I’ve heard there’s a complex mathematical formula (based on your age) which dictates how many pages of a book you should feel obligated to read before you are allowed to decide it’s not worth reading. Of course, I can’t remember what the formula is.
Therefore, I abide by several different rules, depending on why I’m reading the book and why I want to quit reading the book.
My book group requires me to slog through 100 pages of whatever volume we’ve chosen for that month. To be fair, I’ve only exercised this option twice in the six years I’ve been a member of this group. Generally, we read really good stuff and I’m glued to the pages to the very end.
When I’m reading for my own pleasure or edification, these are my self-imposed guidelines:
1) If the writer massacres the English language in the first paragraph, I skip to the beginning of Chapter 2 to see if there was some really good reason for this. If the author is still fracturing grammar or (my pet peeve) using vocabulary which clearly came out of a Thesaurus without any regard for its connotation or usage within a sentence, I toss the book without any feelings of guilt whatsoever.
2) If I dislike all the characters after 25 pages, the book goes.
3) If a truly horrific act of violence occurs at any point in the book, I drop it like a hot potato. I can see that on the news; I don’t need to encounter it in my fiction-reading.
4) The hardest decision is what to do if I’m just plain bored at some point in the story. All writers struggle with the sagging middle, and often the reader is rewarded if she just perseveres a bit longer. On the other hand, many books are bought by publishers based on the first 100 or so pages. All too often, the rest of the novel doesn’t live up to that promising beginning.
So I try to judge how much momentum the opening chapters of a book should have given me. Did I love the author’s writing immediately? Did one of the characters worm her/his way into my heart? Was the set-up truly intriguing and does its resolution still interest me? If I can answer any of those questions in the affirmative, I give the book another chance.
Here’s what I’m wondering on Wondering Wednesday: what makes you stop reading a book before you hit “The End”?