For years I finished every book I started reading. Sometimes, it made me miserable. I take that back. It often made me miserable. Spending hours and hours wanting to run away from the characters in a book is a ridiculous proposition. Unless you’re in mid-flight and have nothing else to read—there is always an option. Close the book and pick up another one OR click ‘remove from device’ and select another electronic book from your queue. It’s as easy at that, but…
For years I resisted that option. I forced myself to read until ‘The End’ because I felt I owed it to the author. Somewhere along the line, my feelings flipped the other direction. I read, read, read knowing that, as an audience member, I have the option of walking out at any time. I can take a break and read something else, only to return in a different frame of mind, or I can hit ‘remove from device’ and never see that title again.
Do I feel guilty?
Nope. Sometimes I feel mystified. This is particularly a problem when a friend has given me the book and raised expectations that are busy being dashed with each sentence or when a book begins with great promise and goes stale quickly.
Since I’m a slow reader (yes, it’s true) I have a few fluid rules about reading. If it’s absolutely dreadful—badly written and mind-numbing—I give up as soon as I reach that horrible conclusion. This does not happen often, but there have been a few fantasy, vampire, horror and mystery novels that have met that very low bar since the beginning of 2015. I will not name names here, but the list is a mix of books put out by both conventional publishers and indie authors. I’ve bailed by chapter three.
Most of the time, I read until I’m a third of the way through the book. By then the writer should have captured my attention and made me care enough to read until the end. If not, I’ve given the story enough of my time—no harm, no foul.
This goes for non-fiction, too. I’ve noticed that a fair number of non-fiction books have fantastic first chapters and crumble a few chapters into the manuscript. Knowing that non-fiction is often sold to publishers via book proposals that include a sample chapter and a detailed outline, I’m concluding that the first chapter gets a great deal more attention than the rest. Um… Maybe that’s how I’ve been hooked into so many non-fiction books that wind up on the disappointment list?
What about you—do you read all the way to ‘the end’ every time?