Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Book Lovers: Stop Reading Books You Don't Like

boy reading a book

Once we're out of school, most of us have the luxury of only reading what we want to read. So I want to encourage you to stop reading any book at any point if you don't find it interesting enough. Our reading time is limited and precious; why fill it with books we're not enjoying?

Steve Leveen has a great article (no longer online as of June 14, 2019) entitled Giving Up on Books, where (among other things) he writes about the 50-page rule that some use: "If the book hasn’t grabbed them by then, they give it the heave-ho."

On Matt's Idea Blog, commenter Karen S. says: I've decided to stop reading a book anywhere from the first page to 10% from the end. As soon as I realize "I don't care" what else the author has to say, I stop.

And Neil Aquino, in his blog TexasLiberal, has a nice little post entitled It's OK to Stop Reading a Book in the Middle.

In the wonderful New York Times article Divorce That Book, author Laura Miller speaks with a number of authors about their own reading habits, and when they give up on a book. Just one of my favorites: Diane Johnson, author of "Le Divorce," writes via e-mail. "I quite often lose books, leave them on buses or whatever," which she interprets as her unconscious relieving her of a duty when her conscious mind is playing the martinet.

And in response to that NYT article, reader Kitty Burns Flore writes that after shelling out $12-30 for a book, she feels compelled to try to finish it. But as even she admits, " the end, you've wasted not only a chunk of cash but too many precious hours as well."

[photo from Old Shoe Woman / Judy Baxter]


Matthew Cornell said...

Reading Leveen's book and adopting the 50 page rule (and a 20 minute movie variation) was a breath of relief. I now feel quite comfortable giving up on most books if they're not "doing it" for me.

Thanks for the great post, and for the link!

Jeri Dansky said...

Hi Matthew,

You are very welcome!

I can't remember when I realized I could choose to give up on a book - but it was indeed very liberating. I don't always wait for 50 pages, either!

Leveen's book was NOT one I gave up on - lots of interesting stuff there.


Anonymous said...

I recently started a book that "looked good" on Amazon. I really hated it ... but it was one for the book club. I put it down for a spell and read a couple of "easier," more entertaining books, then went back to it. Turned out, it got better and I got the the place where I didn't want to put it down! Glad I stuck with it. I've heard the 50 page rule and have also found, if the book is JUST not interesting to me to give it up. Where did we learn we HAVE to finish a book? It was very hard, at first to stop reading the uninteresting books. I'd even tried to get back to a couple of them after a break...still no good. After stopping reading the uninteresting books, it's gotten easier to let them go. I like the comment about wasted time with a bad book vs. a good time with a good book! Freedom!

Jeri Dansky said...

Anonymous, I remember exactly one book I had a hard time getting into that I stuck with anyway, and was glad I did. (I was traveling, and didn't have any other reading options at the moment.)

But I've given up on plenty of books - including book club books - with no regrets.