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What's so wrong about giving up on a book?

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message 1: by Will (new)

Will (longklaw) | 261 comments http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyl...

Interesting column. Sometimes I feel bad about giving up on a book, but that doesn't last long.


message 2: by Dara (new)

Dara (cmdrdara) | 2702 comments Speaking of Catch-22, I've tried and failed about 4 times to read that book. I finally completely gave up on it. I'm very happy about that decision.


message 3: by Will (new)

Will (longklaw) | 261 comments I told myself for a long time that I wanted to read it but never. I eventually gave up on that idea


message 4: by Bryan (new)

Bryan | 111 comments I rarely abandon books these days (too many good ones have been brought to my attention!), but if I do it's within the first 100 pages. Once I've read more than 100 pages there's no going back.


message 5: by Candice (new)

Candice Nunu (nunu_noodles) | 52 comments Dara wrote: "Speaking of Catch-22, I've tried and failed about 4 times to read that book. I finally completely gave up on it. I'm very happy about that decision."

I had to really push for Catch 22, man it was hard!!

For me, I make myself read till the end because I don't feel like I can truly give my opinion until I've read every page. You never know when a book might redeem itself right at the end The Street Sweeper I hated this book well past the half way mark, but because I didn't give in to my urges to give it up, I discovered how it all came together in a way that really touched me. :)
Is it like that for anyone else? What books have you read that redeemed themselves right at the last second?


message 6: by Steve (new)

Steve Haywood Life is too short for bad books. If I'm not really enjoying a book, to force myself to try and finish it I'll spend many weeks on it. I'll find other things to do rather than read (the opposite of a book I'm really enjoying, where other things will fall by the wayside so I can read). In that time I could have read several great books.

I also ask myself why I'm reading the book in the first place. If it is primary because I want to learn about something, or I'm required to for work, then I'll persevere a while longer. But if it is a book I'm reading for my own enjoyment, why should I struggle through it?

I once asked on a question and answer site How do you decide when to give up on a book?. I got 48 responses - makes quite interesting reading.

Speaking of Catch-22, I've got that on my shelf at home. Think my wife bought it once, started it and gave up... I've occasionally thought about reading it, but never seriously picked it up, because I've always got the impression it is probably more work than enjoyment.


message 7: by Nick (new)

Nick (whyzen) | 1295 comments I have no problem abandoning books but I really wish there was a way to filter out goodreads reviews of a book someone quit reading and didn't finish. I don't consider those complete reviews and they are to me at least completely useless.


message 8: by Mark (new)

Mark Catalfano (cattfish) I never found out because of all the pop up ads. So I gave up on the article about giving up books. Ironic


message 9: by Katie (new)

Katie (calenmir) | 211 comments I'm surprised so many people found Catch-22 "work"...I thought it was one of the funniest books I've ever read. I guess if that isn't your sense of humor it would be tough but I was rolling, and that was before I ever met my Marine and experienced the ridiculousness of military policies firsthand. :p


message 10: by Sean (new)

Sean O'Hara (seanohara) | 2365 comments Nick wrote: "I have no problem abandoning books but I really wish there was a way to filter out goodreads reviews of a book someone quit reading and didn't finish. I don't consider those complete reviews and t..."

If the reviewer has a good reason for abandoning the book -- a horror novel turns out to be thinly veiled child-porn, or a history book is riddled with errors that a fifth grader could've caught -- such a review is as useful as one from someone who finished.


message 11: by Nick (new)

Nick (whyzen) | 1295 comments Sean wrote: "Nick wrote: "I have no problem abandoning books but I really wish there was a way to filter out goodreads reviews of a book someone quit reading and didn't finish. I don't consider those complete ..."

