On My Bookshelf

When Is Too Much Too Much?

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?

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5 thoughts on “When Is Too Much Too Much?

  1. That’s a hard one for me: A) because I can learn something even from stories that aren’t working for me personally B) because I’m an emotional reader and sometimes I just need to wait until I’m in a mood more in line with the book

    To date, I can only think of one book I put down never to be picked up again.

    Covers might attract me initially but if the blurb on the back doesn’t pull me in it doesn’t matter how pretty the cover. And of course these days with e-books, a cover is even less of a draw for me. I think it’s because I like using my own imagination for the cover…I mean how many covers actually depict the hero or heroine the way you picture them?

  2. My second grade teacher told me to always give a book till chapter 3 and if it hasn’t captured your attention by then it’s time to move on. That’s always stayed with me. I also have a weird system where i’ll flip to the middle or so of a book and if I like what I read I’ll know it’s worth sticking with the book even though the beginning might not be that great.

  3. So many ebooks are novella length that 50 pages would be most of the book!

    If I don’t care about either of the characters by 1/3 of the way through the book, I’ll often stop. Unless the book is so bad I can’t look away…

  4. Nicole- I find I have less patience for a sappy storyline, or a boring set of characters- so sometimes by the second chapter I toss it.

    I used to read until the bitter end.

  5. I used to finish a book no matter what but……now I try not to. That’s a hard one for me too. Usually they have some redeeming quality. In one case, I read the whole thing just because I couldn’t believe it was so stupid.

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