5 Reasons Why I Leave a Book Half-Read

 

by Michael Cristiano

It’s happened again. I’ve fallen out of love. Well, actually, I don’t think I was ever in love, but after 200 pages of George RR Martin’s A Clash of Kings, I’ve decided to take some space. I mean, I think it’s better for the both of us. I need to answer some very serious questions: Who am I? What do I want? More importantly, what don’t I want, and right now, that’s this.

It’s nothing personal against George RR Martin. I read A Game of Thrones two summers ago and I loved it. I will, however, say that it took me a long time to get into it. Say, 150 pages? But I just can’t do it this time. So, that led me to think about why. Why do I ditch books halfway through? It seldom happens. I honestly think I’ve only ever done it to about a dozen books, but is there a formula?

I strove to find out.

 

I Hate the Characters

I’m not going to lie, this doesn’t happen very often for me, but when it does, it’s a huge turn off. And I don’t mean the good hate. Think Joffrey from Game of Thrones. That’s good hate. It feels good to hate him. You watch the show or read the book just so you can see what he’s going to say or do next so that you can get angry and want to strangle the poor kid.

I’m talking about the other hate. In this circumstance, I can’t stand a character. It started happening with Harry Potter circa The Order of the Pheonix. Harry became whiny and annoying and acted like the whole wizardly world was against him and that made me want to reach into the pages and give him a smack across the face. Now, in that situation, I didn’t stop reading, but it definitely slowed my pace down. I was happy when he stopped being such a suck in the subsequent books.

 

Where’s the Plot?

I understand the lack of plot for artistic reasons (think Catcher in the Rye), but unless you’re JD Salinger or F. Scott Fitzgerald, you best have a point. I can’t stand getting halfway through a story and realizing that it isn’t going anywhere. It’s like seeing a car crash happening in slow motion. You know what’s going to happen, but you trudge on thinking that you’re wrong, and then you get to the final scene and–

Nothing. There’s just a whole lot of nothing.

And the worst part is that I sometimes don’t even see this coming until it’s too late. I’m invested in the characters, and I just need to know. But if I had some foresight or if I had bothered to read reviews of the book on Amazon or Goodreads, I would put the book down.

 

Three Words: TOO MUCH DESCRIPTION!

This is the number one culprit. If I decide halfway through a book that I don’t want to read it anymore, ninety percent of the time it’s because there’s too much description and I’m bored: too much description of the setting, too much description of objects. And the worst: too much description of past events and back story.

Too much description has sealed the fate of quite a few books that I’ve decided not to read: Shaman by Kim Stanley Robinson, Across the Face of the World by Russell Kirkpatrick, and most recently A Clash of Kings by George RR Martin. That’s not to say that I won’t return to these books.

This happened to The Lord of the Rings Trilogy at first, and I ended up finishing all three eventually and loved them. This is just to say that I won’t read these kinds of books right now. I need time to engross myself, time that my life just doesn’t have right now. I’m too busy a person for a book to spend hundreds of pages describing trees and rocks and lineages.

Maybe I’ll make reading these books my retirement task.

 

The Writing is Full of Errors

This one is self-explanatory, and this often leaves a book unread before I even start reading. Most of the time, this doesn’t happen to big name authors, but a lot of indie authors that have piqued my interest have sealed their fate with spelling and grammar errors. Sure, they happen, even with a professional editor. But when it’s clear to me that there has been no editor, none at all, I’m out. I won’t buy.

 

The Writing is Just BAD

Thankfully, I have yet to read a book where the writing was so bad that I stopped reading. There have been cases where the writing isn’t my cup of tea, per se, but I normally trek through, especially if it promises to be an easy read.

However, bad writing has stopped me from buying a book outright. Think the Twilight Saga or the Fifty Shades of Grey trilogy (Gray? What country is this?). I picked up the books in a bookstore just to see what the hype was about. At around five to ten pages in, I would decide the writing was crap and the books wouldn’t be for me. I know sometimes this is an unpopular opinion (sorry Twi-hards!), but as my mom always says: Life is too short to read a bad book.

So, with that in mind, I extend my apologies to A Clash of Kings. This isn’t working out for me, and I’m thinking I should leave before one of us gets really hurt. Maybe we can try to make this happen some other time. Don’t call me, I’ll call you.

 

 

 

Guest post contributed by Michael Cristiano. He works in editing and acquisitions for Curiosity Quills Press, and his freelance work has appeared on websites such as Nexopia, FluentU, and BlushPost. Check out his blog for more of his work.

