Tag Archives: reading habits

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?