Jump ship or go down with it?
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There seem to be two types of readers. Those who "jump ship" if the book isn't working for them. And those who will "go down with the ship" by reading it even if they don't like a second of it.
I happen to be in the latter category. I just can't abandon a book even when I know it's for my own good.
I don't think one approach is better than the other, I just wonder what motivates a person to be in one category or the other.
For me, I feel like it's good to stick with what you start and I feel guilty for criticizing a book if I haven't actually read the whole thing. I also feel like I might be surprised in the end. Like the ending might reveal a depth about the book that I would have missed if I had given up on it.
I don't think either approach is 'better', either. You do what works for you, I do what works for me, etc.
Personally, I have no problem criticizing a book I haven't finished. The beginning is part of the book, after all, and an important aspect of a book is if it captures your attention when you first start it. But if I didn't get a reasonable way into it, I tend to say "I just couldn't get into it" or "I couldn't finish it" or something, instead of "I didn't like it".
If a book can't hold my attention for the first few pages, or is a serious struggle halfway through, then it's not worth my time to keep reading and maybe see if the end might perhaps make it possibly worth all the effort. I have better things to do than take that gamble. Like clean the bathroom or something.
I'm unintentionally a jumper. I try to get through to the end, but I simply stop reading it. I intend to, but I never seem to pick it up again. Then later, I'll pick it up and start over with the intention of finishing, but usually the same thing happens. So I guess I'm a jumper.
I gave up on "Anna Karenina" halfway through. There were just too many characters whose names I could no longer remember. Years ago I got through 99% of "Five Smooth Stones," and just couldn't finish it. I've never been sorry. I still wonder why I spent so much time on a book that simply annoyed me. For the most part, I'll slog through because most of the books I'm reading today are called "classics" and I know they often require work and persistance. This is not to say they are work. But the writing style, language, and wordiness are so different from today's writing, that it takes a different mindset to read many of them. Still, I've yet to be sorry that I finished even the soppy "Old Curiosity Shop".
I used to read books to the bitter end....no matter how much I detested them. A few years ago I made the choice that if I couldn't stand a book after reading 100-150 pages then I wouldn't read further.
I have the same motto as one poster above. Life is too short to read bad books. I think that there are just too many good books out there just waiting to be read that time shouldn't be wasted on ones that I get no enjoyment out of.
I am so a jumper. I have tons of books just waiting to be read that to slog through a bad book is just plain illogical.
I was reading The Memory Keeper's Daughter and after 73 pages, I just jumped ship. Even though there was a lot of stuff going on, I just didn't reap any benefit from it. Books should either teach you something or help you escape from the every day. That book did neither.
>4 zimbeline:, zimbeline - I think I am like you - unintentionally a jumper. I have exactly the same process with books I can't get into. I feel bad about not finishing books, but some books just kill me and I have so much to read that I think "why bother?"
If I'm still reading the same book after a week, I give it up. Like Roxpie, I have a lot more books waiting in the aisles. If it doesn't click, it's a waste of my time.
Any book that I ever slogged through (which is few), I was always disappointed that I finished it. Once bitten . . .
I do my best to finish any book I start, but I try to take care in picking what I read. So far I have done fairly well and there have only been a handful of books I've rather not bothered with. Or maybe I'm not real picky and bad writing doesn't bother me, who knows?
I try to stick with it . . . depends what my motivation is though. If I'm reading something for my book club, I try harder. If I'm reading for a course that I'm enrolled in, I don't have a choice.
But life is too short to read books that don't click with you. Especially if you're reading for pleasure, and the book isn't giving you any. I try to give everything 100 pages. But sometimes I don't make it that far.
I go down with the ship. It's not so much that I feel I can't criticize a book without finishing it (though I can understand that), I feel that I can't fully hate an awful book until I've experienced all its awfulness. Obviously all of you jumpers won't understand that, but I find it somewhat fun to get that real visceral dislike going on, and really be able to rant about it.
This doesn't really apply to books I just find boring though. If I'm simply bored, it will be too hard to stick with it. This is more things I actively dislike because they make me angry in some way.
I actually just jumped ship on another book today, Red Azalea. I was halfway done and just couldn't slog through it. The worst part is it was a book that someone lent me, a book that someone thought I would like.
I generally give up when I realize I'm "forcing" myself to continue (The Golden Bowl for example).
I'm a heavy library user, so the books that I actually pay for are ones I'm fairly certain I'll like at time of purchase. That having been said, I am forcing myself through an audible.com download of Land of Lincoln by Andrew Ferguson; I paid for it, and I'm stubborn. Not that it's "bad" exactly, but after nearly 4 hours I wish I were more than halfway through (it's 9 hours).
The only book I distinctly remember jumping ship on was The Great Gatsby, mostly because it was taking me forever, and I figured that if such a short book was taking me this long, something had to be seriously. I don't mean the language was difficult or anything like that, but just that well, I could get up the motivation to keep reading.
#8 fannyprice, I agree. So many books, so little time. It does seem pointless to waste time on a book that we can't get into. I might have to just admit to giving up from now and resist feeling the urge to attempt to finish some of these horrors.
Roxpie86, I agree with you about The Memory Keeper's Daughter. I was supposed to read it for my book club. I'm usually pretty dutiful about getting through the books we pick, but that one I couldn't do. It felt like the script for a made-for-TV movie.
I am more an avoider. On my bookstore excursions, I like to settle down in a corner with a big pile of books, and try them out. I will try to read the first 50 pages of each book. If it doesn't hold my interest for the first 50 pages, I am done with it.
