that good. That struck me as ridiculous. If a sixth of the book (or whatever) is worthless, why read any of it? Especially since English teachers told us how important that intro paragraph was!

I've quit more and more books in recent years, but I still give them 50 pages or so to grab me. Wicked was among those I put down and don't plan to revisit.

My standard is asking myself 50 pages in, "Do I care what happens to these people?" If the answer is no, I pick up the next book in my TBR pile.

Tia Bach said...

Annalise, Good points about "not for me" books. I tend to finish the "not for me" books and try to find some value in what others might see (but my husband thinks I make myself crazy looking for value in things!). My issue is more about mindset... sometimes I just don't have it in me to read one.

Julie, I agree... if you don't care about a character in 50 pages, the book will be a tough read. I try to relate and stretch myself, but I'm also finding my time more and more limited.

I'm fortunate to be a very fast reader and have no guilt about skimming to get to the end, hoping for some spark. ;-)

Thanks so much for reading and commenting!

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