I recently tossed a book into the recycle bin. I have thrown a few into the garbage (the ultimate protest) but have switched to being environmentally friendly – perhaps they will be reborn as better reading. We all have run across books that we didn’t finish for one reason or another. My most recent read got me thinking about what causes me to stop reading a book… it wasn’t the one I tossed. The main reason I stop is that it just doesn’t capture my attention… I don’t care about the characters or the plot. I read a lot of mysteries and the mystery had better be set up soon into the book. A book needs to grab the reader on the first page. I make that my number one goal in writing the Spencer Manning Mysteries. It isn’t as easy as it sounds.
How many pages do you give a book before you give up? Or do you persevere to the end just because you started? I usually give it twenty pages or so, and I won’t finish if I have lost interest. If a mystery isn’t mysterious within the first few pages, I lose interest. If there is no romance in the first chapter of a romance novel, what’s the point? But I’ll usually give it a couple of tries before I finally give up. Maybe my mood wasn’t right.
It’s a bit harder with ebooks on my Kindle (not my preference, but the paper and space savings is a plus). Rather than just taking a shot at the bin, I have to take the trouble to log in and go to Amazon and request a refund (but at least I can get my money back!).
There is another reason I’ll stop reading. Being an editor, I am extra sensitive to grammar. There are mistakes in every book. I find errors in best sellers by renowned publishers. Proofreading is a tough job, so I give some leeway. But too many errors become distracting, and I just can’t continue. One of the most seen review comments is “Good book, but you need an editor.” The last book I returned was an autobiography that was funny and very interesting. But there were several errors on every page. But it was so interesting I kept reading. When I was halfway through it repeated a paragraph, and I quit. Refund time.
The one that got me thinking about all this is my most recent read, The Light Between Oceans by M. L. Stedman. It’s about a lighthouse keeper in Australia and a particularly pithy situation. I love lighthouses, and it was a New York Times bestseller that was being made into a movie. So it had to be a winner. But I just couldn’t get into it. I read about forty pages looking for a reason to keep reading and not finding one. But I didn’t toss it. Several months later I tried again with the same result. That was a year ago. I just tried again, and something was different. The words hadn’t changed, so it must have been me. It turned out to be one of the best books I’ve ever read. It was very moving, and I shed a few tears at the end.
So perhaps I didn’t give those other books enough of a chance. But there are so many books and so little time left.