The pile that passes the 50-page test then has to be whittled down to fit the available budget. I keep a list of the ones I didn't buy, and will include them in the evaluation stack next time around. The second time I read pages 51-100, to give the book a second chance.
This process usually (but not always) prevents me from bringing home any real stinkers, so I almost never have to abandon a book once I get it home.
I'm a jumper. Unless I absolutely have to finish it because I'm writing a review, I won't bother slog through a book I hate. Why should I? I'm not in school; no one's going to quiz me on it.
I'm seeing that I'm in the minority here. I guess the reason I stick with a book even if it's not working for me is that I think of all the wasted time of starting books, getting 50 to 100 pages into it and then leaving it. I guess I feel I'll get more out of it if I finish it than not.
On the other hand, I try REALLY hard to pick books that I won't hate. I try never to read anything brand new, for example. I want to give it time to be out there and hear how it's generally received. But of course that doesn't always work.
Really, I guess either way you go there is time you could consider wasted.
There is one book I gave up on though. I love Annie Dillard and have read several of her books, but there was one about death that I couldn't finish. I can't even remember the title because I've blocked it out.
I remember reading long passages about dust and how we're all being covered in it slowly and how we'll all be part of the dust covering everything and everyone soon...everytime I picked it up I would get really depressed, so halfway through I gave up. I guess we all have our limits.
#3 - I whole heartedly agree. I'll give most a fair shot, but if it doesn't hook me after a certain point, i'm seeking greener pastures. Way too many on my TBR list to keep reading bad books.
I definitely fall into the "sinker" (I'm guessing that's the opposite of a jumper) category. I've been that way ever since high school where I won bragging rights among my friends for being the only one who managed to finish the entire Dune series. (I guess that experience taught me that sometimes you have to endure a lot of set up to get to the interesting part of a book.)
Admittedly, I think I've yet to read a book whose conclusion managed to redeem an otherwise weak work. Koontz' The Key to Midnight came close, as the last 75 pages deliver the fast-paced thriller that the preceeding 300+ pages refused to be. (Though that still means slogging through 300+ pages of dull exposition, tin-eared characterization, and dull plotting to get to a pretty generic thriller.)
I have stopped reading a book one or two chapters in, but that's generally because I decide that it's not the right time or I'm not in the right mood. Those are cases where I intend to pick the book up again at some future date.
I once picked up The Name of the Rose I found for a couple bucks at a used bookstore. I read the introduction and realized that I was not in the mood for anything as dense as Eco, so I set it aside for a couple months.
By the time I realized The Poisonwood Bible sucked, I was three-quarters of the way through it. No point in not finishing by that time. I think I tend to press on.
I guess sometimes I just get distracted, though, and quasi-jump ship. It's been a good six years since I even touched Le morte d'Arthur, but I still consider myself a third of the way through. Someday I'll finish it, right? But when there are so many things to be read... I think some books (cough, Bleak House, cough,
I read halfway through (or less) The Poisonwood Bible, flipped ahead and read enough to know I would continue to despise it, so I stopped. I was reading it for a book club, but even that was not enough to get me to read that. The characters were so hateful I couldn't care about them.
I was surprised at how much I hated that book, because I love some of her other books.
Vile characters -- people I really hate -- are one of the reasons I will drop a book and never pick it up again.
Politics are another -- I was reading some mystery, and right in the middle of it was a gratuitous insult of a politician I admire, and so I gave up on that author. I am not going to spend money on an author who shows such a bias against everything I believe in, even if it is not much reflected in her books.
I am definitely a jumper. If I don't enjoy a book, why should I read it? I read for my own pleasure and enlightenment, and what other people think I should or must read doesn't affect me. (Although there are books I think I should read, and those I try to get through...but that's only once in a while.)
(Glitch in the computer/internet made me post the same comment twice...)
#23 -- CarlosMcRey -- I am with you on the mood thing. When life is too crazy or stressful the last thing I need is to add stress by reading a dense or unpleasant book. There are times that I want popcorn -- light fluffy reading -- and times I want to dig into a seven course meal -- those dense, wordy, difficult, unpleasant (as in violence or sadness or whatever), those books that make you think.
#27- randomarbitrary - I have to admit that's one reason I'm a big fan of short story collections. Though I seem to have grown so fond of short stories that I have less patience with novels.
To all: An additional thought about sinking with the ship: I just finished Chuck P's Choke which I felt tempted to bail on many times. Despite a multitude of flaws, it turned out to be the most heartfelt of Palahniuk's books I've read to date. I don't regret reading it, although I would warn anyone who asked about its shortcomings.
Truth is some authors can produce flawed though interesting works, and I'm always curious to see where an author will take me. I don't think I'd bother with Koontz again, because he didn't really have anything interesting to say even when the story got moving.
Take Life of Pi. You have to read the last ten pages to really get the entire point of the book - it was an amazing experience and that book is really a living book - not a passive dead book. However, a lot of people stop short of this book and think its boring or there is no point - sometimes you have to get to the ending to see the meaning and the point.
I also try to read books with characters I don't like or points of view I don't have - I find that it enriches me and I become more empathetic. It pays to understand where someone is coming from for me, but then my profession is a therapist so I am always trying to understand people and other views.
#28 & 29 -- that makes sense, the whole idea that there is a payoff or redemption or explanation in the last pages that make the book worth reading.
And maybe someday I will get back to those books I just could not be bothered with -- not the Poisonwood Bible though, nothing could redeem that book in my eyes.
For me it depends as well on how dense or unreadable I find it. If it is a quick read, I am more likely to finish it anyway, but if it's a dead slow slog, I just do not want to do it. There are enough things I have to do -- I cannot see adding to that list by reading something I am hating.
