I loved the book Anxious People by Fredrik Backman. I also loved Midnight Library by Matt Haig.

But…

I didn’t love either of them when I started reading them. I didn’t understand what was happening, I wasn’t into the characters, etc.

For me, both of these books were worth the journey. If I knew people reading them, and those people thought they were iffy, I would tell them to stick it out one more chapter- it was worth it…

So the question is, how do you know when it’s time to give up on a book?

I am not one to quit on a book. I figure if I was intrigued enough to get the book, I owe the author the courtesy to see it through. The last book I didn’t finish was “The Elegance of the Hedgehog” and I’d say I tried to read that at least ten years ago. I completely understand why someone starts and does not finish a book. Time is way too valuable to partake in something you just don’t enjoy.

But how do you know at what point to quit a book?

Some books have a slow build: this is intentional. The author is laying out a framework and they’re trying not to rush. This is often the sign of a good writer. Pace is important in a book. That is the case in both the books that I mentioned. There is method to the writer’s madness as to what is revealed, when it’s revealed and how it’s revealed. There is a careful outline in play. To move too quickly would disrupt the balance…it would take away from the craft of writing.

How do you determine if the book is a slow build, or if it’s just a boring book?

So here’s the questions for today:

  1. What’s the last book you didn’t finish?
  2. Why didn’t you finish it?
  3. What makes you stop reading a book?
  4. How far do you get into a book before you put it away for good?
  5. Has there been a book that you were iffy about but ended up glad that you read it till the end?

126 thoughts on “Give it One More Try

  1. I can’t think of the last book I didn’t finish off the top of my head, but I don’t shy away from it (unless it’s an ARC). If I am not enjoying a book by about 40%, I will give up (though I have quit some books after a chapter or two). Usually it’s a matter of bad writing or characters I can’t stand. Both of those are things that don’t tend to improve over the course of a single book, so if it’s bad to start with, it’s probably going to stay that way.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. I guess the greater question is, how do we define bad writing? I know I hate excessive description…too many adjectives to describe something and I’m lost. Now I’m going to overthink what “bad” writing is

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I don’t think there’s one definition for bad writing. For example, there was a book (a murder mystery) I read earlier this year where things weren’t very well described, characters were flat, and things just sort of happened without warning, but I wasn’t overly bothered by it. But I recognized that the writing wasn’t very good because of those things.

        The book I’m currently reading (an ARC, so I’m stubborn and won’t give it up) is desperately trying to be poetic, but the author doesn’t have the hang of it so it feels stilted and like they’re trying too hard.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. There’s nothing worse that a prose author trying to write rhythmic sentences and falling flat…I don’t like precious writing at all

        Like

  2. I think it was Hummingbird Salamander by Jeff VanderMeer. There was one more recently, but I can’t remember what it was. I quit because I just could not get into the story. I didn’t care about the characters enough to keep going. I didn’t connect with the writing style. I generally agree with my friends who say you give a book 50 pages and then quit if you don’t like it. I used to force myself to finish books, but life’s too short to waste time reading a book you don’t like.

    Liked by 9 people

    1. I just read them slower….but I read multiple books at a time. I always have what I call an easy reader that I read before bed…usually light and fairly innocuous. Heavier books I read one chapter a day max, unless i need to finish for book club

      Liked by 1 person

    2. I’m with those who say 50 pages and if it doesn’t get me, then, yes, I don’t have the time. BUT….I can say when I read the Talisman by Stephen King, it took 3 tries, and I did not get hooked until 300 pages into it. And I was glad I did. I took the book to work with me and hid it in my drawer at work and would sneak read during the day. I couldn’t put that dang thing down. It was a very good read. I think it was one of Stephen King’s best, if you are into his old writing.

      Liked by 7 people

      1. THAT IS ONE BOOK THAT LITERALLY CAUSED MY HEART TO PALPITATE!!! Especially about the part when Danny is walking down the hallway and that rolled up fire hose is all he can picture as he turns his back to it. He’s trying not to panic but he can sense it unraveling and snaking quietly but deadly behind him. Ugh. I could not read that book at night.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. I used to force myself to finish books because too many times they’ve picked up and pleased by the end. I’ve changed though. If I’m not hooked or at least interested in the first quarter, I quit. There are simply too many books out there—thousands on my list—to waste time on something that isn’t a fit for me.

