When To Give Up Reading a Story

About one and a half years ago, I began reading “Les Miserables” by Victor Hugo. I  got  half way but couldn’t keep on reading (see: Books To Keep You Awake). I liked the story and loved the characters, but I just  didn’t like the writing style. The book contains so much redundancy and scenes that I think add nothing to character, setting or plot. It’s such a slow read, I just couldn’t take another 700 pages of it, so I stopped.

But as I had worked through almost 800 pages already, I couldn’t make myself add the book to my GoodReads “Couldn’t finish” shelf and it remained on my “Reading” shelf for the next eighteen months. A few weeks ago, I decided that I wanted to finish it. I was still curious what the real story behind the musical is.

As I read I remembered why I had stopped in the first place. There’s a lot of show instead of tell. But hidden between all the redundancies and the author’s opinionated soliloquies are some great scenes that helped me to keep on going. I finished the book a few days ago and I finally moved it to the “Read” shelf.

It got me thinking though: when do you give up on a story?  I usually give a book a sporting chance, but defiantly quit before I get past the first 100. After that I finish the book no matter what, as my struggle with “Les Mis” proves.

How about you? Do you finish everything you start reading? Or do you quit a book and, if so, when and why do you usually give up on a book?

Vanessa

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5 Comments to “When To Give Up Reading a Story”

  1. Hi there,
    As to me, I usually attempt to choose a book I will be likely to finish. It takes many forms, but it all boils down to “falling in love” with a book. This more often than not works for me. This way perhaps two or three books are privileged to be dropped by me.
    Plus, I’m a pretty bad case of a bookworm who (a bit too) often comes back to some books. These days, however, I’m on the war path against this habit of mine. But I read pretty fast. The last book I dropped, no put off, is Rowling’s “Casual Vacancy” – though I know I am getting back to this book one way or another.
    Merry writing! :-)

  2. I often abandon any book that I find not well written or develops into a nonsensical plot etc. I can abandon a book 5 pages through, 50 or 200… doesn’t matter. The minute it stops working, it’s gone. I do give it a good chance though. I’ve also left a book for 6 months or a year and then managed to finish it if I still enjoy the writing and story. I guess I’ll repeat what everyone says: too many books out there and some are really worth reading :)

  3. Yes, I don’t slog, either. Life is too short, and there are too many books on my TBR pile. I haven’t finished War and Peace, but I’ve tried several times. Very telling about my character, eh? I admire the 101Books blogger who’s reading through all of Time Magazine’s top 100 plus Ulysses. He’s forcing himself to read and review them all, even if he doesn’t like them. He’s got more willpower than I.

  4. I no longer slog through books just to finish them. Life’s just too short. I give them a fighting chance, but if something really drags or it’s a real effort to get through it, I stop reading. Can be for any reason…from poor writing to it just not working for me on some important level. SOMETHING has to hit you, even if there’s a lot that does not. Sometimes, if it’s from someone I know/a friend, I’ll push farther, but even that has its limitations. Too many other books to read out there than to stick with a painful read….

  5. Hey Vanessa,

    I had to laugh because I read Les Mis when I was about 12 and loved it, but then I like comforting repetition. Years ago Reader’s Digest printed a version of this little ditty to let you cut to the chase: Jean Val Jean no evildoer / stole some bread ’cause he was poor / A detective chased him through a sewer. THE END

    I used to slog all the way through every book I started, but with age I’ve decided I don’t always want to spend the time if I’m not fully engaged. So now I do occasionally not finish a book but also try to be much more discerning about which ones to start and when I start them. Whatever I’m trying to write very much influences what styles of books I want to read and among the authors I adore I don’t always adore everything they write.

    I nearly just typed “Happy Thanksgiving,” and then remembered it’s a U.S. holiday. So Happy Thursday instead!

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