As for the characters I don't like -- The Poisonwood Bible I believe is the one I mentioned with characters I hate. I read lots of stuff with viewpoints that are different from mine, and characters I don't like, but a woman who lets her husband make all the decisions -- even when those decisions are potentially lethal to family members -- I can't stand that. I come from a long line of very independent women who insist on thinking for themselves, so I just don't have the patience for reading about weak subservient women.
#29 - That is absolutely how I feel.
When I think about this topic it's interesting to me that some people think they are wasting their time if they stick with a book they don't like.
If you abandon 10 books halfway through dismissing them as a waste of your time or you complete 5 books and find that you ended up really only like one book, what's a bigger waste of time?
In fact it's just a different way of approaching the same thing. You still, theoretically, spend the same amount of time reading whether you abandon a book or not.
For me, I just don't want to leave a whole pile of books in my lifetime that I didn't finish. I feel like that is a waste--but that's just me--I know others have disagreed. On a whole, I'm just fascinated with peoples' thoughts about this subject.
I whole heartedly agree with the "don't waste time" view -- dump the book if you're not getting or it's not grabbing you, especially if it's just plain crappy.
But sometimes it's hard to tell until it's too late, and ya just gotta finish it to see how it all works out; I'm in that now with Queen Loana and her Mysterious Flame... is it really 700 pages of a guy rummaging through his attic?
Crap... shoulda trusted my instincts and quit this one a long time ago. Yes, it is 700 pgs of rereading books from his childhood, and only apprx 100 of those pages were interesting.
I'm a jumper, although sometimes I'll skim quickly until the end to see what happens. Or just read the last one or two chapters.
I can count the number of books I jumped on one hand. I generally end up kicking myself for finishing, but I always secretly hope something amazing will happen to save the story for me. It rarely happens, but I guess I'm just an optomist at heart.
I've just been very naughty and dumped Death on the Nile
I got about a third of the way through when the murder is committed, guessed who it was, skipped to the end to discover I was right. I've never found Agatha Christie so laboured before, but this was my first Poirot book so perhaps that's it.
The last book I hated (Dictionary of the Khazars), I read the whole damn thing, mainly out of sheer refusal to be defeated.
Now that LibraryThing has shown me how many potentially interesting yet unread books I have in the house, not to mention the ones I haven't got yet, I realize how much enjoyment I probably missed by doing that. From now on, I'm going to jump ship, and then get on board the next ship so fast that the sharks won't have time to nibble my toes.
If I find myself avoiding reading because the book at the top of the pile will make it an unpleasant experience, I take that book off the pile. Otherwise, I tend to stick with it.
1: Exactly! I will finish books I hate, just so I feel justified in how very much I hate them. Like The Lovely Bones. Hated pretty much every single agonizing second, but finished it, so I would have lots of things to use in my critique.
Then what do you do with the offending tomes? I recently dusted/reorganized the bookshelf and found myself putting back on the shelf books I didn't like and didn't finish! Although, despite despising it, I kept the Flaming Mysterious Queen Lonana simply because of its cool looking cover...
I guess I meant the Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana... whatever.
I'll go down with the ship every time. Unless that is, I somehow fail to notice I've fallen off the ship until it's too late.
For example, I had to read Crime and Punishment for a class and though I loved it, I've never read the last 75 pages. I know what happened because we discussed it in class and I didn't really have a chance to go back and finish it because we were on to the next book. It secretly pains me that I haven't read those 75 pages, but I never seem to go back to it either.
I really don't have a good rationalization as to why I stick with books I'm not fully enjoying. It's part the hope of redemption and part the belief that once I've started a book I might as well finish it, for fear that I'll always wonder if the second half could have mightily redeemed it.
But really, it's just something I do. I finish books. I don't know why. I just do.
I think part of it is, as avid readers, we know the amazing amount of effort that is put into writing any book, so matter how lousy it is we always want to support the author, as well as hope for the redemption of a well done ending....
I understand your point, sinkers, but I figure I only have a limited time to read, and any time I spend on a "bad" book (think: Raise the Titanic!, the last book I forced myself to read so I could say how horrid it was) is time I'm not reading a book I'd like. I give 'em 100 pages or so, and then either take 'em back or skim through to the end.
I have converted from a sinker to a jumper. Through my scholastic career up until college, I read every book that was assigned, and man were they AWFUL! This past year alone I've probably stopped reading 8-10 books when I was 66-75% completed with them because I just couldn't be bothered. Right now I'm 200 pages from the end of Anna Karenina and I don't know if I'll be able to make it. In fact the only reason I have persisited this far is that 1) it's one of those books that should be read, just so you can participate in our culture, and 2) if I stop, I know I will never pick it up again. As for The Life of Pi that others have mentioned, I was THIS CLOSE to not finishing it, because it got so boring. When I got to the end I wasn't even sure that the ending made all that tedium worth it.
I read a book called the Double by Jose Saramago (the touchstone is eluding me) that was so tedious for the first 90% of it that I almost stopped reading it, but that last 10% made it all worthwhile.
Most of the book consists of this dumpy old guy with depression looking for videos that feature an bit actor whose name he doesn't know, so he watches movie after movie after movie and makes lists of the names of the actors. Gahhh! Just check IMDB!!
Out of all the books I've read in my life, I have jumped from 2 books that I recall and both I could not get past the first chapter. There was entirely too much work involved in reading them. They were: House of Seven gables and The Hobbit.
Other than that, I like to go down with the ship. I just feel incomplete if I don't finish it.