    I recently DNF’ed a romance about a woman who falls for a homeless man. The moment she mentioned concern over venereal disease, I was out. The book was disgusting. 🤮

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I’m with those who say 50 pages and if it doesn’t get me, then, yes, I don’t have the time. BUT….I can say when I read the Talisman by Stephen King, it took 3 tries, and I did not get hooked until 300 pages into it. And I was glad I did. I took the book to work with me and hid it in my drawer at work and would sneak read during the day. I couldn’t put that dang thing down. It was a very good read. I think it was one of Stephen King’s best, if you are into his old writing.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. I’m going to have to add that one, Charley. Steven King is one I have to be in the mood for. I few years ago I dnf’ed The Outsider and ended up loving the Netflix series. I probably should’ve stuck with it, but the mitigation in the beginning turned me off.

        Thanks for sharing your thoughts. It’s such a lovely feeling to be hooked in a book! 😃

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I know, right?!?! And it’s such a feeling like a guilty pleasure and even better (?) when you don’t want it to end. I don’t think I’ve found quite one like that lately where I pick it up and BAM…. VORTEX!!!

        Liked by 3 people

  4. I love backman, but haven’t yet read this one. I decided years ago, to give up on books if they just don’t do it for me, and give myself to spend my book time reading others

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I still have this odd need to push through….but I completely get why people stop reading a book they consider bad. Though I admit I love writing about a book that I considered bad…

      Liked by 2 people

  5. First of all, thanks for being an avid read. Authors need people like you, and your ranks are thinning daily thanks to the mind and time suck of social media. I usually finish a book when I start it, but if it turns out I’m not crazy about the author, that’s the last book I’ll read by them. I’m currently reading John Grisham’s latest book and it is slow and really not that interesting. I’ve enjoyed all of his work in the past. It’s hard to keep punching books out like he has been doing and keeping them interesting.

    Liked by 7 people

    1. I’m like you…I’ll finish, but I won’t read by that author again. I loved Grisham years ago but, and this is going to sound petty, he used the phrase “kicky heels” way too much and I got so annoyed by how he described women’s shows I stopped reading him

      Liked by 3 people

      1. Oh my gosh. I put down Grisham years ago, and I just got a flash back on the “kicky heels” thing. How funny is that. I don’t think I can ever read one of his novels again because of the shoe comment. That’s funny how some people notice different details in books. Yes, I can not stand redundancy in reading!

        Liked by 2 people

  6. A man called ove. I’m about 50 pages in. I didnt understand how the author wrote about ove’s dead wife. Maybe I’ll try rereading the beginning to see what I missed. It didn’t really thrill me.

    Liked by 8 people

    1. I loved Ove, but the (Swedish?) movie was good too if you don’t want to finish the book. I’ve read that Tom Hanks is re-making the movie for the US market. But I could not get into Anxious People by the same author.

      Liked by 5 people

    2. Hey Chrissy. I’m at a similar page in this book. Right from the start when he talks about the wife though – I kind of figured she’s already dead. Maybe cause I went into the book knowing and expecting fully well that’s it’s about Ove’s idiosyncrasies. Did you finish it?

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Hi! No I didn’t. I am reading something else right now but as soon as I am done I’m going to try again. Maybe I am missing something if everyone else loved it.

        Liked by 1 person

  7. I know I am in the minority, but for me it was “Game of Thrones” I just couldn’t get into it, and it is a genre that I read all the time.

    Liked by 8 people

  8. I cannot remember the last book I didn’t finish – must have been years and years ago. I usually finish whatever book I pick up. BUT there have been a few I just couldn’t get through for a couple of reasons: I don’t care for too much detail, some people like that but I don’t. I just want to get on with the story. Yet, it really depends on my mood, sometimes I’m just impatient, other times the book just didn’t meet with my expectations. For the most part I do finish what I start, including books.

    Liked by 8 people

  9. I have some books I’ve started that I pick up and read a bit now and then. One is a journal type of a guy’s hiking adventures. I have to get back to that one. If it’s a book that I expect some kind of closure or exciting ending, I will usually push through the boring parts. I really need some mystery to keep me going. I lose interest if it’s just description and emotion. A Man Called Ove definitely started slow, but I ended up loving it. I liked some of his other books but the second one about the hockey town saga was a bit depressing, Us Against You.

