Friday, 4 June 2010

When should you stop reading?

What happens when you start reading a book and find out you're not really enjoying it? Should you stop? That might work if you have only read a few pages, but what if you've read a few chapters and are more than half way through? This is a dilemma that I am facing at the moment.

You can always tell when I love a book, because even if it's long, I finish it quickly. I find every spare moment to read. I will go to bed early, cup of coffee and book in hand. Not at the moment. It's been ten days since I started my current book, and I've read only 294 pages of a 487-page book. That might be fast reading to some readers, but that's very slow for me. I read on average 40 to 50 books a year.

As I've been mulling this over in my head, determined not to give up on something that I have invested time in, I keep coming back to what Stephen King advises in his book On Writing. Like all great writers, he believes that if you want to be a writer, you must read a lot, and widely. That we need to get lost in the stories we read. That by reading we learn what works and what doesn't. I agree with what he says. I've had moments where I've envied a brilliant idea or scratched my head at how awful another seemed. It's not that the book I'm reading is badly written - it isn't - it's just not captured my imagination.

In On Writing, Stephen King tells readers how on average he reads 80 - 100 books a year, which makes my figure of 40, and especially the average UK figure of eight, seem small. So do I give up and move on, or do I finish it and learn something through the process?

5 comments:

  1. dump it
    there are too many good books waiting to be cracked open
    and life is short
    I loved S.Kings book on writing
    though I'm not really a fan of HIS writing
    go figure
    what's the book?

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  2. If I Were You by Julia Llewellyn.

    I finished it Friday night, out of a grim determination to see it through. Although there were some parts of it I found clever and funny (especially the scenes between Sophie and podgy Olly), overall I was disappointed. It was the ending that was the biggest let down for me. Although both the main characters had dealt with their 'relationship' issues and moved on, I felt there were too many character flaws glossed over at the end to allow for the happy ending.

    Of course my opinion is subjective - I'm sure there are readers out there who would argue with me!

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  3. Hi Ellie.

    I do try to finish every book I start, but sometimes I just decide life is too short to struggle through something I'm not enjoying or that doesn't really 'speak' to me.

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  4. You are right, Joanne. Perhaps I should adopt a strategy - if it doesn't speak to me after three chapters, I'll pass?

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  5. I used to say - if I've started it I'll stick with it. But somehow a few years ago I was reading something that just didn't grab me no matter how I tried. I gave myself permission to stop. How liberating was that? I've given up on a few since then (though I often go back to them when I'm in a different mood just to see if I still feel the same way)

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