I used to go down with the ship. I chose to believe that if I didn't think it was a good book that something was wrong with me, that I wasn't smart enough to "get" it. Ha!
Now I have a 100-page rule: if I am not hooked and desperate to return to the book when I get home from work, I am jumping ship.
There might need to be another category for those of us that KNOW it's a good book but we have to try and try again. Jonathan Strange and Dr. Norrell is something I have started 3 times. Weeks later I come back to it, and have to backtrack a few chapters to jump back. The story fascinates me and I find it well-written....it's just been a slog for me. I even bought it on CD thinking that would help, but fell asleep. Something must be wrong with me.......
Usually I'm a "go down with the ship" kind of person. I keep hoping that the book is going to get better. With me, it's an optimist kind of thing, but, like klarsenmd, usually, it doesn't get better and I kick myself for wasting time.
I like the rule (I think it's Nancy Perl's) where you subtract your age from 100. That's how many pages the author has to "grab" you. As you age, you have less time to waste with bad books.
One book, though, that I just couldn't get through, is A Fine Balance. 624 pages is just too much time to spend with starving, desperate people, who, no matter what you do, you can't help them.
Wow, so that means the book needs to give me some powerful hook before 64 pages for me. Hmmmm....I think I'm just OCD about finishing what I start. I'm also one who likes to make sure every last drop in the soap bottle is used, the last square on the toilet paper roll is used, etc etc. I know I'm OCD about wasting things. Maybe that's it!
I saw a plug for this group in another group, so I had to join up.
I read through the lists of books that have been given up on and heaved a sigh of relief. Our city picked The Life of Pi for its "One City, One Book" program and I couldn't make it through the first few chapters. I should have know I'd hate it-it was compared to The Old Man and the Sea so many times. As a librarian, I constantly look back to that experiance to remind myself that book recommendations have to be made very carefully.
As a rule, I give a (fiction) book 3 chapters to interest me. This has allowed me to continue on with many books I would have otherwise abandoned, like The Golden Compass and The Hobbit-in fact, it's because of The Hobbit that I made this rule. Nonfiction gets the introduction and first chapter to prove itself. I am much more forgiving of boring presentation in nonfiction, but grammatical errors , poor citation, and annoying footnotes make me jump ship quickly. Fiction just has to grab me-Choke actually did grab me fairly quickly. House of Leaves, on the other hand, was promptly returned to the library after the third chapter was finished. I have the benefit of constant close proximity to a library, too, which means I can cycle through books frequently and I don't have to see a pile of abandoned books as evidence of my failings-or the author's failings.
I get my fill of boring required reading at work. I need to know the literature students are researching for their classes (university reference librarian) so I can effectively search. Even if I don't have to read a boring book, I do have to read dozens of boring scholarly papers ABOUT those books. Then I get to read all those oh-so-entertaining journals for my liaison groups, to recommend to professors, and to keep up with the profession. That seriously shortens my tolerance for boring works.
52joehutcheon First Message
I'm with BookMarque,
Life is way too short for inferior lit.
I guess that makes me a jumper...
I am a jumper.
There are simply too many good books out there to waste time reading something I don't enjoy. I even bail on bookclub books.
The only exception, and I almost always know it when I put a book down, is that sometimes it is just not the right time to read something. Wrong mood, wrong genre, not enough time to devote serious thought or energy, whatever. There are several books I have like that right now - that I've started, even read a hundred pages of or so, and put down - including Baltimore: Or, The Steadfast Tin Soldier and the Vampire, 20th Century Ghosts, Why Buildings Fall Down, Why Buildings Stand Up, and Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell. There are others, too.
It's fun to wander up and down my shelves (or, now, browse my library on librarything!) and find something whose turn it is to read and get through it triumphantly, happily, without stress.
lansum..I encourage you to finish a fine balance..I think your missing the point... the point I came away from the book was undying friendship...the lengths that people will go to for each other..I think we all could be more like the chacters in the book..( not poor..caring and helpful):-)
I have to admit this thread has made me reconsider my position as a "sinker." Perhaps life is too short to spend time on bad books. However, my big frustration isn't really boring beginnings, since I think sometimes a good story takes a while to wind up. Part of this may be some legacy of reading all six Dune books in high school; the "wind-up" period seemed to get longer with every sequel, but it only seemed to increase my determination to keep reading until the "good stuff" started.
However, I may make a new rule to drop books if they insult my intelligence in the first hundred pages or so. I suspect this would have disqualified some of the more egregious examples that stick with me.
I am pretty much a sinker. I can't stand not knowing what happened at the end so I persist to find out. I guess that is one of the reasons I always hated that show "Unsolved Mysteries" - I couldn't stand that there was no resolution to the story and would spend all week just thinking about what could have happened to the person.
Howerver, there is one book which I jumped ship - The Lovely Bones. I think I read about 67 pages of it before my husband made me put it down and then give it away. I didn't particular like it and didn't even like her writing style much but because of the subject matter I was sobbing while reading it and really didn't think that my emotional reaction was going to improve so I jumped. I have no regrets and no plans to ever pick that book up again.
I, too, try not to pick books which I think I will hate though and sometimes won't start one because I don't think that I am in the right frame of mind for it at the time.
I find everyone's reasons for whether they are a jumper or a sinker interesting and can see both points of view but I think that I will probably remain a sinker for life.
As a general rule, I tend to go down with the ship...doggedly pursuing the end of the book with the obsessive intensity of Ahab after the white whale...
