Reader Friday: Setting a Book Aside

“This is not a novel to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.” – Dorothy Parker

What are some things that make you set aside a book? Or are you a compulsive book finisher?

21 thoughts on “Reader Friday: Setting a Book Aside

  1. The majority of time I’m still a compulsive finisher. I remember being flabbergasted when I found out people didn’t finish the books they started. LOL! But I have “lightened up” over time.

    Honestly can’t think of a time that I didn’t finish a novel that I started (not unless my library loan time ran out). I’m probably helped in part because I’m super-picky about what I’ll read anyhow so I’ve usually done some screening before I start. There was one book I read whose back cover content and character focus was not what was between the covers, but I even finished that, although cranky.

    For lack of time, I’ve learned to skim non-fiction that doesn’t fully engage me. A big change from my literally reading cover to cover days. I’m reading a nonfic now whose title reflects a complex subject, but that ought to be dealt with in a straight forward manner, yet as I’m reading it, it contains so many nonsense pages that I’m skimming 95% of it. It is overwritten and I’m losing patience for non-fic writers who don’t get to the point.

  2. This is a great question. I’m looking forward to others’ answers!

    If someone asks me to read a book, like my BFF wants me to experience her fave writer or an author gives me an ARC to review, I’ll push through the book even if it’s horrible. But if I get a book on my own, I can think of four reasons I’d set it aside:
    1. The names are too hard to pronounce and remember.
    2. The protagonist whines and complains and instead of being determined.
    3. The writer uses too many contemporary language devices in order to be hip and cool or appeal to a younger crowd. I recently set a side a book that had a bazillion f-bombs. The language got in the way of the story.
    4. There is violence that seems to be in the story only to shock or gross out the reader instead of being a necessary part of the plot.

  3. I used to be more of a compulsive finisher than I am now. Lately I’ve started embracing, “Life is too short to read bad books.”

    There are generally two things that make a book “bad” to me. First is when the author preaches his or her attitudes at me – for example, dumping characters with modern attitudes into historical eras with no explanation and/or no ramifications or story consequences.

    Second is when my disbelief can no longer be suspended for whatever reason. I’m thinking specifically of a book I threw away in an airport. It was a thriller by an author I hadn’t read before, and in it the FBI threw a black hood over the main character’s head and tossed him into a van without a warrant, due process, or even an explanation to the reader as to why this happened… I admit, I read another chapter or so waiting for an explanation – or at least consequences, as this happened in the age of cell phone videos and YouTube – and when I didn’t get it, the book went into the recycle bin.

  4. I’ve become a book snob. The number one reason I set a book aside is due to pace. If it’s too slow my mind wanders. With such an enormous TBR list, if the book doesn’t hold my interest, I move to the next one. Life’s too short for bad books.

  5. I stop reading if I lose interest in the story or the characters or if I don’t want to spend any more time with the narrator. Recently this happened with Lionel Shriver and– I hate to admit–Thomas Pynchon. Just couldn’t take another minute.

  6. I’m mostly a compulsive book finisher. For some reason I feel the need to give an author the benefit of the doubt. He or she created a work and I should experience that work to it’s fullest to understand what the author was trying to say (I also don’t walk out of movies for the same reason, and I insist on watching all nine seasons of Roseanne straight through even though most people say the show ended after season seven).

    That being said, I have judged several contests where the books were so bad I couldn’t force myself to slog through them. Mostly, though, it seems I stopped reading due to pacing issues, suspension of disbelief (specifically in regards to insufficient research on the author’s part), or zero editing.

  7. I’ve set books aside because of too much foul language, boring plot, and a scene that grossed me out to the point I never read another book by that well-known author. His other books hadn’t been that graphic.

  8. I’m a compulsive book-buyer but won’t continue reading if:
    (1) I can see what’s coming a mile away (I’m looking at you, The Woman in the Window)
    (2) it’s falling into a tired old pattern – kidnapped child, crusty policeman, woman finding herself when she returns home to the beach house she’s inherited from her loving grandmother, etc, The book blurb makes it sound different but once I’m inside, nope, it’s the same old, same old
    (3) the writing itself is ponderous and too on-the-nose. I think I secretly fear it will seep into my own writing. Plus it’s like slugging through mud to get through

    A shout out to a book from last year that had none of these issues: Missing Presumed – by Susie Steiner. From the outside, a standard police procedural. Inside? fully-rounded characters who I hated to see go. And gorgeous writing

  9. I have 19 books in my Goodreads list in the unable to finish category. The ratings from others for those books range from 3.25 to 4.38. The vast majority of them are from bestselling authors (Flynn, Nesbo, Connelly, Penny, Ngaio) and I’ve loved other books by them. There are 3 things that will make me quit a book 1) too much violence or torture, 2) Silly or slow protag, 3) Story is too slow or the writing too ponderous.

    I’m with Sue in that there are so many good books, why waste my time if I’m not enjoying one? That’s my standard for both fiction and non-fiction.

  10. I agree with many of the preceding comments. One factor that seems to have slid by is whether the book is a loan (from a library or a person), a purchase, or a “freebie.” If I don’t care for a library book, I tell the librarian so he/she can add my comments when someone else asks. When a friend suggests I read a book, I’m going to either finish it or tell the person why I didn’t (might depend on how good a friend I consider them). When I invest in a book, I read at least half of it before giving up. Then I may read the first page of subsequent chapters to see how it comes out at the end. If I got it for free (or nearly so), I’m more inclined to invoke the “life’s too short” judgment and delete it from my e-reader.

