Abandonment Issues

15 Oct
My Eldest Daughter, Suzanne with Milk and Book by Carl Larsson, 1904.

My Eldest Daughter, Suzanne with Milk and Book by Carl Larsson, 1904.

What are your thoughts on leaving a novel unfinished? Some of you, I’m sure, will persevere through the most plot-holed purple prose imaginable. Others will have hard and fast rules — preferring to stop after the first page, or abandoning a book on the third chapter if they’re not really feeling it.

Apparently the rule for what page to abandon a book is 100 minus your age. For me, this means calling it quits on page 77. But I feel like the reasoning behind this rule is a bit morbid. Does it mean that as you get older, your days are numbered and you have less time to waste on bad books?!

The Copybot has a little tip for knowing when to call it quits:

You probably didn’t know this, but there’s an instinct to abandoning a book. Sort of like foraging for food. Except you are foraging for information. You are following a scent. An information scent.

And if while reading a book you lose that scent, you should stop and move onto something else.

Goodreads has a great infographic on the psychology of abandonment and it’s pretty interesting reading.

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What is it about a book that makes you put it down? These readers give reasons like “slow, boring”, “weak writing” and “when an author is committed to doing something I hate”. All valid points. However, I would never quit reading a book because I thought it was “immoral”, or “I didn’t like the main character”! ‘Lolita’, anyone?

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I’m actually guilty of abandoning 3/5 of the most begun-but-not-finished classics… and that’s only because I returned to ‘Lord of the Rings’ after the movies came out. However, there’s still time for me to go back and finish the rest!

I have read some truly awful books in my life. And I have started some truly amazing ones, never to finish them.

Sometimes, driven by the thrill of the conquest, I’ll feel like I’ve invested too much time to give up. And what if I miss something important?! There are potentially life-changing words in every abandoned book. Other times, I’ll just lose interest and put the book aside.

There isn’t really a consensus for what makes me read on to the final page!

What about you?

7 Responses to “Abandonment Issues”

  1. Alexandra Wilks October 15, 2013 at 10:21 AM #

    I always feel really pissed off if I finish a book because I thought something interesting would happen and it doesn’t. I feel like I’ve wasted my life! After an English Degree (reading loads of books I hated) I am really strict. If I don’t like it within about 40 pages, I’ll never finish it!

    • Stephanie Davies October 15, 2013 at 7:44 PM #

      I feel cheated if nothing happens by the end, too! 40’s a good rule.

  2. Demian Farnworth October 15, 2013 at 2:46 PM #

    Happy to report that the only book I didn’t finish on the Good Reads top 5 abandoned books is Ulysses, and that’s because I’ve never begun it. I’ll eventually get around to it. I would have to say, too, I would re-read all those above, too.

    • Stephanie Davies October 15, 2013 at 7:45 PM #

      I’ve only read one sentence from Ulysses … but to be fair, it’s the longest sentence written in the English language! So I think that counts.

  3. Rebecca Thomas October 16, 2013 at 7:53 AM #

    I’m a little too Obsessive to abandon books or even TV series once I’ve started them, but even that grim determination couldn’t get me to the end on “1984”!

    In my entire life that is the only book I’ve consciously decided “Screw this!” and walked away. I can’t think of a single page I enjiyed, yet it took me almost half the book before I decided to give up. I guess I just don’t have the willpower to be a quitter.

    • Stephanie Davies October 16, 2013 at 7:21 PM #

      I was the same!! I got halfway through and just never bothered finishing it. Couldn’t see why it’s such a classic :/

  4. Tracey October 18, 2013 at 11:35 AM #

    As I get older, I’m more likely to be able to bring myself to give up on a book. This might be because I’m less stubborn than I used to be, or perhaps I just know what I (don’t) want. I still abandon a book only very rarely. Once I’ve started it’s hard to give up on something. I did give up on ‘The Unbearable Lightness Of Being’ because I found it to be total arrogant nonsense, but I persevered with the Millennium Trilogy even though I found the first 250 pages dull and list-like. I’m so glad I read the rest of it – I suppose something about it kept me reading, perhaps my interest in the character of Lisbeth Salander.

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