...which metaphor I've really no right to use, considering I jumped (whaling) ship with Moby Dick. Of course, it was required reading (for a class I ended up dropping). And I actually loved the beginning. I remember thinking, Why do so many people think it's boring? This is some seriously funny stuff! ...until they got on the boat.
The last book I abandoned was Eragon. While it was painful to say, "I give up," it was even more painful to keep reading.
I, too, am a jumper. I have never finished Pollyanna, Portnoy's Complaint, or Lolita. I have, however, finished War and Peace, The Silmarillion, and Ella Minnow Pea. I was once reading a horror/murder mystery where in the first chapter the killer put a kitten in a blender. I quit reading that one. I slogged through Ragtime, but hated the writing style.
I read for pleasure, so if it becomes a chore, even if it's an author "who must be read" I don't feel like I have to finish it if I'm not enjoying it. I borrow my books from the library, so there's no cost involved, so no guilt.
I guess I'm both. I give a book 5 chapters &/or 100 pages before I decide to jump. But I read Inheritance of Loss to the bitter end despite wanting badly to stop. I finished it so that I could tell the person who recommended it how much I despised that book. This my synopsis, everyone was miserable and then their dog is stolen. The end.
#58 - joker, I'm a bit disheartened to hear Moby Dick loses steam once they get on the boat. I decided to read it this year as part of a challenge to myself to take on longer/more difficult works. I was half-expecting a pretty dull book, but have found it to be really fun so far. I like the narrator's sense of humor, and have even enjoyed the odd ominous touches. Well, I guess I can consider myself warned.
When I was in junior high, a friend loaned me Jump Off the Cliff Notes which had a series of parodies of Cliff Notes entries on various novels. The main thing I remember about the Moby Dick entry was the way the writer played up the issue of homosexuality. (I don't remember it exactly, but I vaguely recall a conversation between Melville and Nathaniel Hawthorne where Hawthorne says how much he likes a novel about a whole boatload of stout men in pursuit of a large white, um, Dick.) Anyway, these early chapters and the nature of Ishmael and Queequeg's meeting brought that back to mind.
#58 - That's exactly how I felt about Moby Dick too. I enjoyed it up to the point where they got on the ship as well. Then it was like a different guy started writing the book! I've always wondered about the change in the narrative, but I've never heard anyone else mention it before.
In the end, I never jump ship. So I stayed to the bitter, bitter end. Call me Ahab.
Okay, okay, you got me going-I'm gonna go read Moby Dick again. It's been years and years, and the lesson I learned the last time I finished it (6 attempts, 3 finishes) is to read it in very small doses. I have the California Press edition with the Barry Moser woodcuts, and that helps a lot. Wish me luck!
I forget where I read this, but I was once told that if you were under 50 years old, you should stick with a book for at least the first 50 pages to see if it holds your attention. For every year older than 50, subtract one page from the requirement - someone 60 years old can read through 40 pages before jumping ship, etc. I guess the thought is that you should give a book a chance before you junk it, but those who are older do not have as much time to determine whether they like the book or not!
I usually use more than a 50-page requirement, I stick books out until I can no longer stand them (especially if I bought them already). I had readWaking Raphael for about 90 pages until I had to get rid of it.
When it comes to nonfiction I have to be in the mood to read that genre and/or subject; I couldn't get through the first chapter of Founding Brothers so I put it away to read again when I had more interest in American history.
#65: I forget where I read this, but I was once told that if you were under 50 years old, you should stick with a book for at least the first 50 pages to see if it holds your attention. For every year older than 50, subtract one page from the requirement - someone 60 years old can read through 40 pages before jumping ship, etc. I guess the thought is that you should give a book a chance before you junk it, but those who are older do not have as much time to determine whether they like the book or not!
I heard it from Nancy Pearl, uber-librarian. I'm not sure if it's her invention or if she borrowed it. I tend to follow it, although if I have motivation (such as a book club meeting), I'll give a book 100 pages or so.
#65: "I forget where I read this, but I was once told that if you were under 50 years old, you should stick with a book for at least the first 50 pages to see if it holds your attention."
Hmm. I like the idea of a page limit but 50 seems too short. I ended up really liking The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, for example, but it took closer to 100 pages to really get interesting. Which is silly, in my opinion, since that boring beginning could probably have been edited down, but the rest of the book was still worth it.
Not that it matters much, since I'm a stick-it-out-to-the-bitter-end kind of person. I never really believe that I've given up on a book- I've just set it aside for a more fortuitous time, which may end up being 10 years down the road. But I always intend to come back.
I have used the 50 page rule for many years, but I had never heard that this idea had official imprimatur from anyone. I think I started after wading through a couple of books by Michener. Seems like he always felt compelled to start with the trilobites, and spend the first 100 pages on pre-history! I kept expecting the pace to pick up after the dinosaurs, but I felt like I had really wasted my time, when there are so many wonderful books out there that I could be reading instead. I eventually decided that my interest in a book (not best seller sales figures) should be the determining factor.
I rarely use the public library, so I buy all of the books I am going to read. And I acquire books at a much faster rate than I can actually read them, so they have to be pretty good if I have to wait for retirement to have the time to read them. (Especially considering that the recent stock market results have probably pushed that happy date back by a year or two.)
I will take a chance on inexpensive books (used, closeouts, etc.) after a quick browse. If I am really interested in the subject, but a book is off to a slow start, I might give it several sessions in the bookstore before I make a decision on buying it.
I am also a jumper, but I used to be a sinker. Once I got married and a child my time became much more precious. So now I have the "life is too short to read bad books" attitude.
I usually give books 50 to 100 pages and if it still feels like a chore I give up. Most books I can tell right away if I'm going to like or not just from the first chapter.
