General Question

jamielynn2328's avatar

Once you start a book do you finish it no matter what?

Asked by jamielynn2328 (4722points) July 13th, 2009

A lot of my books I purchase from a used book store. Sometimes I have a specific book in mind that I am looking for, but often times I chance it and pick something that looks interesting just to try out new authors. The book I’m reading now is well written and I love some of the prose, but I’m not interested in the story line.

The problem is that once I start something I feel obligated to finish it. I know this sounds a bit odd, but I’ve learned that sometime you have to give it a few more pages. Does anyone else have this problem? When is it time to put a book down? Is there a certain magical number of pages where you can safely assume the book has nothing to offer? I’ve read books I hated all the way to the end and then felt like i’ve lost precious hours of my life.

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47 Answers

La_chica_gomela's avatar

I’ll usually finish it, unless it’s really horrible, like I Hope They Serve Beer in Hell. That should come with a warning label… “Do not use this product with food. You WILL want to vomit.” something along those lines. ugh. No wonder whoever sat in that seat on the plane before me left it there…

ShanEnri's avatar

I try really hard to finish. One book took me a month to read! I figured after that one, that if there were any others, I’d suffer without knowing the ending!

emmalily's avatar

I stop reading whenever reading the book feels more like a chore than an escape. I read as a form of escapism, so whether its three pages in or 300, I’ll put it down and find something I like better.

Dorkgirl's avatar

I have kept books that I have been unable to finish for years (and years and years), picking them up periodically believing that I would get through them “this time”.
The reality is that some books are unreadable for me and I’ve learned to give myself a break. If I try a couple of times to get through a book, I resell it or donate to the library.
Reading, for me, is a fun pastime and I no longer feel compelled to spend my time reading things that I don’t enjoy.
Kind of like a stinky DVD, why keep watching a movie that you’re hating? Turn it off and return it to Blockbuster, then tell your friends how awful it was!

Jack79's avatar

Was thinking about that last night. Yes, I generally finish all books, even if they are boring.

Exceptions:
1) The Silmarillion, which I don’t really consider a book, at least not a novel which was what I expected. I have kept it as reference but didn’t read it.
2) The Fifth Mountain, which sort of ended my Coelho phase abrubtly. I was reading something else at the same time, and stopped this one, and never felt the urge to start it again. I had already read most of his books and felt it had nothing new to tell me.
3) “Special Topics in Calamity Physics” by Marisha Pessl, which I’ve really tried to read because everyone in the world seems to think it’s a masterpiece. But I just don’t get it. Even after it was clearly explained to me what she was trying to do and what the novelty of this book is, I still don’t get the point. Yes, ok, she’s talented, but where’s the plot?

I also haven’t finished Roverandom (also by Tolkien btw) but I’m sure I’ll do that as soon as I find some time. It’s just not a page-turner, that’s all. But still interesting.

tinyfaery's avatar

Not if it’s fiction. If a work of fiction does not grab my attention in the first few chapters I never finish. That’s why I usually go to the library to discover new authors and books.

Jeruba's avatar

No. If I don’t like it, I’ll usually give it until halfway through and feel that that is a fair trial. But if the author annoys me enough (such as with a persistent grammatical error), I have no compunctions about ditching it by the second page.

Facade's avatar

Not at all lol

cak's avatar

No. If it is completely horrible, I’m not going to continue reading the book. Why waste the time? I haven’t done it often; however, am not opposed to ditching a terrible novel. :)

fireinthepriory's avatar

I have ditched a few… Usually about halfway through, although occasionally I’ve gone almost till the end. When I find another book that I reeeally want to start, that’s usually the endpoint if I’m reading something totally unenjoyable.

Tink's avatar

Only if I really like the book, I can finish it in a day

Lupin's avatar

No. If I don’t like it, it’s gone. Life is too short to waste on junk.

marinelife's avatar

I guess what I thought of as an odd tic is pretty common. I also feel the need to finish unless it is absolutely unbearable. On the other hand, I am careful about what books I start and my tastes are pretty broad.

I probably have a handful of books in my life I could not plow through. Most recently it was Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrel.

