When to give up trying to read a book?I always feel a profound sense of defeat when I give up on a book.  I force myself to choke down some of the dryest texts until my will finally expires and...

When to give up trying to read a book?

I always feel a profound sense of defeat when I give up on a book.  I force myself to choke down some of the dryest texts until my will finally expires and crumbles into dust.

What is your criteria for giving up the ghost on a book?  Do you have a set page/chapter number you must reach?  If you're not gripped right away, do you put the book back on the shelf?  What emotions do you experience when you don't finish a book---grief, guilt---do you cry?  Discuss.

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20 Answers

linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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If a book hasn't hooked me in the first 20-30 pages, it's not going to hook me at all. I really hate to give up on a book, and sometimes I'll go beyond that 30-page mark just to see if it gets any better. But I usually have to admit that not every book is worth reading and put the thing down.

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zward03 | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Adjunct Educator

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I hate to give up on a book, but sometimes it just has to be done. The old adage in screenwriting is that if the reader isn't captivated in the first 10 pages, it's a bad script. While 10 pages may be a bit harsh for a novel, if I'm not drawn into the story and feel something, anything about the main character within 20-30 pages, I start to lose interest. This can be a tough rule to apply to older classic literature that sometimes take a while to get going, but I generally try to stick those out. I'm not always successful (cough, Steinbeck, cough).

kiwi's profile pic

kiwi | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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I decie that I am not actually giving up on a book. If I lose focus and anything beyond the second chapter is a chore, I simply return the book to my 'not yet read' shelf (or list if its a borrowed book). In this way, I have never given up on a book - although I have been 'reading' The Hobbit for thirty years...

lmetcalf's profile pic

lmetcalf | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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Life is too short to read books you don't like.  Quit when you realize you don't like the book.  There are hundreds of other books out there just waiting for you to love them!  The books are not alive to feel rejected...

bullgatortail's profile pic

bullgatortail | High School Teacher | (Level 1) Distinguished Educator

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I have a pretty simple rule: If I am still bored or feel like it's a waste of time after reading 30 pages, I give it up. There haven't been too many books that I've failed to complete, but occasionally I pick up a novel that has been suggested to me and it just doesn't click. I'll give it 30 pages and then decide whether to go further.

litteacher8's profile pic

litteacher8 | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I don't like to give up. Often I will finish a book no matter how much I hate it. I am more likely to give up a book if the writing is bad than for any other reason. Usually, it's not a conscious decision to stop reading the book, but it starts to sit and I forget about it and never go back to it.
brettd's profile pic

brettd | High School Teacher | (Level 2) Educator Emeritus

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I suppose it depends on how much patience you have.  I don't have much.  If, after the first one hundred pages I'm not actively engaged in the story and the characters, I'm pretty much done.  I am a little more patient if the person is a master of the language, since I can stick around for a story quite a while even if the story is tedious, as long as the language is beautiful.  That's a pretty rare author that can do that though, and since there is so much to choose from in literature, and I have limited time, it's easy and natural to be extra discerning in my reading choices.
wannam's profile pic

wannam | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Educator

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I too hate not finishing a book. It's like watching a B movie all the way through because surely it has to get better. I don't have a set criteria as far as length into the book goes. Usually, if a book is good, I finish it quickly and have trouble putting it down. If I don't pick up the book for a while and can't seem to force myself to continue, then I give up. Usually, I will skim a few random chapters later in the book to see if the story become more captivating. I hate to not finish a book, but it happens. When I was in school, I learned to skim and speed read. I finished reading a lot of books I didn't enjoy in that way.
mwestwood's profile pic

mwestwood | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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With quitting never having been an option, abandoning a book has been a defeatist action.  However, life teaches us that sometimes it is, indeed, better to give up on foolish ideas, etc.  So, I give a book a trial of 2 or 3 chapters.  I did read one book because a friend of mine asked me to since it had been highly recommended to her and she had not found the worth of it, herself.  When I finished it, I told her it was a waste of my time for certain reasons.  My friend felt so much better that at least her reaction justified my reading time.

lorrainecaplan's profile pic

Lorraine Caplan | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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I will confess it took me nearly fifty years to learn to not finish a book.  But once I learned that, I never looked back, even not finishing books lent or highly recommended by close friends, even occasionally not finishing a book for my book group.  Once you let go, you can really let go!  I love books, and it might not be too extreme to say I even worship them.  However, a book is a medium like any other.  Do we listen to an entire song that we don't like?  We turn it off or switch stations.  We do the same thing with television programs.

There was an interesting story recently on the impossibility of keeping up with all that is offered to us, and while I have searched again for that story, I cannot find it right now.  Perhaps someone else will remember it.  But the point is that we cannot read everything. We will always have deficits because there is simply too much.  I, too, suffered all the way through Atlas Shrugged. I don't think I would today, either because I can now put a book down or because it has become a sort of symbol of politics that offend me.  But in any case, we cannot know all the wonderful people in the world, we cannot see every single movie that is made, and we cannot read every book.  It takes me about fifteen or twenty minutes to make a decision on all of them.  Am I missing something great? I have learned not to worry about it.

accessteacher's profile pic

accessteacher | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I, like others, find it very difficult to abandon a book, and see it as a personal challenge to make it through each one. However, books that I must admit to having given up on are books that are either terrible, badly written books or books that are just so obscure and require so much attention to keep track of that I finally give up. If I find myself thinking that reading this book is a waste of my time and I can be using my time profitably elsewhere, I normally give up.

larrygates's profile pic

larrygates | College Teacher | (Level 1) Educator Emeritus

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It is often quite difficult for me to abandon a book; but sometimes, the book just doesn't hold my interest. I find my mind wandering off the page, and reading to be more of a chore than an accomplishment. I do not have a set number of pages or a criteria; I simply reach the point that I know my reading is going nowhere, and put it down. Normally, I will have two or three "false stops" before I finally give up altogether. I still feel a great deal of guilt at not finishing a book, as I feel as if I have abandoned a responsibility; but then again, not all books are for everyone. I did manage to slough through Atlas Shrugged, long soliloquies and all; however I have started and abandoned War and Peace at least six times in the past ten years. I haven't given up yet--probably part of my guilt complex--but at the moment it's back in my "one of these days" stack.

pohnpei397's profile pic

pohnpei397 | College Teacher | (Level 3) Distinguished Educator

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I don't have a set criteria.  It's a sliding scale based on how much I think I ought to read the book.  If it's a classic or if it's something everyone is raving about, then I tend to plow on well past the point when I think I should give up.  If it's just some random book I've picked up at the library, I'm happy to just toss it aside with very little in the way of guilt.

I felt a lot more guilty about not finishing books (particularly "important" ones) back when I was younger.  But now, I'm a lot more at peace with who I am and what my literary tastes are and so I don't sweat it if I can't finish a book, even if it's "important."

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billrogers249 | eNotes Newbie

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tombonds | Student | eNotes Newbie

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