That tends to be the exception though and not the rule.


message 12: by Steve (new)

Steve Haywood I almost never review or rate books I don't finish, as I don't think I can make a judgement I've only consumed part of. They're usually not 90% read either, generally less than half finished. Some books take that long to get into. I see a lot of unfinished reviews (more so on Amazon than here), and find them quite frustrating and don't help me make a judgement on whether to read a book or not.


message 13: by Will (new)

Will (longklaw) | 261 comments Yeah, I typically don't rate books I don't finish and I don't finish books I don't like, so it probably seems like I like everything if you look at my ratings.


message 14: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2928 comments I don't review a lot period, but it's fine to review a book that you did'n't finish IMO as long as two things are true:

1) You clearly state that you didn't finish upfront as well as how far you got. Don't make people read a review then find out it's a review of the first 100 pages. Just say "I didn't finish this book, it lost me about 100 pages in... " or whatever is appropriate.

2) You state WHY you didn't finish. For example, I very much liked Mike Shevdon's first two books which are the first 2 in a four book series. I didn't like the third at all due to the actions and attitudes of pretty much every character and some of the plot logic (not to be long winded but the protagonist is told that something is very important to take care of for the entire organization... but that he'll get no help fixing it from that same organization). I abandoned the book. If I were to review it, I'd note that I didn't complete it and flesh out my objections to the characterizations.

What I'd consider over the line is clicking a rating without finishing a book since, without a review, there's no way to tell that you rated a book only partially read.


message 15: by Alan (new)

Alan | 534 comments Like Katie, I'm surprised at the anti Catch-22 sentiment because I thought it was pretty funny.

I rarely hit a particular point where I decide to give up on a book. I usually just turn to it less and less often until it fades from the "currently reading" pile.

For example, I really pushed pretty far into Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell because it was so highly praised but I really did not like it at all.


message 16: by Trike (new)

Trike | 8952 comments Steve wrote: "Life is too short for bad books.

I also ask myself why I'm reading the book in the first place. If it is primary because I want to learn about something, or I'm required to for work, then I'll persevere a while longer. But if it is a book I'm reading for my own enjoyment, why should I struggle through it?"


This. All of this.


message 17: by Fresno Bob (last edited Jun 26, 2013 07:04PM) (new)

Fresno Bob | 595 comments Steve wrote: "Life is too short for bad books. ..."

no argument here, but I'm surprised by the number of people abandoning the monthly books, none of which are bad....


message 18: by Darren (last edited Jun 27, 2013 10:03AM) (new)

Darren If I dislike a book enough to put it down, I do so, and rate it one star*. I would never rate anything I consciously chose not to finish anything other than one star. To do otherwise is undermining the review system, to my thinking.

Books I'm not enjoying but not hating get put to the side. I don't rate these ones at all.

Sometimes I revisit them (both sorts) later, because once I own a book, of course it's going to get opened again. If I'm lucky, I might like it more.







*edited to add: this is for single narratives, not short story or poetry collections.


message 19: by [deleted user] (new)

Fresno Bob wrote: "Steve wrote: "Life is too short for bad books. ..."

no argument here, but I'm surprised by the number of people abandoning the monthly books, none of which are bad...."


Bad is very subjective; I do not like a couple of books the majority of sci-fi fans consider classics.


message 20: by Rick (last edited Jun 27, 2013 07:35AM) (new)

Rick | 2928 comments Darren wrote: "If I dislike a book enough to put it down, I do so, and rate it one star. I would never rate anything I consciously chose not to finish anything other than one star. To do otherwise is undermining ..."

Actually rating a book you didn't finish 1 star without a review IS undermining the rating system. I, at least, look at ratings in part as a filter under the assumption that the people rating the book have read the entire book and one of the things I'll do is to scan 1 and 2 star reviews to see if the things that those people really didn't like are also hot buttons for me. Doesn't have to be a long review, a few sentences and note that the things you hated made you unable to finish it.


message 21: by Darren (last edited Jun 27, 2013 07:51AM) (new)

Darren Rick wrote: "Darren wrote: "If I dislike a book enough to put it down, I do so, and rate it one star. I would never rate anything I consciously chose not to finish anything other than one star. To do otherwise ..."