BBSDTfamily's avatar

Not if I don’t get into it in the first chapter. If they can’t hook you in a chapter, the book is probably boring, predictive, or drags out with no real peak….. this is why I stopped reading Danielle Steel!

syz's avatar

It has to be pretty awful for me not to finish it. I’m such a bookworm, I’m usually desperate for something to read, so it has to be bad for me to give up on it.

Gundark's avatar

Most of the time I feel compelled to finish. But then, I rarely pick up books without strong recommendations or reasons for reading it, so perhaps that’s not entirely a fair trial. And I’m not a speed reader by any stretch, but I read fast enough that if I do happen to pick up a novel that’s bad, it’s not going to waste a ton of my time finishing it off anyway.

But having said that, I have upon rare occasions ditched books. One of the first I remember ditching was actually a pair. I picked up “The Tower” and “The Inferno”, probably 30 years ago, which together were the basis for the film “The Towering Inferno”. They both stunk, and I ditched them both after about 25 pages.

kapuerajam's avatar

One of the only books I started but didn’t finish was Tex (pages 12–27 were missing)

EmpressPixie's avatar

No. If it’s really bad, I will put it down. I’d rather not waste my time. But I do really make an effort before deciding it is really bad.

Nefily's avatar

I rarely put down a book without finishing it but there is always that one really dry book you think you will get into after the first chapter and its still dry and you think well maybe the next chapter will be good and its still dry and then you realise nope this book just does not appeal to me and you place it down. Atleast thats what I do, I give the book a few chances, but sometimes….

The_Compassionate_Heretic's avatar

If I don’t like reading the book, it get’s put away and I have a high tolerance for books.

arnbev959's avatar

I’ll give a book 30 pages before I give up on it, but I don’t mind tossing it aside and looking for something better if I don’t find it interesting, or if it’s too annoying to read.

discoinferno's avatar

@La_chica_gomela
Okay, HOW THE HELL could you NOT finish “I hope they serve beer in hell”? Granted, it’s horribly vulgar, crass, disgusting, and made me have slightly diminished faith in the human race, but my God, was it entertaining.

As for the OP, yeah, I pretty much finish any book I start. Unless it was a time constraint for English class and I just sparknote’d most of it. If it’s bad or hard to get through, I just take my time with it. I’ll read smaller amounts at each sitting.

gilgamesh's avatar

not necessarily, I may, for instance, read a novel which I greatly admire but soon lose interest as another novel may take up my attention. I will put the book down for the time being and resume it later. Some novels I just can’t find the time during school days. War and Peace was too time consuming during high school.

La_chica_gomela's avatar

@discoinferno: Exactly. More importantly, it had absolutely no literary value.

casheroo's avatar

I can’t stand not finishing a book, and won’t start a new one until I finish what I’m reading. I started Slapstick what seems forever ago, and never finished it. I should do that so I can read my stack of books….

cyn's avatar

If it doesn’t have any pictures….I’m not interested and I’ll put it down.

Supacase's avatar

Almost always, but I have found I do it less now that I have less time. I want to enjoy what little reading time I do have.

doggywuv's avatar

To be honest I don’t know how many books I’ve started reading and never finished. Oh well, it’s better than not reading them in the first place :)

May2689's avatar

Yes, I cant leave things unfinished.

Darwin's avatar

I like to think that in a perfect world I will choose what I read so carefully that I will always be able to finish every book I start. However, I have discovered that if the trip along the way isn’t interesting it isn’t worth my time. I’ll read the last chapter or two and then put the book down and forget where I put it. This often happens when someone tells me “You simply have to read this book!” Whatever it was that caught their fancy flies right over my head.

In fact, as I have gotten older, I have discovered that it is possible to even walk away from a lackluster movie and never find out what happens. When I was younger I could never have done that, but somehow, through experience, or ennui, or whatever, I have been able to learn to walk away without finishing things, including books, movies, arguments, or whatever.

jamielynn2328's avatar

This is strange to me, I agree that I should not keep reading a book that I am not enjoying. But I find it impossible to give up on it. When I asked this question, I thought you would all tell me to put the book down, and I’m surprised to learn how many of us book lovers hang on till the end, even it is horrible.

evelyns_pet_zebra's avatar

I read almost all of Mein Kampf, except for the last thirty pages or so. There are more grammatical errors in that book that there are burrs in a feral dog’s tail. That was ten years ago, and I still think I may pick it up and finish it. probably not, though. I rarely read fiction, unless it is funny, sexy or totally engaging. I have recently picked up Anne Rice’s The Vampire Armand, and it makes me want to read the rest of the books in the series. That woman is one awesome author. Right up there with John Varley.