  11. I don’t set many books aside. I’m careful about what I choose to read. I tend to eschew best sellers especially the third and fourth in a series. I like offbeat, little known gems.
    I’m reading a real gem called Forty Words for Sorrow, a Canadian mystery by Giles Blunt.
    If I do set one aside, I always give them another chance. The last one I gave up on after two attempts was Girl on a Train. The main character was boring.
    Note to self: Don’t buy books with the word “Girl” in the title.

  12. I recently set aside a book by a best selling author because he head hopped POV characters so much, even within the same paragraph, that I couldn’t keep track of who was talking, thinking, or doing.

    I set aside another book by a best selling author because the pacing was so slow. The premise and beginning were interesting, but the story came to a screeching halt for forty pages when nothing happened. When the talking cheese appeared, I closed the book for good. I tried two other books by the same author and finally gave up.

    I am particularly picky about archery and weapons. Too many writers take what they see in Hollywood and put it in books. Bows don’t creak! Swords don’t sing from their sheaths! Those are Hollywood sound effects that have little or no basis in reality. Defying the physics of any weapons technology is off-putting unless there’s a magical reason for the laws of physics to be set aside. Those things will kick me out of book.

  13. The one thing that makes me set aside a book is too many characters in the first few chapters, and I can’t remember who is who and what they did.

  14. I was always a book finisher, until I came upon Cujo. At the time, my son was four, and I had to get out of that book–and away from the horror of the story line. But kudos to King, once again, for his powerful writing. Lately, I started My Absolute Darling, and I was absolutely appalled. Could not do this. …I am also a picky reader, and I have my faves…James Lee Burke, Lippman, Hiaasen, Lehane, Patchett, all the Anns and Alices so I look forward to their latest. They do not disappoint. But I will always give a book 30 to 50 pages before I set it aside. Sad. I hate to do it after knowing what the writer has gone through to get the thing published. I’ve walked in those moccasins.

  15. My setting-aside requirements change a lot. Last year, I slogged through quite a few books of a series–and looking back I have no idea why–but then completely stopped when the main character started screeching and wailing that her life would end if she didn’t learn how to drive right now. As someone who can’t, never dreamed of it and never will, I just couldn’t stand it.

    Usually, I would pick up a book, read the first chapter or so, then decide that I will read more later and that I should write instead. I might visit it another time, but mostly I forget about it until I want to clean out my library.

    Like other people said, whiny characters, slow pacing, sometimes way too fast pacing that I don’t know what’s going on. I also don’t like bars scenes at the beginning.

    Then there are books that I wouldn’t mind reading if it were assigned in English class, but I am just not motivated enough to read on my own.

  16. I tend to screen books before reading them. I read about four books a week, and I know good writing when I see it. When I read a book, I want to escape to another world for a little while. For me, that can’t happen if I feel the need to edit the book as I read. (I am happy to edit books if I pick them up for that purpose, but there’s a time to work and a time to relax.) I read books by writers who break “the rules” but only if I am familiar enough with the writers to know that they are breaking the rules deliberately (and not because they don’t know what they are).

    Assuming a book passes my initial screening, the biggest reason I’ll put a book down is if it lacks narrative thrust. Sadly, there are books that have great beginnings and then they fizzle.

    Also, I’ll put a book down is if it doesn’t deliver what the cover blurb promises. For example, once I was looking for a book to take to an elderly lady who was in the hospital. I picked up a book with a cover filled with hearts, flowers, and honey bees. The book ended up having material in it about Nazi concentration camps that wasn’t mentioned anywhere on the cover. Thank goodness I read the book before giving it to her. She would not have appreciated the subject matter. The tone of the cover material should match what’s in the book. This may not have been the fault of the author. Usually, the publisher handles that kind of stuff.

    Another time when I was looking for reading material for a friend who was in the hospital, I picked up a book with a cute little cupcake shop on the cover that appeared to be a sweet romance. Not far into the novel, the heroine was in the hospital and had lost her toes. I do think protagonists should have lots of obstacles. However, the obstacles should by appropriate for the genre. The cover material of the book should not trick the reader into believing a story will be light and happy if there’s any kind of “ick factor” stuff in it. There are times when readers want heavy reading material, and there are other times when readers are going through challenging times and need lighter reading. The cover material of a book should prepare a reader for the tone and genre of the book. Enough said about that.

    Of course, I want a worthy protagonist, and I prefer a strong voice.

    There are lots of factors that go into making a great book. If I’m reading a book and discover that the writing isn’t as wonderful as I’d hoped, I won’t force myself to read until I get to the end. I don’t like to stop reading a book midway, but on rare occasions I do.

  17. I have this editor whispering in my ear (She looks a lot like my older sister) saying: “Get real. No one is going to read that!” After about 20,000 words, I give in and throw it against the wall.

  18. Exposition, exposition, exposition
    “Instant classic” on the cover
    Typos, grammatical errors
    Lack of coherent plot
    Writer takes no risks
    People who sparkle
    Gouged eyeballs
    Precious prose

Comments are closed.