You've got it wrong. If you deliberately withhold the data on the books you chose not to finish, your ratings as a whole are incomplete.


message 22: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2928 comments Hrm? I'm confused. You're the one saying you just rate the book. I'm the one saying that if someone doesn't finish a book and rates it 1 star then they should write a review noting a) that they didn't finish and b) a few sentences at least about why. If I understand what you do, you're the one deliberately withholding data... or have I misunderstood what you're saying?


message 23: by Darren (new)

Darren Oh you're right, you did say that. Which is weird, as I said nothing about adding a review or not.


message 24: by Rick (new)

Rick | 2928 comments Ah... I filled in the 'not adding a review' part in my head. Ok, time for more coffee :)


message 25: by Darren (last edited Jun 27, 2013 08:26AM) (new)

Darren It's always that time. :)


message 26: by Jim (new)

Jim Heivilin | 45 comments Let us instead say 'life is too sort for books you don't enjoy'. Not every book is for everyone.

I also loved Catch-22. I wonder if it appeals to former (or current) servicepeople more than others. It's one of the few books whose movie successfully captures the flavor.


message 27: by Simon (new)

Simon (kane856) | 13 comments If I start to struggle with a book I flip to the half way point and start reading, if it grabs me I go back and keep reading otherwise it's lemmed until I fancy another go, an example would be Dune - must have taken eight or nine attempts until it got a hold of me, read it several times since and always enjoyed it ...


message 28: by Jim (new)

Jim (OldJim) | 15 comments Dara wrote: "Speaking of Catch-22, I've tried and failed about 4 times to read that book. I finally completely gave up on it. I'm very happy about that decision."
Got kicked out of study hall when I was in HS for laughing my head off reading that book, and refusing to give it back to the librarian (1968)...Maybe it's one of those 'you had to be there' stories, i.e. Vietnam/WW2...


message 29: by Dara (new)

Dara (cmdrdara) | 2702 comments I got it because my mum said it was hilarious and she loved it (she likely read it in the 70s). She has no ties to any service people so I don't think that has anything to do with it. I think I just had a block about it, I don't know why.


message 30: by Katie (new)

Katie (calenmir) | 211 comments When I read Catch-22 I had no military connection, only later did I meet and marry my Marine...can't get him to read it. (He does love reading in general so it somehow specifically doesn't appeal.)


message 31: by Jim (new)

Jim (OldJim) | 15 comments Katie wrote: "When I read Catch-22 I had no military connection, only later did I meet and marry my Marine...can't get him to read it. (He does love reading in general so it somehow specifically doesn't appeal.)"
I didn't either, yet; ended up in the Marines...book was a wonderful pre-quell to some of the absurdities of military life...Major Major Major,just thinking about that character still makes me laugh.


message 32: by Wastrel (new)

Wastrel | 184 comments There's not 'wrong' with not finishing a book, if you mean 'wrong' in a moral sense. Don't think anyone would really disagree. So I think there are two areas of interesting discussion here: one is "is it 'bad' or 'wrong' in some non-moral sense to not finish a book?" and "is it 'wrong' (in a moral or non-moral sense) to review a book without finishing it?".

To avoid a wall of text I'll leave the second question to a second post, if that's OK.

On the first one: I think it depends on why you picked up the book in the first place. Do you have some good reason to believe that it's a book worth reading?

If not - if it's just something you picked up randomly, or if it's something you were told was basically rubbish but vaguely entertaining along the way - then I'd say it's foolish to NOT give up when you realise you really aren't enjoying it. As the poster above said, life's too short for bad books.

But not every book you struggle with is a bad book. Some books just have really slow starts, or otherwise have to be completed before you can see how good they really are. Other books are not too your taste or not about things that interest you, but are good nonetheless. And some books just require you to read in a different way, with different expectations and allowances, but reward you for that greater effort.