CMaz's avatar

If it is a bad book, I will speed read it.

MacBean's avatar

@petethepothead: 30 pages!? That’s like only giving a movie ten minutes before tunring it off. You can’t get a good feel for a book in 30 pages.

I’ve only recently given myself permission to put down a book if I don’t like it, and I’ve only done it twice. I still refuse to give up before I’ve read at least a third of a book. And if I can, I still prefer to finish, because I don’t feel justified in giving negative reviews or recommending that someone not read something unless I’ve read all of it. That’s why I read all four Twilight books.

Darwin's avatar

@MacBean – You must really hate yourself. One and a half was enough for me.

MacBean's avatar

@Darwin: The kid who made me borrow them gave me the first three all at once, so it’s not like I had to go out of my way to get my hands on them, and they don’t exactly take a lot of brainpower to read. XD And after reading a few reviews of the fourth one, I had to read it for the lulz, so I borrowed it as soon as she and her sister finished it. What a train wreck.

Bluefreedom's avatar

It’s going to be a ‘no’ for me also. It has to be material that is going to keep me stimulated all the way through. There hasn’t been many occasions where I’ll quit a book before finishing but when it has happened, there was no set number of pages or chapters of each book that was my stopping point. When the negative vibes get to be too much or my interest completely wanes (more of the latter, less of the former), it’s time to find a new book.

FujiokaHaruhi192's avatar

MOST books I find myself feeling that I absloutely have to finnish it, but I often don’t finnish books if I am told to read them. I get bored. But otherwise I normally do finnish all books I read no matter what. :P

FujiokaHaruhi192's avatar

Also I was like you with the book Hatchet. DX I did end up not reading it, it just bored me too much, but like the book you are reading it was written very well. I do recommend getting at least half way through any book before giving up. I read Uglies by Scott Westerfield, and found it boring in the beggining but now I am so glad that I finnished it because I loved it! But if it’s really that bad then don’t bother, there’s no shame in puting down a book that just doesn’t grab you. For some people to love things other people have to loathe them.

OpryLeigh's avatar

No, life’s to short to force myself through a book that I am not enjoying.

janbb's avatar

As I’ve gotten older, I increasingly give my self permission to stop reading a book I don’t like. I trust my taste more and there are so many books out there that I would love but not have time to read; it is not worth wasting my time on something that isn’t working for me. If it is for a book club or a recommendation from a friend, I will give it more time, but still will quit it if I hate it.

I heard an interesting rule from a librarian some years ago. She said, “Take your age, subtract it from 100 and that’s how many pages you give a book to see if you like it.” Someone else suggested opening a book on page 50 and reading it and seeing if you like it from that. I can generally tell within the first 10 pages or so whether I’m going to enjoy a book.

mtirado's avatar

I have a 100 page try to any book I read, If after 100 pages I still don’t feel I can finish it it’s done!

sakura's avatar

I try to finish it, but sometimes I may read another one at the same time, one to enjoy one to just find out what happens!! And if it carries on being rubbish!!

arnbev959's avatar

@MacBean: I’ve found that I can usually get a good feel for a book by reading only the first 30 pages. It’s more about the style of the writing than it is about the plot. (I won’t put a book down simply because there isn’t much action in the beginning.) With so many books out there, I’d rather move on to something better than read something I don’t like.

And besides, if I read as far as the first ⅓ of the book, by then I would feel obligated to finish it.

bea2345's avatar

It happens sometimes, that you can’t. I once started a bodice-ripper that I could not finish, the writing was so unbelievably bad.

plethora's avatar

When is it time to put a book down?

The moment you lose interest in it. I read A LOT. I figure there are more books out there than I will ever get to, and I rarely have a problem finding one that is interesting. And if it hasn’t got me in the first few paragraghs (fiction) then I drop it.

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