    Liked by 7 people

  10. I have DNF’d way too many books over the years. I also read a ridiculous number of books, so the overall percentage of the ones I DNF is probably still very low in comparison.

    Usually I put down a book if there is something I cannot stand about a main character because I know that will color every bit of what happens in a book for me and I’ve yet to push through one that I end up liking the book in the end. I stop reading if there is something about the author’s writing style that I really dislike. Again, like the MC issue, it makes it impossible for me to enjoy the rest of the story, though it has to be a really big thing that bothers me. I will put down a book right away when I realize the book was mislabeled as to genre and it actually falls in one I don’t like.

    I’m not often a fan of books that require me to drill down through tons of layers or to make grand canyon size leaps to understand what the author is trying to get across. I think the genres I typically read in avoid those types of scenarios, but I do still see them pop up every once in a while.

    I have DNF’d books within the first couple of pages all the way up to about 75% in, so I don’t have a set point. I just get to the point where I realize that I just do not want to waste anymore of my time on something I know I’m, at the very least, not going to like, but will quite possibly hate.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. Wow. Up to 75%. It’s funny with tv shows…if I’ve invested a lot of time on them, I’ll continue to the end even if I think they’ve gotten ridiculous

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Exactly. Like A million little things is exhausting me. There COVID storyline is ridiculous, but I’m so invested I’m going to keep going

        Liked by 1 person

      2. That far in is extremely rare for me. Normally, I’m like you in that as most probably fall before the 20 or 30 percent mark. The one I can recall hit an epically ridiculous point after an already not great book. By then I was at the point where I really couldn’t care one tiny bit how it ended and decided to save myself from being even more frustrated and just put it down.

        Liked by 3 people

      3. I almost got like that last week…The Talented Miss Farwell. I’m guessing I skimmed the last three chapters because I was hoping for redemption

        Liked by 1 person

  11. Just last night, I gave up on Rachel Cusk’s new book, Second Place. It is receiving rave reviews everywhere, but it is just too slow-moving for me. The story is lost under all the self-conscious analysis. I know she’s a good writer, but I just don’t have the energy for her right now.
    I know just what you mean about Anxious People. I disliked the first 50 or 60 pages—didn’t like any of the characters and found the evolving plot frustrating. Fortunately, I’d read enough of Backman that I trusted him and kept reading. I realized later that he was deliberately making his readers “anxious people” like his characters. As he unwound the plot and revealed the truth about the characters, I grew to love both (and became less anxious). In the end, I was in love with every character and so very glad I had read it. My husband had the exact same reaction.

    Liked by 7 people

  12. I usually stick with books but if I’m not thrilled with them, it takes me a month to finish them. I’ll start a new book and if I like it, I’ll finish the new one first. There’s a book that comes to mind that I wish I would have stopped reading. Ann Patchett’s “State of Wonder.” I usually love her books, but after reading that one, I felt like I wasted my time.

    Liked by 6 people

  13. One more reason why I don’t read very many books..Way, way too dangerous–just look at all that potential for disappointment, boredom and regretful investments of time and money! 😂😉 With newspapers..you simply move on to the next article! 😆

    Liked by 3 people

  14. I couldn’t finish into the pleasure dome the memoir of John Taylor from Duran Duran..it was a jumbled boring mess, sometimes chapters were only one or two pages ?? I honestly don’t remember how long I lasted, I just know it was awful waste of money that I donated I believe to a library.

    Liked by 7 people

  15. The last book I dropped was Discomfort of evening. Made me feel so sick and depressed. Id read about 40% of it because it’s still hard for me to leave a book unfinished.
    Two books I regret not throwing down immediately are The English patient and The old devils! 😂

    Liked by 7 people

  16. I sometimes pick randomly new authors. I either love them or don’t. I skip to the ending. If the book is too predicable, I get bored. I am notorious for skipping to the end if I don’t like the book.

    Liked by 8 people

  17. I’m the type of person who doesn’t abandon books, like no matter how bad it is, I stay with it. With that said, a friend had been encouraging me to not finish books I don’t like. Ironically, same friend suggested a book to me that she LOVES. But I just couldn’t get into it. I read half and let it go. It’s called White Teeth by Zadie Smith.

    Liked by 6 people

      1. So, when does it pick up? I got to the part where the father sent one twin back home. I think after that the author spent an entire paragraph to basically say the mistress lady walked to the table (because she was a waitress where he was eating, I think).

