Tuesday, February 7, 2012

When is it okay not to finish a book?

Among readers, everything is up for debate.  What genre is the best, what author is underrated or overrated, what is the best book of all time?  All are ultimately a question of personal preference, and one of those hot topics of debate is this:  is it okay not to finish a book, and if so, at what point do you stop?

It's a hard decision, and one that most serious readers don't take lightly.  Some are die-hard finishers, even if they're not enjoying the book, would rather be reading something else, and are struggling through every chapter.  Some people give a book a certain number of pages, from twenty to one hundred, and if they're not enjoying it by the time they've reached that magic number, the put the book aside and move on.

What kind of reader am I?  Honestly, I'm a mix, and I don't read by any real set of rules.  For some books, I make every effort to finish--those are usually for a book club, and with a deadline and discussion counting on whether or not I know what happened at the end, I feel more pressure to finish a book, even if I'm not really loving it.  For other titles, there just comes a stopping point, and I always know when I've hit it.  If I can't finish a book in a week, something's wrong.  If I'm glancing longingly at something else at my bookshelf, and am just not interested in the characters or story of what I'm currently reading, I know it's time to move on.  And for me, that's okay--life is too short to spend it reading books I'm not enjoying, especially since I read primarily for entertainment.  If I'm not entertained, I put it down!

Sometimes, it's the timing, and I'm just not in the mood for whatever it is I've picked up.  One case stands out in particular.  When The Red Tent first came out, and everyone was reading it, I placed a hold on it and took it home to read.  Twice.  I never got past page twenty--I just wasn't in the right frame of mind.  But the third time I brought it home, I read it in a day, and I loved it.  Weird, right?  That one taught me that just because I'm not loving a title right this minute doesn't mean that in a different time and place I won't devour it in a sitting--sometimes, it's me and not the book that's the issue.

What about you?  Do you give a book five pages or fifty to hook you?  Are you a die-hard finisher?  I'd love to know!

1 comment:

Shelley said...

I used to be a "die hard" must finish book. Would not stop till I was done, even if it was killing me! Now, no way! I'll put it down if I can't get into it, or I think it's not right for me. life is too short and there is too many good books to read to waste it on finishing something you hate.