I used to read every single book from start to finish, regardless of how much I liked or hated it, despite some horrendous writing styles, from the time I learned how to read until about ten years ago. The premise for doing so was that the author spent their hard-earned time writing it, if I start it I should finish it. For the author. It was some kind of twisted homage to a person who would never know if I even started her work, much less finished it. Then, ten years ago, I realized life is short. Why should I waste any time that I have?
Since the day I decided I could stop a book before its conclusion, my reading experiences have been so much more fulfilling. At first, of course, I felt insanely guilty when I just stopped reading those first few books. I found myself dreaming that the characters in the book were chasing me down, angry with me for abandoning them after we had forged a bond. The problem is that we hadn’t forged a bond, which was the reason I abandoned them in the first place. It’s been better since then.
A couple of months ago I picked up The Heist, a novel by Janet Evanovich and Lee Goldberg, from the library. I was attracted to the idea behind the book, that a notorious criminal and a federal agent were going to be involved in a cat-and-mouse game throughout. Except that when I opened the book I felt like I was reading something more along the lines of a high school tale of jealousy and one-upmanship. And the writing was abysmal. After only one chapter I was done, and I know I will never finish that book. Perhaps it got better plot-wise, but the writing was just not up to par, and it would continue to ruin my perspective of the book, and of its authors. So, I quit, and I moved on to a book that was worth my time.
Now, I know a lot of readers who have different ideas about whether or not to “give up” on books, or when to give up when it’s obvious nothing is going to change. One of my friends said that she reads the first 50 pages. Another told me she reads the first three chapters. And yet another told me that she’s like I used to be and reads every single page, even if it’s horrendous and tough sledding.
Do you think it’s important to finish what you start when it comes to reading books, or do you think it’s okay to cut bait when things aren’t shaping up the way you hoped? If you think it’s okay to interrupt your reading and put the book aside, when is that cutoff point?