Tuesday, November 23, 2021

How long should you give a book you’re reading?

by Rick Blechta

Today’s post is going to be a short one.

I’m sure we’ve all begun books where after a certain number of pages a thought crosses your mind, Why am I bothering to read this? For whatever reason — poor writing, poor characters, poor plotting, maybe just general apathy, etc. — you simply haven’t engaged with the book.

When do you throw in the towel, or perhaps I should say, when do you fling the offending book across the room and look to other tomes and better stories?

I’m a person who is rather empathetic so I tend to hang on for longer than I should. I also tend to bail on a book earliest when I don’t like the protagonist. Either I find them obnoxious or two dimensional.

One personal story about rich reward of not bailing on a novel happened back when I was heavily into SciFi. The novel was Dahlgren by Samual R. Delany (no relation to Vicki!). I picked up a copy on a whim (I liked the cover).

It remains the singularly most confusing story I have ever encountered. It seemed as if the author threw normal life into a blender and hit frappé. Most of the time I couldn’t make heads or tails about what was happening. I only kept plowing forward because I found the main character (the Kid) strangely compelling, as was the quality of writing. The story made no sense at all — think (possibly) unreliable narrator times twenty.

For whatever reason I stuck it out to the end, then sat back and just said out loud, “Wow!”

Perhaps that’s why I will continue on past where most people give up. I’m hoping for another experience like Dhalgren. Thus far, no good…

So, I’ll go back to the question I posed back in paragraph three: when do you give up on a book and why?


Susan D said...

I generally stop reading when I realise I don't care anything about these people, not even the one who's supposed to be front and centre of the story.

So many books, so little time....

Rick Blechta said...

I guess I'm too forgiving, Susan.

Other than really poor books (usually self-published by friends or colleagues, I tend to want to give stories a chance.

Although I've noticed my leash has been getting shorter over the past few years.

Thanks for commenting!

Sybil Johnson said...

I rarely give up on a book, though I suspect I should. I've only thrown a book across the room once. The character was very irritating to me. I've given up on a few others when the book's plotting was not very good. I'm currently thinking about giving up on a book I'm reading. It's an okay book. It's an interesting premise. But I just can't get into it. This one I'll probably continue reading, though.