When Do You Give Up on a Book?

I have a backlog of books I need to review here and haven’t gotten around to.  In the meantime, I thought I’d pose a question along with a sort of nonreview.  Do you ever start a book and then give up on it?  I got a stack of newish YA titles out of the library the other day, including the chick lit YA title The Kid Table by Andrea Seigel.  I’m not always a big chick lit reader, but I enjoy some occasionally, like Catherine Gilbert Murdock’s awesome Dairy Queen series, for example.  The book had a nice cover, an amusing sounding premise, and I vaguely recalled having read a positive blog review about it at some point.

Well, fifty pages in, I gave up on it.  Ingrid, the main character, was so self-absorbed that I wanted to throttle her.  Nor was she amusing enough to make up for her shortcomings.  In fact, all the characters and their concerns were amazingly shallow.  Ingrid’s whole extended family seemed to inhabit a universe I couldn’t quite reconcile with reality.  The quirky bits in the book were just trying too hard and the snappy dialogue just fell flat for me.  Oh well.  Not the book for me.

But I have to admit something.  I do this somewhat often with books.  I pick them up, give them a try and then, when they don’t please me pretty quickly, I toss them aside.  Part of me says that life is too short and I’m too busy to waste time on books that aren’t very good or, at least, won’t be enjoyable or thought-provoking for me personally.  But another part of me says I’m lazy and I don’t want to be challenged or take the time to get to know a book.  Someone saw something in it and maybe it gets good after the first fifty pages.  Not every book can grab you from moment one, you know?

8 thoughts on “When Do You Give Up on a Book?

  1. It’s such a dissatisfying feeling to bail on a book. About a month ago, I tossed aside 4 books in a row and felt adrift for a week. I toss fiction when I can’t manage to suspend disbelief.

  2. “Part of me says that life is too short and I’m too busy to waste time on books that aren’t very good or, at least, won’t be enjoyable or thought-provoking for me personally. But another part of me says I’m lazy and I don’t want to be challenged or take the time to get to know a book.”

    I’m sensing a kindred spirit here! I’m going to give us both credit enough to say that we know when a book is worth it. : ) Sometimes I know it’s me and not the book, though–when I’m stressed or tired or whatever–and I’ll put the book on a mental (or virtual–on Goodreads) “try again later” shelf.

  3. Dh gives a book the first sentence!! If it’s a bad sentence, he bails. Now that’s extreme…I hardly ever give up on a book because I want to know what happens…if it’s a stupid book I stop reading and just skim my way to the end. I did that most recently with ‘Freedom’. I think there’s a difference between ‘not good’ and ‘hard’. I make myself keep going with ‘hard’. Reading ‘A Farewell to Arms’ is hard for me, because it’s not aligned with my natural fiction inclinations, but at the same time it’s good, so I keep going past the laziness. I have no qualms about giving the bad stuff less than my full attention though. Call yourself discriminating rather than lazy!

    1. The first sentence! That’s harsh. My husband will read anything to the end if he starts it. It’s pure determination. But I agree that there’s a different between a book being hard and being dull or poorly done. I hope I have the wisdom to know the difference.

  4. It depends: I read The Red Pyramid to the kids, all the while intensely disliking it (I thought he was sleep-walking through this one, to be honest), but the kids really enjoyed it. They didn’t think it was pedestrian and clichéd at all.

    Then there was Eyes of a King. Ugh. Horrible. We bailed after nothing happened for 50 pages. The main character spent all their time whining about stupid stuff and after a while we decided we didn’t care if or when his brother died. It was that bad.

    I think it’s a good lesson for the kids in realizing that not everything that gets published it worthy of being, ahem, published.

    1. Ugh. The Red Pyramid made me re-evaluate everything Riordan had written before. I made it to the end mostly because I think I kept thinking it was going to get better. I thought, surely, this author whose previous books were so much fun, who has chosen this new topic which is clearly similarly clever, can’t possibly have failed me. It wasn’t even that awful, just really disappointing. If I had been reading it aloud, I don’t know what I would have done.

  5. As a teen I was assigned books that I wish I had not been required to finish. I was a huge reader, but these books were bad emotional choices for me at the time. Notable among them were The Red Pony and Catch 22, books that haunted me for years. Once out of school I decided that I would always give myself the option of bailing on a book because of bad writing, bad timing or certain types of emotional trauma. I bail on movies the same way even though it drives my husband crazy!

  6. 50 pages is ample! In school I just couldn’t finsh books that didn’t interest me and same now.. I just don’t read them. Just like tv shows some are worth watching and others aren’t…. Movies are even harder to give up on for me because I get so excited to watch them and then take the time to watch them and it’s not like you can start another one after you are an hour into the first because then it will be too late. I think I usually only give a book 30 pages… I just read Eat, Pray, Love and if it weren’t for a million and one people telling me it was such an amazing book, and there wasn’t yoga in it… I would have dropped it by 30 pages… and guess what? I was SO mad I wasted my time reading that book… it was useless and even the book club discussion was useless and brainless… ugh!

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