Thursday, October 9, 2014

When to Call it Quits

I love to read, and the types of books I read vary.

I love a good story, so be it contemporary fiction, historical fiction, science fiction, fantasy, or humour, I will read it all.

But just because I pick up a novel or download one on my e-reader, it doesn't mean that I will read it to the very end. Because life is too short to read a book that gives you no pleasure.

I've never read my own book
end to end.
There are times when I will read a novel and get to the end of the first chapter, when I realize that it is a good story, but I may not be in the mood to read that type of story at the time. For example, if I read a story about strife and woe when I'm personally stressed or depressed, I realize that, while the story is well-written, I may be more receptive to an uplifting or humourous tale.

And so I'll put that book back on the shelf and wait for a better time to read it.

If I am in the mood to read that book, I will read it with the full intention of finishing it. (In fact, I start most books I read by reading the last sentence before starting it.) However, as with anything, not all books deserve to be finished. It's a completely subjective matter, but sometimes I find that after a few chapters, I find that I don't like the book: I don't like the story, I don't like the writing, or I don't like the author's style.

I have a rule for reading a book, once I've deemed that it agrees with my mood and I don't put it on the shelf to read later. The rule is simple: read the first 100 pages or half of the book, whichever is shorter. If, by 100 pages, I find that I'm not enjoying the book, I can put it down and never read it again, having deemed that the author has taken up enough of my time.

There aren't many books that have come to such an end for me, but a couple bear mentioning:
  • The Ground Beneath Her Feet, by Salman Rushdie—pretentious. Never before had I read a book that gave me the impression that the author was writing a simple story in a way to show that he had an inflated vocabulary. I would finish reading a paragraph, and all I could think was that Rushdie was saying, "See how clever I am: watch me describe a cactus."
    I actually tried to read this book twice, thinking that perhaps I really wasn't in the mood for this story the first time I picked it up. After almost 200 pages, I thought, no, I really dislike this book.
  • The Girl With The Dragon Tattoo, by Stieg Larsson—boring. The writing, granted, was translated, but it was flat, awkward, and seemed to take forever to get anywhere. My wife, who loved the trilogy, assured me that it would get better, that the character development took the majority of the first book. I gave it 250 pages, but by then I not only wanted to put the book down, I wanted to toss it in the recycle bin. I'm not even interested in watching the films.
There have been other books that I have left unfinished, but they are so far gone that I don't even remember what they were.

Now that I'm also using an e-reader, a new question comes to mind: when do I get far enough in a book that I'm not enjoying to feel that it is fair to remove it from my digital library? Depending on the format and the size of the font, it's sometimes difficult to gage how many standard pages have been read. Some e-novels do not provide you with an idea of how many pages it is composed of, or what percentage of the book you have written.

I have yet to read a book on my iPad, through Kobo or Kindle, that I haven't enjoyed (except for Jenny Lawson's Let's Pretend This Never Happened—I love her blog and I was amused for a while, but then I got to a point where I felt, enough. Reading her blog is fine; reading a whole book of similar fluff got to be too much). But the chances are good that eventually, I will. Especially, since I've downloaded novels by people I know through LinkedIn and Twitter, whose works were available for free or for only 99 cents, and I thought, why not?

Eventually, I will read one that will stink. And when that happens, when do I call it quits?

Do you have any rules about reading a novel? Do you read it from beginning to end, no matter what? Let me know.

(You can try it on my novel*.)

* I have paperback copies of my book, for sale. Contact me at if you want an autographed copy.

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