I have a confession to make. Something that I feel more guilty about than I probably should: I’m forcing myself to finish a book that I’m not really all that into.
This book — A Fraction of the Whole. It came highly recommended from a friend whose reading instinct I trust (she also happens to be a fabulous writer). But this one… it just ain’t doin’ it for me. I don’t find the storyline all that interesting, or the characters all that compelling. It’s well written… but in my opinion, could’ve used a lot more editing. And the thing that’s really killing me? I knew pretty early on that I wasn’t liking this book that much. But based on the recommendation, I feel compelled to finish it.
Now, I know this seems a weird thing to feel guilty about. But I’ve wasted too many years forcing myself to finish books I didn’t enjoy. I think this is a leftover habit from college — when you’re a creative writing major, you read a lot of books. Not all of them are to your taste, but they’re all written by Important Authors. So you read them. You finish them. It’s the literary equivalent of vegetables; they’re good for you, damn it.
Nobody is going to get any points in heaven by slogging their way through a book they aren’t enjoying but think they ought to read.
Something clicked. The guilt of not finishing a book? Vanished. I realized how silly it was to painfully slog through what is supposed to be an enjoyable habit. These days, I try to follow Pearl’s “rule of 50”:
I live by what I call ‘the rule of fifty,’ which acknowledges that time is short and the world of books is immense. If you’re fifty years old or younger, give every book about fifty pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it, or give it up. If you’re over fifty, which is when time gets even shorter, subtract your age from 100. The result is the number of pages you should read before deciding.
50 pages. If I’ve read that much and am still not liking a book, I put it aside and deem it “not for me.”
However, it seems a lot of readers don’t have this mindset. Have you seen The Psychology of Book Abandonment infographic put together by Goodreads? 38% of people will finish a book no matter what. Once they start, they’re in it to win it. Also interesting: about 27% percent said they abandon books 50-100 pages in, based on Pearl’s “rule of 50”.
I am going to finish A Fraction of the Whole — both because my friend said the ending blew her mind, and because by now I’ve already read 400 pages of the damn thing. I can’t quit now. But, ironically, I will probably still feel guilty about not quitting.
What’s your “quitter” philosophy when it comes to reading? Do you stick it out until the end, or do you abandon with glee?
ETA: Last night after I wrote this up, I read a little further in A Fraction of the Whole… and hit the BOOM part I think my friend was talking about. Makes me happier that I decided to stick this one out.