If you've been told a book ends up being really good, but you're having difficulty with it, I think that it's generally foolish to put it down, unless you really have to - especially since you came to it forewarned, as it were. If a book seems good but really isn't to your taste, I think it's good to keep going and see if you can expand your taste - but quite understandable to decide that, at least right now, it's just not for you. And if a book with a great reputation seems difficult to read, I'd say you should certainly persevere and challenge yourself to discover why everyone else is raving about it - although if you weren't expecting it to be difficult I think it can sometimes be sensible to put it to one side until a more appropriate time.

Because yes, life's too short to waste time on bad books. But you're also missing out if you assume that all pleasures that aren't immediately accessible aren't worth pursuing. Sometimes you have to work at having fun - sometimes you may even have to do some homework and then have another go. Because if you turn down anything that tastes funny at first bite, you'll miss out on a lot of wonderful flavours. Some books are like a strong cheese - you have to acquire the taste for them before you can appreciate how wonderful they are.


message 33: by Richardya (new)

Richardya | 58 comments I probably get frustrated and abandon half the books I read and/or audible. Especially in non-fiction.


message 34: by Forbes (new)

Forbes West (forbes_west) | 36 comments Wastrel wrote: "There's not 'wrong' with not finishing a book, if you mean 'wrong' in a moral sense. Don't think anyone would really disagree. So I think there are two areas of interesting discussion here: one is ..."

Well said. I feel exactly the same way. The only thing I slightly disagree with on pushing through because the book has an excellent reputation. Yes, I think you should give it a good try but if you're fifty pages in and its still not sinking the slightest hook on you, you should walk away despite the acclaim. I just feel that with the classics, sure, give them a little extra time on the clock. But a book should be able to stand on its own merit at a certain point and not because of the acclaim. Sometimes acclaim is a bit... misplaced.


message 35: by Doug (new)

Doug Hoffman (dshoffman) | 62 comments Steve wrote: "Life is too short for bad books."

And the older I get, the less patience I have for crud.


message 36: by Sandi (new)

Sandi (sandikal) | 1212 comments Doug wrote: "Steve wrote: "Life is too short for bad books."

And the older I get, the less patience I have for crud."


My definition of crud has changed a lot as I've gotten older too.


message 37: by Sean Lookielook (last edited Jul 08, 2013 10:07PM) (new)

Sean Lookielook Sandulak (seansandulak) | 433 comments Authors are asking you to give up hard-earned money, and hours or even days of your life to read their stories. If those books aren't up to snuff, they should be the ones who feel guilty. Even if the quality is good, you simply are not going to like some books. It's better to move on and find something you do like. Good reading can be challenging, but it shouldn't feel like work.


message 38: by Richardya (last edited Jul 09, 2013 07:03AM) (new)

Richardya | 58 comments My hypothesis is that there is a bell curve regarding the quantity you read and the quicker you give up on books.

-If you only read three books a year, each book is a commitment you are less likely to give up on easily. It's like having a girlfriend once every four years.
-If you read twelve books a year, you value your reading time and do not want to waste it. Yet you read enough that you are less likely to dread the time wasted on a book if you do switch quickly.
-If you read a book a week, you probably just finish almost everything you pick up.


message 39: by Jim (new)

Jim Heivilin | 45 comments Sean wrote: "Authors are asking you to give up hard-earned money, and hours or even days of your life to read their stories. If those books aren't up to snuff, they should be the ones who feel guilty. Even if t..."

I don't necessarily agree with this. No author could possibly write a book that everyone likes. Some books just aren't for some people.

That's why reviews by trusted sources are so important. Even if you don't necessariy agree with the reviewer all the time. If you know what they like and how that relates to what you like and you trust them then you can evaluate whether you'll like a book before you plunk down your hard earned money or time.


message 40: by [deleted user] (new)

a book doesn't have to be bad for me to not finish it. It's why I like the rating here on GR where it says I liked it instead of It was good.