Some surpise me, I didn't like Time Traveler's Wife at first, but it ended up being one of my all time favorites.
I have so many books on my "to be read" list that I don't bat and eye about jumping now. When I was younger it would have been almost impossible for me to "give up" though.
For the most part I stick with it to the bitter end. I just finished Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral, had to force myself, though.
The only book I can honestly say I've jumped and given up going back is Youngs' biography of Eleanor Roosevelt: a Personal and Public Life. Nothing about the woman inspired me to care about the contents of the book. Not even the fact it was part of a college course could force me to finish it. Try as I might, I just couldn't gag it down.
Every other started-and-yet-to-be-finished book I still intend to finish... someday... Machiavelli's The Prince is slow going because I'm studying it. A Wrinkle in Time may be a jumper, because it's another no-matter-how-hard-I-try-I-just-can't-seem-to-care book.
I'm beginning to feel that way about Tom Jones. I'm 170 pages into that 18th century monster. I'll stick with it though.
I go down with the ship. I can't help but assume a book will get better, even though experience has shown me that's rarely the case. Books I find tedious might take me up to a month to finish though, since I need to be in a certain kind of brave mood to face it.
I have only recently allowed myself to quit a book. After trudging through Quiet Girl for way too long, I ended up really pissed off at the ending. I finally just told myself that if I really don't like it, just stop. That said, I know I have wanted to quit books that ended up being very good and very rewarding. Two that come to mind are Tree of Smoke and Half of a Yellow Sun. I really had to work in the beginning of both of those, but it was so worth it.
#35 and #44 -- Is there any difference between deliberate skimming and unconscious skimming? There have been a few times when someone will ask me how I can read so fast and I realize that I'm flipping pages and looking for key words/phrases or character names rather than actually reading every page.
#74 TallyDi: skimming and gleaning the facts vs. reading the book is like reading about a blurb about an event vs. actually being a part of the event. In the one, you know what went on, you have the facts, but you have no feeling or sense of it. With the second, you have the info and facts, but you also have the experiences and understanding of what happened.
Per my earlier post, I was glad I stuck with Tom Jones. Not too sure about this one, though. Sure, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek won the Pulitzer and I'm sure it was well deserved. Sure, nature writers love it. Sure, it's lyrical. But I'm about to beat my head with a stick to try to mask this droning, boring, tedious, throbbing pain. I'm the king of sinkers.
I've always been a slogger - through to the bitter end, and only just recently decided it was not a reflection of me (i.e. "my failure") to not finish a crappy book. Part of what allowed me to have this breakthrough is that I've recently started to work at a school where part of the 4th grade reading curriculum is called "when it's OK to abandon a book". I believe that this teacher is a genius!
I'm a jumper, but I rarely need to do so. I simply refuse to read books I feel peer-pressured into reading because I know my taste. I absolutely have no regrets about dropping The Secret Life of Bees after a few chapters. As a librarian I felt I read enough for readers' advisory purposes, but I just couldn't get past the feelilng like I was reading a book designed to be a best seller. Call me a snob but I just couldn't do it.
I do have a friend who abandoned The Girls' Guide to Hunting and Fishing...WITH ONLY ONE PAGE LEFT TO READ! I still can't believe that.
This happened to me last year while reading Native Tongue. Sadly, it has also happened to me on entire series of books. However, I end up finishing them, wanting to know what happens.
I then found out Native Tongue has sequels. Thankfully, my desire to read them is zero.
I tend to jump with a life vest...
If I hate a book, I'll put it down and eventually, when the time is right I'll pick it up and try again. I just did this with Stephenie Meyer's Twilight. It's not a hard book to read and now I absolutely love it and am trying to figure out what the heck my problem was when I first tried reading it...
I did the same with the first Harry Potter book. I can't imagine having completely abandoned Harry Potter!
Currently I have Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell by Susanna Clarke on hiatus. I just can't deal with a loooong book at the moment. I just finished three (or so long ones and need some short, instant gratification books before I go back, plus I have an ER on the way.)
Overall, I go down with the ship. The question is just....at what point?
When I first began reading classics, I abandoned Wuthering Heights and Tess of the D'Urbervilles. I went back to them later, really enjoyed them, and they are now two of my favorites.
I HATED The Shipping News, White Tiger and The Unconsoled, but finished them all, complaining every step of the way. The Shipping News won a Pulitzer, White Tiger won the Man Booker and The Unconsoled was by one of my favorite authors, I kept telling myself.
Some things I finished because I really needed to read them for work (White Tiger, One for the Money, Books: a Memoir). While I will put in more effort for work books, these seem to make up most of my reading these days. One for the Money was SO bad, I had to stop after two chapters and read something worthwhile. I did go back to it, however. The payoff for Wuthering Heights and Tess were absolutely worth it, but White Tiger and One for the Money were absolute torture.
But, as I get older, I'm *much* less likely to waste time on something I really hate. If I'm literally throwing a book across the room, something is terribly, terribly wrong. Life is just too short.
fig2, there seems to be a lot of Wuthering Heights bashing throughout several LT Group posts, but I couldn't agree with you more. I've never studied the context, but I've always thought that it must have been really innovative in its day.
White Tiger wasn't a real pleasant story, but I kinda liked it. 'Reminded me of Crime and Punishment meets Vendor of Sweets.
I'm a jumper. I also usually give about 50 pages for the book to convince me, though might jump off later too.
I have read some books where last pages have done a lot for the total enjoyment, but even for those the beginning should be readable (The Sound of Waves did become a good book on its last page, but before that I could still keep on reading, and first time I read The Satanic Verses at some point I completely lost the plot but kept on reading because I liked the language so much).
