There are very few books I have not finished, but in the past few years I have been more apt to not finish a book if it doesn’t capture or maintain my interest. I used to be particular about finishing any book I read because it felt like giving up. Luckily there were very few books I had to force myself to finish. Now I look back and wonder why I wasted the energy on a book I didn’t enjoy.
I remember the first book I never finished. I was about halfway through and took a long hiatus on reading it for various reasons. When I finally got back to it, I had forgotten most of what had happened in the first part of the book, which goes to show that the story didn’t capture my interest. Since I didn’t really remember what was going on, I simply set it aside and never picked it back up.
Since then, I usually will give a book about 50 to 75 pages before I make a decision to give up on it. If the book captures my interest, then I don’t even consider this, but if I’m struggling that far in I’ll set it aside.
These are the reasons I stopped forcing myself to finish books:
It’s not the right time.
Some times I know a book is good but when I go to read it, I find I’m not really interested at the time or that the subject matter is too prevalent with recent events for me to really enjoy it. This also happens with “classics” I intend to read because I know they are good if they have been around for decades or centuries, but perhaps I would rather read something more contemporary at the moment. I usually put it down within the first 20 pages to select a new book in these cases but intend to come back to it eventually.
I don’t care about any of the characters.
Unfortunately, there are some books that I just didn’t care for. Even if they are written by a large name in the literary world. Their stories don’t get me interested or I find their characters lacking. If I can’t care about the characters or what is happening, then why should I keep reading?
I can predict the story or I already know what will happen.
It can be easy to predict how some stories will end. This doesn’t make it a bad story, but it can make you lose interest if it is overtly obvious what will happen. Another point here is if I’ve been exposed to the story prior to reading. This happens in mainly one of two ways: I’ve seen an adaptation (likely film) or I have had something about the book spoiled for me by another reader. I usually will read a book before the movie comes out if I am interested in it, and I will sometimes read the book even after seeing the movie to see how the story differs. The latter is usually because I didn’t know the movie was based on a book. I usually won’t stop reading just because the story is predictable, but it can make the finishing stretch a little hard to push through. However, if I read a book that is hugely popular and it doesn’t capture my interest, I may give up on it or put it down to read later because it was a little over-hyped for me to read it at that time.
The size factors in or I’m not quite ready for another series.
There are times I’ll go to read a larger book and find I’m just not up for it, or I’ll think of starting a series and think I would prefer a standalone novel. I often find I prefer standalone novels for a while after finishing a larger series, or I’ll look for shorter books or novellas after reading a larger book or series. Bigger books/series can be commitments for me because I usually read only that series until I finish it. This is partly why I have developed the habit of reading two books at any given time. One is fiction while the other is non-fiction.
Pacing can really put me off a story. If nothing is happening or there are long hiatuses between important events, I can be tempted to simply set it aside. I don’t want to spend 50-100 pages on non-essential information. This is one reason I think so many people never read or finish Moby Dick.
It’s not the right story.
I usually have my next 3-5 books lined up to help me get through my TBR pile. They vary so I can switch the reading order depending on what I want to read next, but some times I go to start a book and realize that maybe I’m just not currently interested in this type of story. For example, maybe I go to start a science fiction book but realize I’d rather read a biography, fantasy, or collection of short stories. Again, I always intend to read the book in question if this is the reason I decide not to read it at the time.
I don’t like the writing.
Since I started writing stories myself with the hopes of publishing books in the future, I’ve begun noticing and sometimes scrutinizing the quality of writing in books. I never speak about the quality of writing publicly because I don’t believe in being nasty for the sake of being nasty and I know other readers like the book. But if the writing is poor, it can make it a struggle to even read the story. Luckily, this is very rare since books go through a long process before getting published. Also, a story can be good enough to overcome bad writing. I can’t remember who said it, but “A great story written poorly is still good, and a bad story written well is still bad.”
There are too many other books to read.
My TBR list only grows the older I get. Even though I am constantly reading something, I am also discovering new books and new authors faster than I read them. I know I will likely never be able to read everything I want to within my lifetime. This may be a little sad to realize, but it only solidifies my decision that I shouldn’t waste time on books I’m not enjoying. I find that if I am struggling to get through a book for any reason, I read less frequently. Therefore, it is important for me to be able to give up on any book that doesn’t capture my interest. It effectively is preventing me from reading a book I may love or one that may change my outlook.
There have been few books I have completed recently that I’ve not really cared for. Unfortunately, these were the first books I tried by authors who I’ve come to like. I was kind of bummed that I ended up not liking their work since I like them as people, but I may try another story of theirs to see if it was simply that one story that didn’t capture my attention.
I have only put down a few books in the past several years after reading the first 50-75 pages despite liking other work by the same author. It was usually content-related and I just didn’t care for the story or put it down to try again later on. The one that comes to mind right now is The Stand by Stephen King. I think this was both content related and pacing. I was about 70 pages in and it was still introducing characters. Also, pandemic/end-of-the-world scenario can be a bit of a bummer. And it is over 1200 pages long. I’ve always heard it is a great novel, and I may get to it eventually, but I wasn’t ready to read it at the time.
I’m happy to say that the number of books I haven’t finished is still really low. Probably less than 10 (maybe even fewer than 5), but that number will only grow. The few books I mentioned that I did finish but didn’t really care about the characters or story happened to be the first book in a trilogy, and I won’t be finishing the trilogy. There are just too many books I want to read. I hope you focus on reading books that you enjoy and put aside those that you aren’t eager to continue reading.