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Ahhhh…it doesn’t really pick up…it’s more of the same. But the fathers shortcomings, the twins eventual outcomes…the other daughter….how our expectations can hamper us….I read it a few years ago and I’m trying to remember the interactions…it was a bit dense in places.

        Liked by 2 people

  18. Ahhhh, I was just talking about this with my brother-in-law on my trip to Los Angeles. He is reading a book that I recommended and was about to give it up, and I said, read 10 or 15 more pages before you do; because, as you write about, LA, I knew it was worth it. Now, for me? I can’t even remember a recent book that I didn’t finish because I was displeased with it. Once I begin a book, I will usually finish it regardless. This conversation reminds me of a Sci-Fi book I read years ago that took over 200 pages to get really good…..and, it was worth it, as the series was 11 books…

    Liked by 4 people

  19. The last book I didn’t finish was Jukebox Hero by Jason Stuart and I felt awful about not finishing it because it was sent to me as part of a blog tour. Over the years I have gotten pretty good a picking books that I will at least like enough to finish it so I very rarely DNF books. I don’t have a set amount that I set myself to read before I decide to DNF a book. I will pretty much push myself to read in until I just can’t do it anymore because at that point I’m not enjoying it anymore which means I will most likely end up in a slump. With my most recent DNF I DNFed it because I was just so confused because there was so much going on and it didn’t make sense and the language/writing style I guess just wasn’t working for me.

    Liked by 6 people

    1. I try to pick books that I will like as well, but sometimes a book is just bad, but I still hold on….I guess I’ve gotten things out of bad books too

      Liked by 1 person

      1. Oh yeah no matter how good you get at picking books you’ll like there will always be some bad ones that make it through because while they sound good the execution could be totally bad.

        Liked by 1 person

  20. First of all, I’m lost with acronyms. What is an ARC in this context? The last book I didn’t finish (got from the library, fortunately), was City of Girls by Elizabeth Gilbert. I really liked her last novel (botany is always a good subject for me). This one not at all. The characters and the situations just didn’t interest me one bit. Maybe got 50 pages in?

    Before that I couldn’t finish Wild. Everyone loves that book, but Cheryl Strayed just annoyed me. I might be willing to see the movie, though. Really like Reese Witherspoon.

    Liked by 5 people

  21. I was close to giving up on Midnight Library, but you recommended I continue so I did and was glad I had, as the ending was worth it. But Anxious People, I had to return, and put my name back on the library list……maybe eventually. I abandon anything with crude swear words in the first few pages, (including the current fashion to include in the title), otherwise I will give it 30 or 40 pages before quitting. Sorry but I’m a prude and I like proper English. I once volunteered to read someones first chapter which she had posted online, but it was so fully of crude language and swear words that I really had no words……other than this was her fifth attempt to publish a book and I felt she might have more luck if she cleaned up her vocabulary.

    Liked by 5 people

  22. I remember how I enjoyed books by C.S. Lewis and I had looked forward to reading “Surprised by Joy”. I eventually stopped halfway and never read it, even though I had enjoyed so many of his other books. I find now that I am less patient than I was in my 20’s. I give a book a good try but don’t hesitate to put it down. Even an author like Alexander McCall Smith doesn’t hit a home run always in my opinion. I am like diverse vocabulary and I reread what I think of the classics – Sherlock Holmes, and The Hobbit. One of the reasons I like supporting my public library is that I only borrowing and am willing to “taste” many authors in hoping to find a gourmet cook at the library buffet.

    Liked by 4 people

  23. Until fairly recently, I’d NEVER DNF’d a book. If I started, I’d finish – I’m a quick reader so… it never seemed like too great a chore. Then I read “A Fine Balance” by Rohinton Mistry and I just couldn’t finish. I tried again, and no. It even killed the love of reading for me, and I really struggled to find my way back. It’s strange as it’s totally my sort of book and people who share my taste in books absolutely rave about it, but I’m not risking it again. I probably go somewhere between 25-50% before deciding now, but fortunately DNFs are fairly rare as I choose carefully, for I am old and have not nearly enough time to finish my TBR 😀

    Liked by 5 people

  24. I used to stop reading a book if there were a bunch of characters and I got lost in who was who, etc. Probably missed out on some good reads. Now I literally take notes. Who’s married to who, or who is best friends, etc. As I get further into the book I stop needing the notes. I’ve always wondered if it was just me with that problem. I 😊

    Liked by 6 people

  25. I also loved Anxious People and also had a hard time getting into it at the beginning. I’m not sure I would have continued reading if I hadn’t loved his other books. I’m okay with not finishing a book, because I don’t really have time to waste reading books that I don’t enjoy. That being said, I do give it several chapters before I make that decision. I tried very hard to read “The Hobbit,” knowing how many people adored it. But that was one I didn’t finish!

