I started a book a little while ago that I thought would be too much for me. I almost didn’t even start it based on the covers (the picture on the front and the blurb on the back). (I freely admit it. I am a shallow reader. Pretty covers will get me to pick up a book I might not otherwise have read. Ugly covers will prompt me to not buy a book from an unknown author, and even some known ones.)
Anyway, this book I read. It was Netherwood by Michelle Lang, and the reason I will say which book is because it redeemed itself. Once I got a chapter or so in, the plot got me interested enough to keep reading. But it got me thinking about something that I don’t remember discussing on the blog before: when do you decide a book isn’t worth finishing?
I read somewhere that if a book doesn’t grab your attention within the first 50 pages, you should put it down and never look back. (The 50-page rule is, of course, assuming a relatively normal-length fiction novel. I’m sure similar rules apply for non-fiction, but length will have to be taken into account for children’s books or early YA.) I don’t remember where I saw this, because it was some years ago, but there was a whole article on the subject. Something to the effect of “too many fish in the sea to be bogged down in a book you don’t want to read” and “why beat yourself over the head with a book you don’t want to read” and “maybe it can help on nights you can’t fall asleep”. (Okay, I so totally added that last one.)
Since reading that, when books don’t interest me, I make a concerted effort to get to 50 pages and see if anything has changed by that point. Sometimes I make it to page 50 and still don’t like it, so the books goes on the DNF (did not finish) list. Sometimes I make it to page 50 and have gotten so absorbed I stopped counting, and I end up finishing the book. Sometimes I make it to page 30, decide I really can’t stand it, and call it quits anyway.
Other people I’ve talked to have said that even 50 pages is too much if they don’t like a story, but I feel that some plots/authors/styles just take a while to get warmed up. (On the other hand, with some writing styles you know after half a page when it’s not going to work for you.) Where do you stand? Is there any rule you follow, or does it vary based on the book, the genre, or your mood?