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24 thoughts on “5 Reasons Why I Leave a Book Half-Read”

  1. I am glad this is just one person’s opinion of reasons for putting a book down but I am sure we can all identify those self-same reasons and many others. Strangely though and I’m sure successful writers would agree, everyone is different, some like one style, others not, We need and appreciate this variety of taste.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Think we’ve all come across books we react like that too – different ones for all of us I imagine.
    “Thankfully, I have yet to read a book where the writing was so bad that I stopped reading.” Some of the books we had to read in school qualify here (for me) – the “Oh look at me I’m so trendy and can write like crap and say it’s intentional but it’s really just because I can’t write but everyone will buy this anyway” ones.

    I’d rather take a “few” errors and an engaging story, than a – put me to sleep – story with no errors…

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  3. LOVE your post, Michael! All your reasons make me put a book down, too. However, I am more brutal than you – I usually won’t trudge through as many pages as you do until I think “Enough!” Sometimes I can decide within about five pages. Hey, I know what I like and don’t like. It’s just gotta hook me and reel me in, and if it can’t do that, I’m gone. Life’s too short!

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  4. Great read. I actually enjoy novels that have a lot of description regarding setting and characters, and love being provided detailed flashbacks or backstories. But that’s just me and my need as a reader- it helps me to visualize the scene better.

    However I identified with this in that I also tend to leave books in the middle of reading them. Even books I love. Sometimes I’ll find a novel that makes my heart hurt, that introduces all these new feelings to me, and yet somehow I manage to forget about it later on.

    Thanks for sharing. Interesting piece as always.

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  5. Good points. I have abandoned some good books after reading a significant portion. Later I picked them up again and read to the end. I have no idea what made me stop reading. One of the best books I’ve ever read seems to go nowhere, or at least not far, for about the first hundred pages, then picks up and is a page-turner. I guess I stuck with it because I liked the characters, what they did was interesting enough, it was a pleasant read, and I believed it would be worth finishing. And because it was so well written. The slow start was appropriate. But whenever I recommend it to someone, I warn them about the slow first hundred pages.

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  6. I admit a book had to be pretty awful for me to put it down, simply because I don’t like leaving things unfinished. That said, there are things I’ve put aside partially read and then returned to some time later and found them amazing. Maybe I wasn’t in the mood for it the first time I picked it up. Maybe my life experience in the interim made it easier for me to relate to it. Maybe I just began to value different elements in literature. So even if I put a book aside, I rarely discount it completely.

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  7. Thanks for the great post and for analyzing your reasons for abandoning a book. The few times I’ve done it was because reading on became such a slog. It also helps that I avoid books longer than 350 pages.

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  8. You nailed it on all points!

    Every book is loved by someone, so it’s not unreasonable that someone didn’t love it … or finish it–even if it’s our all-time favorite book or … one we wrote.

    I commend you. 150 pages? Nope! Just not that patient or trusting something will eventually happen or I may actually begin to like the character (s). 😏

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  9. Some good points. I find I can’t continue reading a book when it’s full of purple prose. I just can’t take the story seriously when every tiny detail is made out to be some poetic triumph of the spirit. But then again, each to their own 🙂

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  10. My mom used to tell me when I was little to never leave a book unfinished but the older I got, the more I tended to do that. The reasons you have just given are exactly why. Sometimes I need some space from a book. Great post!

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  11. It just occurred to me: assigning an annotated bibliography to my American lit class–read a minimum of 2500 words from a reading list and for each book write one a one-paragraph plot summary and one paragraph of criticism (using only one page per book)–the professor said students were writing, “I hated this book,” “This is a boring book,” and similar comments in the second paragraph. “Then WHY do they keep reading?” he said. “If you don’t like a book, put it down and find something better.” But I often finish even bad books (see my comment above), because I want to know the end of the story.

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  12. Reblogged this on quirkywritingcorner and commented:
    I’ve had the same problem with a few books. One I read only 2-3 pages and could not get the characters names straight to want to read any further. It’s okay to have odd character names, but not every single character with at least 10 jumbled letters. One was Scztrblojrts. I’ll call him Scot. A few paragraphs later Scztrbjlmkzts was introduced. They were friends with Ltdfrzym and Lromtyzn. I realize it was a sci-fi piece, but give me a break. Another one is so overly descriptive it’s a joke. It’s in a large print edition but still, one sentence can take up nearly a whole page! The story has some interest so I’m still working on it.

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  13. You nailed it. Thanks for liking my article on “The Bar is Set Low – Very Low” where I make similar points. Even Best Sellers and Pulitzer Prize winners can be lousy. Great work, Continued Success!

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  14. It’s really hard for me to not finish a book, especially if I paid money for the copy. I still don’t do it very often, but I’ve discovered that if I’m willing to admit that I just can’t get into it, I end up reading more in the long run. When I don’t like a book but insist I must slog through to the end, I end up just not reading as often . . . . and it takes me a month to read a single book when I would have (in that time) finished four other books that I loved.

    Your list is right on for me as well . . . you listed the same reasons why I won’t finish a book.

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