I honestly don't care if finishing or not finishing a book is right or wrong. it is my free time and I can do with it as I please. I also rate and review books I didn't finish because eventually it doesn't matter what you do because there will always be people who aren't satisfied with your decision. If you finish a book and give it a low rating and negative review, they'll ask why you even bothered reading it if you didn't like it. and if you don't finish it and review it negatively people will tell you that you have no right to review because you didn't even read all of it. yeah, whatever.

I have finished books before that were a chore to read. Dune comes to mind. A very popular and well-liked scifi novel that I simply didn't like. I've also read books that had a slow start, and took 300 pages out of nearly 1000 to really take off, and which I only finished because other reviewers told me that it would be worth it, and it was. Peter F. Hamilton's North Road for example. What I do always depends on a lot of factors. and if I make the decision not to finish a book then that is my right.

Do I feel bad? Not very but usually - especially with popular books like Dune - I keep asking myself what I missed, or why everyone seemed to have liked it but me.


message 41: by Scott (new)

Scott (dodger1379) | 126 comments I used to never give up on books but I've been doing it more and more lately. There are just too many great books out there for me to spend time on bad books.
I do rate books I don't finish and I always put in the review that I didn't finish the book and why but I do think it's fair to rate a book that (I personally) I felt was so bad that I couldn't finish it.
It's very very rare that I don't finish a book because it's just not what I was in the mood for - it's usually because it's just a bad book (the exception that I can think of is "The Girl Who Circumnavigated Fairyland in a Ship of Her Own Making" which I'm sure is a great book was just not something "for me").

BUT I still feel a little bad about putting a book down...


message 42: by Ryne (last edited Jul 29, 2013 10:45AM) (new)

Ryne | 68 comments I've only given up on two books, Alice in Zombieland: which was terribly translated/edited and Redhead: it was too long when nothing happened halfway through the book. I've read and finished bad books before, Mass Effect: Deception comes to mind with little difficulty but that was based in a franchise I already loved a great deal and just being in that world again was enough.


message 43: by Rick (last edited Jul 29, 2013 11:29AM) (new)

Rick | 2928 comments J4n3 wrote: "a book doesn't have to be bad for me to not finish it. It's why I like the rating here on GR where it says I liked it instead of It was good.

I honestly don't care if finishing or not finishing a..."


The amusing thing about this post is I loved Dune, blazed through it and re-read it a bunch.. and dropped Great North Road because it was boring as hell. A perfect illustration of how everyone's different.

As for reviewing unfinished books... as long as someone both tells people upfront that they didn't finish and gives the book a fair shot, eh. However, some people who do this seem to read a chapter, hate it and attention seek with a snarky, highly negative review.


message 44: by Ollie (new)

Ollie (oliversstory) I'm reading The Hobbit at the moment and it's the first book I've actually considered giving up on. But, at the same time I refuse to give up on a book.

The great part about this book, is that it's only just over three hundred pages.


message 45: by Jake (new)

Jake | 3 comments while I don't think there's anything wrong with giving up on a book, my opinion of some stories can change due to the various revelations and surprises in the closing chapters, the ending itself, and how I look back on a story once it's finished and I ruminate on it as a whole.


message 46: by Fresno Bob (new)

Fresno Bob | 595 comments I don't think there is anything wrong with giving up on a book, but I think there are a lot of people who don't really get the concept of a "virtual book club" like Sword and Laser....the point there is that quality books are being selected, and participation is encouraged


message 47: by Dharmakirti (new)

Dharmakirti | 942 comments I don't think there is anything wrong with giving up on a book.

I try to finish each book I start, but sometimes, I just can't bring myself to complete a book. This could be for many reasons. Sometimes the story isn't doing anything for me, sometimes soemthing shiny distracts me, sometimes I just don't like what I'm reading and sometimes, I find that I'm just too dumb to understand what I'm reading.


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