How Far Do You Go?

Brother Gilstrap mentioned yesterday that it was his job as an author of thrillers to give his readers a wild ride. ‘Tis true, of course, but it got me to thinking about what happens when we climb aboard a horse which we expect to be a stallion but which seems, at least out of the gate, to be a foal. It has happened to me, and I daresay at some point it happens to everyone who reads a fair number of books: the first couple of pages grab you, but twenty or so pages into the story you find that the grip is becoming looser by the paragraph.

My question to you is, how deeply do you go into a book before you check out? What is your line of demarcation? Do you give the author a chance to change your mind? Do you immediately hang it up? Or do you hang in until the bitter end? For me, if I’m not immediately enjoying a book by a familiar or favorite author, I go one-third of the way into it before I even think about calling it quits. If I’m reading a book by an author unfamiliar to me, it’s a bit more complicated. If the narrative (or my mind) seems to be wandering before I’m one hundred pages in, I may consign it to my “later” pile in favor of something more immediately appealing. The same is true if I have no idea what has been happening during the thirty pages or so I just read, or can’t recall, in the words of the famous limerick, who has been doing what and to who. At that point I tend to put the book down wet.

But what about you? How far do you go? A few pages? A few chapters? One-third? One-half? Or do you engage in the literary equivalent of speed dating: the story has to impress you in five minutes, or you’re done?


What I’m reading: The Emperor’s Tomb by Steve Berry. Worth reading for the mention of abiotic oil alone. And for so much more. Berry is a master of rendering the complicated and complex interesting and exciting. And yes, it’s a wild ride.