    Liked by 5 people

    1. Oddly, last week I read a book that I thought was average, until I got to the last few chapters which I thought where awful. This week I’m reading something I loved, till I got to aboit the 85% mark and these final chapters are crushing

      Liked by 1 person

  26. I have given up on books before, but I can’t remember which ones. Life is too short for me to waste time with a book that when halfway through I just don’t care what happens to whomever because it hasn’t stuck with me or given me enough enthusiasm to finish it. I used to finish them all even if I didn’t like them, but not now. I don’t feel like I have to do it if I don’t care for the book (after I’ve given it a good shot). While I’m not in a book club so there’s not a lot of pressure for me to finish a book I might not care for, I do find the answers so interesting that evolved from your post! 🙂 Thanks LA

    Liked by 5 people

  27. The first book I didn’t finish was War and Peace in about 1974. I got lost with the characters and gave up. I then persisted with every book I started until 2016 when I started to catch up on the 100 Great Books to Read Before You Die. I gave up on Don Quixote. My only regret is that I didn’t give up sooner. https://quercuscommunity.com/2016/04/23/musings-on-mortality-and-muesli/

    Then I tried Moby Dick. I finished it, but I do feel that it could have done with some serious editing. I decided at that point that culture could do one and I would stick to crime fiction and history books. It’s a decision I have not regretted.

    Liked by 1 person

  28. I’m stubborn and will finish most of the books I start. I picked up one about a year ago, I knew the author, it was so bad I couldn’t finish, skipping to the last few pages I could see it ended as I predicted, it was formulated. I love books like Less by Andrew Greer! A great story, little pearls of wisdom sprinkled throughout, and ends with an unexpected twist! Brilliant, C

    Liked by 3 people

    1. Less was wonderful. Oddly, I read a book last week that was fine, but the last few chapters were so bad I skimmed the rest, hoping for redemption. And I just finished one I loved, except two chapters towards the end were so ridiculous and out of place within the context of the novel that I’m still unsure how I feel about it

      Liked by 1 person

  29. A lot of books that I don’t finish just fade away as I forget I was reading them (on my eReader) or they’re due back to the library and I don’t feel I have a compelling enough reason to put them back on hold.

    Actual DNF books tend to be ones where I can see where the author is going, but I’m not enjoying the book enough to invest the time and effort, or the concept was interesting, but the execution just isn’t working for me. I’m not a hate-reader, so I rarely finish books I actively dislike.

    If it’s a book that needs patience and room to build, I’m more likely to do it on audio so that I can feel a sense of momentum to help me along.

    I don’t pressure myself to finish most books. I have too much to read yet and I value enjoying my reading time.

    Liked by 4 people

  30. I try to get into the story and once I get it, I’ll stop reading..
    And yeah even if author brags like anything without content I’ll stop..
    Last book I stopped was “one indian girl” by Chetan Bhagat.

    Liked by 2 people

  31. I think I leave a book when I notice that there isn’t much of a good storyline in it or if they’re concentrating more on side characters. There are 1 or 2 works of Jane Austen which seemed pretty boring in the beginning but I’m glad I finished them because they’re excellent!

    Liked by 2 people

  32. Ok. I’ve got to blurt this one out. Well, there are two I loved. One I’m embarrassed, but not really. ILOVED the TWILIGHT series!!! I did I did!!! And THE THORN BIRDS. Both I never wanted to start, both I couldn’t put down. Oh… and Clan of the Cave Bear.

    Liked by 2 people

  33. Very insightfull.
    The book that I like is “THE CONQUEST OF HAPPINESS”, The poetry that I like is “AUGRIES OF INNOCENCE” by William Blake and Novel that I like “THE OLD MAN AND THE SEA” by Earnest Hammingway.

    Liked by 1 person

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