Learning To Quit

An important lesson in reading is putting down a book unfinished.

This does sound mightily counter-intuitive but it took me a long time to learn that’s okay to not finish something and often it’s a lesson that has to be learned the hard way.

Why is it important that we let ourselves give up on books that we’re not enjoying?

All writing is subjective, what works for some people doesn’t work for others – some people’s favourite works could be actively despised by other people. For a couple of examples of this the Twilight series by Stephanie Meyer is beloved by many but disliked by many others, and a lot of people absolutely adore the Malazan Book of the Fallen series (myself included) but others find it too long-winded and dense maybe even going so far as to throw Gardens of the Moon across the room!

Both are equally valid points of view as one reader might be looking for a quick romance read rather than a three million word epic fantasy series, and vice versa. Or whatever story you might be after might not be the kind of book you happen to be reading.

Nowadays the choice of books to read is absolutely staggering. Thousands of books are published each week and then the millions of books that have already been published, why would we waste time on a book we don’t like?

Of course you could always take this a little too far and decide that if you’re not gripped on the first page that you’ll put it down, but would actually really enjoy it if you gave yourself a chance to really dig into the book. So I think it’s important to note that everybody’s threshold for when you give up will be different, and that this threshold should probably also change depending on the book you’re reading. You probably shouldn’t slog through 60 pages you hate if the book is only 100 pages long.

For myself I have an unofficial mark in my head of about the 100 page mark for when I start thinking about giving up on a book. I try not to stick too rigidly to this guideline as I do remember that when I first started Malazan I pretty much had no idea what was going on until some way into the second book (a feat I managed because I had somehow managed to get an omnibus eBook of Gardens of the Moon and Deadhouse Gates and so just powered through the ending of the first book).

If I had given up 100 pages into Gardens of the Moon they I would have missed out on my most favourite epic fantasy series. There’s one reason I try not to stick to the ‘100 page rule’ too rigidly.

More recently I was reading a huge 1,000 page omnibus and I was pushing through despite not really enjoying it all that much, but I wanted to read it as it was something a bit different. With it being an omnibus and actually being three books I thought that it was worth pushing my usual 100-page rule as my usual fare is about 400 pages so it felt only right to go up to 1/4 of the omnibus which was about 250 pages.

But, I came to realise that I was just pushing through to reach the end of the first book in the omnibus – if I had actually been reading the book on its own I probably would have put it down a little earlier.

Unless I’m really not enjoying something I won’t hold it against an author. The only thing that gets me about reading a book I’m not actually enjoying is that it takes me much longer to read it than I would normally. I find myself looking out of the window, wondering what would happen if you gave a viking a jetpack, or how you could make a cake in just two dimensions. These are the signs I look for to check if I’m not enjoying a read.

Enjoying a book or a film is subjective and I like different things to other people, and as I mentioned, there’s so much else out there, so many wonderful authors clamouring to be read and deserve to be read. Why spend time reading something you don’t like?

 

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