Saturday, May 31, 2008

When to Stop Reading

I commented a few times while I was reading The Italian about how long it was taking me and how difficult it was for me to get through. Should I have kept reading it or given it up? I'll admit that I rarely abandon a book before I am done. I think the biggest reason is that I am always hopeful it will get better. And what if it does get better and I missed it because I gave up too soon?
I recently checked out Book Lust: Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment, and Reason from the library. In the introduction author Nancy Pearl said this: "One of my strongest-held beliefs is that no one should ever finish a book that they're not enjoying, no matter how popular or well reviewed the book is. Believe me, nobody is going to get any points in heaven by slogging their way through a book they aren't enjoying but think they ought to read."
Pearl then goes on the explain what she calls her rule of fifty. "If you are fifty years old or younger, give every book about fifty pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it, or give up." If you are over 50 Pearl suggests that you subtract your age from 100 to get the number of pages you should read before making a decision. The idea is that time is short and we should not be wasting our precious reading time on books we are not enjoying.
I thought that was a very interesting concept. I would have stopped reading the Italian if I had to decide by page 50 but then I also would have stopped ready Jane Eyre by page 50 as well.
I don't know if I'll follow this rule but it is something I will keep in mind next time I encounter a book that I am not enjoying.

7 comments:

Leslie said...

Good points. I haven never felt totally uncomfortable abandoning a book unless there was something in the content that was very objectionable.

Mrs. Mordecai said...

I have a hard time not finishing books, too, unless it doesn't fit with my standards, like Leslie. I have one book that's been sitting by my bed for . . . oh, about three years now, and I still haven't finished it. Boring! I guess I should just donate it to the library. But it's such a pretty book . . . I can't bear to get rid of it.

Speaking of, have you read Ex Libris? You have to. You'd love it!

stephi k said...

I had this experience as a child where I started reading "A Little Princess" and stopped because it got too depressing! I had my place marked and finally a year later picked it up again. It was one of the best books I had ever read, and I vowed to never do that again. I finished every book I started UNTIL I had several children and could not afford spending time on something not worth it. Now I do what Leslie said, and stop if it is too disturbing (like "Pillars of the Earth" recently). I guess I'm ambivelant about this topic.

Jeanette said...

Mrs. M-I have not read Ex Libris but you are the second person to recommend it to me so I am going to have to look for it at the library soon.

Chain Reader said...

My general "rule" is to read at least a third of a book before I decide to give it up. But sometimes I compulsively continue on to the end. Sometimes you've read so much, you don't want the time you've already spent reading the book to be wasted!

Kim said...

I'm with Chain Reader on this one. It is hard to put down a book after you've already invested so much time into it. I like almost every book I read, at least to some degree. I have put down some books for objectionable material though. "Wicked" was awful.

Natasha @ Maw Books said...

I have a hard time giving up books. I've only given up two in the last year. That's funny about using your age as a tool.