Tuesday, March 1, 2011

When do you give up on a book?

Reading a book is a commitment. Sometimes too much of one.

In a recent essay published in the Globe and The Mail, author Nancy Pearl ("Book Lust") expounded on her "Rule of 50" - when it's OK to give up on a book.

She says 50 pages is a good rule. But she allows that if you're older than age 50, you can subtract your age from 100 and use that as a rule of thumb, because your days are waning (ouch!)

I've been a little less forgiving with my reading materials lately ... giving them perhaps 30-40 pages to capture my interest or else (or else ... they go back to the library, the work book swap or the used book store!).

I even created a category on Goodreads for books I've dropped. I call it "Couldn'tGetThroughIt." On that list (see below) are books that, no doubt, many better, more patient bibliophiles have seriously enjoyed and perhaps would recommend.

Here are a few of mine:

1) The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Diaz (I gave this way more than 50 pages and just lost interest. Too many footnotes! Blogged about it here.)

2 New England White by Stephen L. Carter (Probably 30 pages in)

3) Peony in Love by Lisa See (Loved Snow Flower, but this was boring ... what happened?)

4) The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier & Clay by Michael Chabon (gave it 75 pages for "Wonder Boys" and "Mysteries of Pittsburgh" sake)

5) A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by Dave Eggers (tried 3 times to get through. I think I just don't like footnotes)

6) The Known World by Edward Jones (this was a Pulitzer-winning book club read I happily gave up on when I learned I couldn't make it to the club meeting)

Sometimes it's just not the right time to read a certain book. I may revisit the Chabon and the See, just because I loved their earlier works.

It's also true that sometimes I'll plod through an entire book that I judge later to be terrible, unworthy or otherwise a complete waste of time.

But all in all, my theory is, life's too short to trudge through a book you don't like.

What book(s) did you put down recently and not pick back up?


Katie McVay said...

I've started alot of books of late that I really wanted to quit reading. But because I paid full price for most of them I trudged through to the end. But The Known World? Ugh, gave up after 30 pages.

Krisstoffel said...

I loved Wonder Boys but I'm on 558 of Kavalier and Clay and starting to really struggle. Not sure how it won a Pulitzer, keep thinking I must be missing something. My cut-off point is usually 100 pages so I'm loath to give up now but it seems almost .. amateurish in places. Yet it received almost unanimous critical acclaim when it came out so I dunno, I guess I'll slog on for a while

I dunno though, it's just not doing if for me.