Crappy Books

I generally try to stick to a rule of finishing a book once I have started it. There have only been a couple books that I just could not force myself to continue (Little Women – I know, it’s “the best book ever”, so shoot me – and Alias Grace). If I find a book boring or tedious, I’ll usually plod through it, hoping it will get better or that my next pick will make up for it.

I’m starting to question this rule.

The older I get, the more I understand the importance of doing things you love to do, but not forcing yourself to continue with things that become annoying, frustrating, or just plain boring. Life is too short, and, like most people, I don’t have a lot of extra time on my hands these days.

Reading is supposed to be enjoyable. So, why should I force myself to finish a book I am not enjoying? The problem is we were all taught to “finish what you started”. What total BS that is, am I right?

So, I’m thinking of instilling a new rule. Maybe something like, if I’m not into a book within 100 pages, I’ll stop.

What do you do when you find yourself reading a crappy book?

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Comments on: "Crappy Books" (16)

  1. fubarator said:

    I do not toss the book aside lightly.

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  2. I don't know some books take well over a 100 pages to really make me not want to put it down- first game of thrones I'm looking at you, and some books are never that enjoyable for me; for example most Dickens, but I am still happy that I have read them at the end. So I normally finish classic literature no matter what, however if I am not reading great literature but instead just fun popular fiction then I will stop after a chapter or two if I think it is just too bad.

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  3. I'm definitely on the side of your new rule! I used to hate not finishing books, too, even if I didn't like them. Though, that sort of persistence was the only thing that pushed me through Lord of the Rings, because the first 100 pages of that are mind-numbingly dull (in my opinion).

    Anyways, the turning point for me was realizing just how many books there were in the world, and how small a fraction I was going to be able to read in my lifetime. So I might as well only read the ones that really float my boat, right? 🙂 Thankfully I haven't really hated too many books that I've started, but I have definitely put some down and not really regretted it.

    I think your 100-page rule sounds like a good plan!

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  4. I've always had the opposite problem. I tend to give up on books too early if I'm not getting into them. Sometimes I'll give it another try later and find I actually enjoy it once I've stuck it out the the end. (Completely agree with Ash on the Game of Thrones – I only stuck with it at my boyfriend's urging and now I am hooked)

    Generally though I feel there are so many more books out there than I will ever be able to read that I don't like spending too uch time on a book I don't enjoy

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  5. Oh, I always finish a book once I've started it. If the first chapter or two doesn't grab me I just jump to the last chapter, read it and consider the book finished! I have to read that last bit or I will always wonder how it ended — it's just the middle I don't care about.

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  6. I'm also firmly in the “finish what you started” camp — I don't think I've ever regretted finishing a book, even though there are so many more that I want to read. Example: Cutting for Stone. SO many people told me how phenomenal it was; I hated the first three quarters and liked the last quarter. Even though overall I didn't particularly care for the book, I'm glad I finished it because I've had several worthwhile discussions about the book and why in particularly I disliked it but others enjoyed it.

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  7. I'm a bad person to ask; I can't even finish the good ones anymore…

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  8. fubarator – neither do I. That's the problem! Ha!

    Ash – I find it's the classic literature than I cannot just push myself through. Not sure why! I think it's more the language/writing style that I can't deal with. I can power through a crappy story or no character development, but if the language gives me a headache, I just can't do it.

    Steph – I totally agree that there are so many books out there, that it seems a waste to spend so much time on something you're not enjoying!

    Liz – that's good that you try books again. I have done that, and sometimes it works. I think, with some books, you really need to be in the mood for them, you know?

    Wool Free – Oh, I LOVE that idea!

    Sugar Scientist – yes, “regret” is a bit of a strong word when describing how one feels after finishing a crappy book. I usually just feel relieved that I can move on to the next one!

    Dr. O – hopefully life calms down a bit so you can read again 🙂

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  9. Oh, I HATE not finishing books, and with maybe one or two exceptions I ALWAYS make myself finish. I too have spent far too long finishing over-rated crap (Moby Dick, anyone? Don Quixote? Essential classics my arse). But I don't seem to be able to drop the habit.

    I haven't read a book I've really and truly hated for years (although there was one memorable example where I was totally gripped for the whole book, but the ending was so rubbish it made me want to throw the damn thing under a bus). I can't decide whether this means I'm being too limited in what I start reading and should push my boundaries more, or if I've reached some kind of optimal book selection equilibrium!

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  10. Cath – I have issues with classics too. I do want to know your book choosing method though (and what was the book you wanted to throw under a bus?).

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  11. I used to have a problem with forcing myself to finish books I didn't enjoy. Even after I started setting aside books half-finished books I hated, I felt sort of guilty about it. I totally embraced the concept in grad school, though. I had very limited amount of time to read so I wasn't going to waste it reading things I didn't like.

    I do sometimes try books again later on, especially if they are ones that I just couldn't get into because of the language or I wasn't in the right mood or whatever. The ones that I quit reading because they were too depressing or violent or smutty I don't ever pick up again.

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  12. Here is the whole quote from Dorothy Parker:
    “This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force”

    Too bad Cryptonomicon was so heavy.

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  13. Mrs Whatsit – it's always nice to have a time crunch situation (like grad school) to help filter what you do with your spare time, right?

    fubarator – Oh, that makes more sense! Love it!

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  14. It was My Sister's Keeper, by Jodi Picoult. I reviewed it here.

    I'm currently working my way through a massive pile of books I picked up at a fundraising bring-and-buy sale at work. Some I'd heard of but hadn't read, others were by authors I knew, others just looked interesting. No real duds yet!

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  15. Cath – oh, yeah! I forgot about the ending of that book. That kind of thing is really frustrating!

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  16. I used to be the sort who always finished a book, no matter how lousy. Then I found myself bored for a week at the home of an aunt, who gave me a pile of her leftover Oprah's book club selections.

    And magically…I was cured. I remember the one that broke me, at least a decade later: “She's Come Undone” by Wally Lamb. Thrown aside with great force, that one was.

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