And I too often give another try to the book which I have abandoned, because sometimes it is just a matter of me not being ready or in a wrong mood or something.
But sometimes even highly praised books just don't work.
Word of warning: Umberto Eco is known to write really dense beginnings at least for some of his books, they start moving much better when you have got through the introductions with historical minutia.
I’m a jumper, but I always hold out the possibility of sailing the ship again. I choose my books carefully, and there’s always something in them that I want to experience – the writing, an idea, the plot, a character, etc. So if I dislike something I’m reading, I tell myself I’m in the wrong mood and decide to go back to it later. I’ve enjoyed many books that I initially abandoned. I think sometimes you just pick the wrong time to read them.
On the other hand, there are books that I wanted to abandon early on but didn’t, because they were recommended by friends or colleagues. In these cases they were books I don’t normally read, and it turned out that my instincts were right. Still, I never regret reading anything, no matter how much I dislike it. Every book has something to offer, even if it’s just the chance to say “well, I tried it out.”
I have jumped ship on quite a few books at university though…
I couldn't help but go down with the ship until I started maintaining a catalog here. Now that I have a collection just for this (called tl;dr), I can delude myself into thinking that I may actually ever go back to the ones I abandoned. I don't think I even care if I ever do--I just can't tolerate the possibility I might someday want to read one but forget what it was.
(Related to this is the reason why I have somewhere north of 600 books in my "to read but unowned" collection...)
I'm usually a sinker. I hope that a bad book will redeem itself, or even if I hate the story the writing will be too beautiful to pass up.
I did jump out of two books in recent memory: Killing Time by Caleb Carr (awful - nothing like his Alienist novels), and Artemis Fowl by Eoin Colfer (I read the first two to three chapters and was rolling my eyes and complaining so much that I decided then and there to stop reading it.)
I came to this thread because I just finished forcing myself to finish Annie Freeman's Fabulous Traveling Funeral and wanted to see what others had said about. That pretty much says it, doesn't it--I'm mostly a finisher. I have abandoned library books that I just didn't care for. With books I own, however, I tend to set them aside thinking I will eventually finish them. For example, just from where I am sitting, I can see at least four books with bookmarks still in them even though I haven't opened any of those books in a year or more. Guess I'm with books as I am with people--I always hope we'll reconnect eventually.
I'm neither - I just leave the book, still meaning to finish it...
My 'only got half way through' pile is much bigger than my 'to be read' pile.
I'm a sinker. Even if I have to work hard to read a book (which rarely happens) a combination of optimism, stubbornness, and curiosity makes me stick with it. I have found that comes in handy with a new sci-fi or fantasy series... i am learning new characters AND a new world, and it usually takes a while to get into it. By the end of the book I'm usually begging for more, and the second time I read it (or when I read the sequel) it is much more enjoyable. The "sinker" mentality can also be a liability... The Anita Blake series went down the tubes at least five books ago, but I still feel the need to read them so I can check up on my favorite characters. I'm always left wishing I could have those hours of my life back, and I don't *BUY* them anymore, but I still have to read them at least once.
The only book I have ever "jumped" was David Copperfield. I tried countless times and can't get through more than 30 pages.
There are too many good books out there to spend time reading something I am not enjoying.
Before I abandon a book I will read the last few pages and decide if I want to know how the conclusion was reached. If I decide that it is worth reading the middle bit then I battle on but otherwise I wild release it in the hope that it will find a more appreciative owner.
(For those not in the know: Wild Release = bookcrossing.com)
It really depends on the book for me. If it's a tried and true classic I go down with it; I don't just pick up any ole book on a whim, so I have not jumped ship on more than a few books anyway, or I come back and finish them later. There's too many books on the shelves not worth reading so I chose my books carefully for both fiction and non.
In high school and before, I had a lot of spare time, so I NEVER jumped ship. I would see that sucker go down and not regret it simply because I got a sense of accomplishment from finishing the dang thing. But now, I guess I am a jumper. Sometimes. I don't have a system and I generally like to finish books. But if it's not for class and I just can't get into the characters or plot or anything, then I toss it away. But generally, when I'm browsing for stuff, I read the first couple of pages to see if I like the writing style and either pick up or dump at leisure.
I frequently remark about my K2-sized TBR pile. Now I'm starting to accumulate a respectable, little "TBF" (to be finished) pile. I intend to complete reading all titles, in both piles. Deep down, I still am very careful with selections, thanks to lots of LT research.
Reading time is so valuable. I can't wait until retirement - at like age 95...
Both. I set myself a deadline of about 60 pages. If I don't give it up before that, then I stick it through. I'm in one of those situations right now. Eugh.
Update: You know what? Screw this. You guys are right, there is WAY too much to read to spend time on crap like that. I'm jumping ship. I guess I felt that not finishing a book showed a lack of "disciprine", but too bad.
I compare reading a book to another essential activity: eating.
If I'm eating something, and it tastes really bad, I don't force myself to finish it. Same with books.
I think it's awesome that this thread is still going about 5 years later. I'm still a "sinker" and I can really relate to #95 who said the motivation is "a combination of optimism, stubbornness, and curiosity."
I am still buying the occasional dreadful e-book but so far they have all been pretty cheap. I know why ...
But I am getting some good recommendations from LT which is limiting the disasters. And I have learnt to avoid anything published by Smashwords.
