How I Decide When to Abandon a Book

img_6558Readers can pretty much fall into two categories: those who will abandon a book, and those who won’t.

I’m not a terribly picky reader.  I like books my friends don’t.  In the last month, I’ve completed the Percy Jackson series by Rick Riorden and finally read The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood.  I’ve read a few books I loved (A Head Full of Ghosts by Paul Tremblay, All the Bright Places by Jennifer Niven), one I hated, new books, and rereads (There Will Be Lies by Nick Lake).

Even though I read about 90-100 books a year, I abandon only about 2 a year.  Even though I don’t do it often, when I do, I don’t feel the least bit bad about it.  I decide based on a few things.

  1.  The book doesn’t speak to me. Everyone’s tastes are different, and I’ve abandoned “good” books which simply didn’t interest me.  The Goldfinch, by Donna Tartt was one of those.  My friends read it and liked it, it was reviewed well, and I could even tell it was an interesting book.  But for some reason, it didn’t speak to me, so I put it down. By this, I mean that I couldn’t relate, and I sometimes read paragraphs but didn’t remember what I’d just read.  When I find myself doing this with a book, I know it’s time to abandon.
  2. I keep finding reasons to put it down.  When I really like a book, it’s hard for me to do anything else until I’ve finished it.  I carry it around the house with me.  I stay up late reading it.  I’m late to appointments.  If I pull out of the driveway and have left it inside, I’ll go back in to retrieve it, just in case I have two minutes while waiting somewhere.  When I’m not into a book, it’s easy for me to become a responsible adult.
  3. I can’t figure out the point of the book.  I like plot.  I like to understand the point, the message, the happenings in the book.  If it’s just a random collection of stuff on the page, it loses my interest.  I’ve known way too many people who think they’re interesting (but aren’t) to spend time with a book that doesn’t go anywhere.
  4. It’s forgettable.  If I have trouble remembering what’s going on in the book when I pick it back up to read, that’s a good sign that it’s either not a good book, or just not a good fit for me.
  5. I hate the characters.  I’m fine with characters not being likable, but they should be interesting.  I love a good anti-hero, and I have no problem rooting for the bad guy.  I’m not a snob, and enjoy books that are widely hated (like Twilight).  But sometimes, I hate the characters, find them dull and boorish.  And then I know it’s time to go.  I stayed with the Casual Vacancy longer than I would have if it were any author other than JK Rowling, but after awhile, I couldn’t stand those characters one more moment, and I quit reading in the middle of a sentence in the middle of a paragraph.  And I never regretted it.

I read for entertainment, and if I’m not entertained, then I let go.

“One can never read too little of bad, or too much of good books: bad books are intellectual poison; they destroy the mind.

In order to read what is good one must make it a condition never to read what is bad; for life is short, and both time and strength limited.”
― Arthur Schopenhauer

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3 comments on “How I Decide When to Abandon a Book

  1. Janet Miles says:

    I have a really hard time abandoning books. I don’t know why. Just like I can’t read more than one book at a time either. You’ve given me some good things to think about though. Why subject myself to torture when all I need to do is say “no thanks” and move on to something I would enjoy!

  2. […] I ended up reading 117 books, for a total of 221,641 pages. I abandoned 3 books this year, though I plan to return to one of them. In case you’re curious about my criteria for abandoning books, you can find it here. […]

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