# 102, that's a great comparison. If a little taste of something is "off" (or if you see a bit of mold), doesn't the whole container go into the garbage? That's precisely the reaction I had on the day when I took The DaVinci Code off the shelf at the library and read a paragraph or two. I already knew the plot was ridiculous, but the writing was just so bad! I had a similar experience with Nick Drake's attempts at fiction set in ancient Egypt. His plots are utterly ridiculous and reveal a complete lack of research. His latest bilge features an atheist policeman who moonlights as a security guard because the budget's been cut; opium cartels (!!!) in Eighteenth Dynasty Thebes (complete with beheaded victims); evil military dictator; and so on blah blah blah. I did read Nefertiti: the Book of the Dead to the end, mainly so I could find out whether Mr. Drake was going to extricate himself from his own plot. Although I have only glanced at the next two volumes, it's clear that they're just as bad, if not worse. Please don't tell me that I've got to read them before I pass judgement! (What's wrong with publishers these days?)
Some of the worst ones are self-published but with e-books I never read anything published by Smashwords.
Even so, publishers have to cater for all tastes; look at the market in the Bodice Ripper genre. It would need a special sort of mind to appreciate and publish those books. Barbara Cartland?
Dan Brown wrote The da Vinci Code with an eye on Hollywood, I suspect and some of his other books are worse. But on the plus side - he made an enormous amount of money from the book and that is something that few authors ever manage to do.
(102) Sounds sensible.
If a book doesn't "grab" me, I put it down, period. I can't say how many pages I give it, but it needs to get good, soon, or I toss it.
Life's too short and there are too many good books waiting to be read, to waste time on junk.
Depends on the book. I went down with the ship for twilight because I had to know what the big deal was. I jumped ship on unholy ghosts because I didn't want to mare Stacia Kane.
I tend to go down with the ship. I'm usually rewarded I find. Like with The Historian; the first hundred pages or so were so over-detailed with little relevance to the plot. I found myself reading it at night to help me get to sleep. I finally finished it off and found it was pretty decent. It was a wonderful thought, poorly executed in my opinion.
Perhaps that's why I stick with them; I like the thought behind it and I can use it to influence my own imagination.
Just stumbled on this forum after doing a search on the title Life of Pi. Hmmm...
Anyway, I usually go down with the ship out of pure stubborness. However, I am much more careful on pre-screening my choices. I usually wait until I'm really chomping at the bit to pick it up.
Funny seeing Anna Karenina mentioned multiple times. It was one of the two books I couldn't finish. The other book? Number of the Beast. One of my favorite authors, too. Heinlein went off the deep end on that one.
I'm surprised that so many get to 50 or 60 pages before jumping. 10 is enough. I usually jump ship when I become aware that the author is writing in some weird tense or, worse, changing tenses. Wolf Hall is a good example - in my world it's unreadable. And by a strange coincidence the same is true of The Tenderness of Wolves.
I think ten pages is far too few to get a good feel for a book. I started reading Harry Potter when I was about twelve and my mother literally had to force me through the first three chapters. I found it tedious, annoying and cliche. Once I got past the initial "set-up" however, I became hooked.
Ten pages is way too few for me too. I've read many a book that didn't work for me in the first ten pages, but kept on and it clicked, and I loved the book. Often this happens with books that are more sophisticated and unusual . . . it takes some time to figure out what the author is doing. These books can be highly rewarding if given a little effort. But I guess if you're reading straight genre--mystery, horror, romance, etc., then ten pages might be plenty.
I know you can get a "feel" for the book and author in the first few pages, but sometimes you do have to give a book more of a chance.
Look at The Fellowship of the Ring. I tell some first time readers that the first 100 pages is an endurance test. Yes, it's slow and not very exciting, but it's supposed to be that way. Wait till you get to Bree (which might make a good catch-phrase: "Don't like the book? Wait till you get to Bree!).
Definitely a jumper here. If what I'm currently reading doesn't attract, I jump onto the next victim in the TBR pile.
I often keep a bookmark in the abandoned book, so-that I can go back and continue from the same point if I change my mind. Quite a few books (esp. non-fiction) eventually get finished this way. Others don't - sometimes I note a bookmark in something I abandoned years ago, and if I still don't expect to get back to it, or feel I recall so little that it'd make more sense to begin from the beginning if I were to try again, I remove it.
It's not a black-and-white thing for me. I've dropped out of maybe a dozen books, but mostly when I was young. For the most part I go down with the ship! Generally I read things that are critically acclaimed, and even when I'm not enjoying it I decide I'll finish it, then read up on it and try to figure out what the message was and how I didn't get it. This happened to me last year with Midnight's Children. I decided in the end that I still didn't like it, lol, but at least I understood what the point was and had to admit the novel conveyed it well.
I used to go down with the ship. It's only when I have gotten older, and realized time is precious, that I will now abandon the ship by page 100 if I can't abide the book.
I'm in the "life's to short" category and will put down an book if things are going south (but I often keep said book for another try unless it's really awful - sometimes I'm just not feeling it at the time or my attention has shifted).
I've attributed this to the ease in which I now can procure new material. When I was younger and had to have someone drive me to a bookstore or library, I stuck with books more. Now with the internet (as well as access to more used book stores and a vast stockpile of my own) I can have a replacement in no time.
I found this thread while slogging through The History of Tom Jones A Foundling. I was wondering if I should have given up on this book but after reading this thread I've decided to stick to my sinker ways. The reading time I most regret is what I spent on nice, pleasant, safe reads of books that I knew I wouldn't hate and never thought for a second I should quit. So with the help of LT in my choices, I think I will keep finishing what I start and hope I make more good choices than bad. I just don't think I'd be experiencing a wider range of books if I didn't see them through.
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