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At What Point Do You Quit On A Novel?

I touched on this last Thursday in regards to Naked Lunch.

I’m about halfway through the novel now, so I’m thinking I can force myself through the final 100 pages. But I came THIS close to tossing it out my car window a few days ago. THIS close.

I’ll give you a little more detail about the novel in tomorrow’s post. Today, I just want to focus on this question: How long should you read a novel before deciding to give it up?

Seems like everyone has a different standard. I’ve heard everything from…

  • a few pages
  • the first chapter
  • 50 pages
  • four chapters
  • 25% of the novel’s total length
  • don’t quit reading books you’ve started

That’s all over the place!

So how do you know when it’s time to give up? Do you go by a certain number of pages, or is it more about topic and tone?

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47 Comments Post a comment
  1. 50 pages with one exception, Lolita just 15. Life is too short and my reading list too long to waste my time on garbage.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 23, 2015
  2. Brandon #

    I gave A Dance to the Music of Time 33 pages. I gave Chuck Palahnuik’s book of short stories one short story. I gave Henry James a single tea party on the lawn.

    Honestly, I should probably be a little more committal… But if a novel hasn’t grabbed me in the first five or ten pages, I generally toss it. I have so many books on my to-do list that I don’t see the point of investing any more time than that.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  3. Terry #

    I think it depends on why you are reading the book. I struggled through Naked Lunch because of its cult status and knowing that it is has a dedicated following. I continued reading in hopes of seeing why it is a significant book and why people are drawn to the novel.

    In the end, I’m still not sure of the draw, which makes me want to pick it up again at some point.

    Liked by 4 people

    March 23, 2015
  4. Reblogged this on Fonte da arte.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  5. Juste Un Materialiste #

    When it comes to hard-to-read novels, I always remember Prep by Sittenfield…. it was awful and dreadful to read, but I gave it a chance and read about 25% through, and then tried it once again after a few months. No success.
    I usually give up after a few chapters, but it all depends on the topic, author, the hype and the importance of the book.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  6. I usually will read until books get too dull to continue. If it gets boring, I’ll put the book down and get a new one.

    Liked by 2 people

    March 23, 2015
    • I have done this too. Unbroken was the most recent and most surprising as it was highly praised for its excellent writing. I found it boooooring and the writing just.so.dull.

      Like

      March 23, 2015
  7. Lucille #

    I remember a suggestion to subtract one’s age from 100. The answer gave the number of pages to read before giving up on a novel. It seemed like a plan when I was younger, but at my advanced age it does not seem fair to an author to only read 28 pages. I recently gave up on Swann’s Way after 50 pages. A fellow book-group member suggested skipping to Swann in Love for a more engaging read but Proust had his chance with me at the beginning of the book and blew it.

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    March 23, 2015
  8. Years ago someone suggested The Rule of 50. Read 50 pages before you commit or abandon a book. I would say that you have passed that point. There are way too many books in the world to consider yourself a failure when you find that book distasteful. Notice I said distasteful, not boring.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 23, 2015
    • That’s an important distinction. If I find a book distasteful I have no qualms about chucking it.

      Like

      March 23, 2015
  9. I give up whenever I find myself not remembering what happened on the previous few pages.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 23, 2015
  10. It depends how much the book cost. Library books I can give up on, but generally, if I’ve bought it, I’m going to finish it. I have never regretted persevering with a book I didn’t enjoy, as it still had some use, if only in reaffirming to me what I really don’t like!

    Liked by 2 people

    March 23, 2015
  11. I tend to never give up on a book, and I use that phrase loosely. If it doesn’t grab me within the first quarter of the book, I usually tell myself to just get through it and invariably start reading something else in the meantime. This means that it sometimes takes me years to read a book, but I always try to finish eventually.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  12. I’ve never yet quit on a novel, but my own arbitrary line is twenty pages and two attempts.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  13. Reblogged this on blacklightmafia.

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    March 23, 2015
  14. I finish, mostly because I can push through and read pretty fast. Maybe plan a ritual burning or something so you have a goal (apart from just finishing) when you’re finished reading!

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  15. My rule is this. If it’s a struggle, stop. I read because I enjoy it. If I’m not enjoying it, I don’t read it.

    Liked by 2 people

    March 23, 2015
  16. I love Walker Percy so I took your 101 Books list to the library to find The Moviegoer. 100 pages in, I can’t stand the main character. And like Greg said above, life’s too short and the number of books in the universe is too log to read something that doesn’t bring enjoyment. Onto Brideshead Revisited.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  17. Lots of factors come into play: the amount of time I have, whether I have another reading option close at hand, whether or not I have pressure to finish, and/or just how bad it is. If it’s very poorly written/edited, I will give it very little time. If I just don’t like the subject matter, but I like the writing, I’ll give it a little longer. I don’t have a set number of pages as one of my criteria.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  18. It depends on why I am reading it – if it is a book that I’ve committed to read as part of a buddy read or something, then I will try to the point of nearly driving myself crazy to finish it. If it is just a pleasure read, then I give up if it just isn’t working for me. This doesn’t mean that I won’t go back and pick it up at a different time when it might work better for me.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 23, 2015
    • That’s true. Sometimes a book doesn’t work for you not because it isn’t good but rather that you weren’t in the right mindset to read it. That actually happens a lot to me , the most memorable one being Paulo Coelho’s Alchemist – I read it halfway through about 3 times before finally reading it completely and actually enjoying it.

      Like

      March 23, 2015
  19. Similarly to Paul above – if I’m reading a book and realizing I’m reading the same page or paragraph over and over without retention that’s usually when I realize it’s time to step away. Often I go back to abandoned books, but if I can’t get into it a second or even third time, I usually give up altogether.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  20. Reblogged this on fifteenthousandpages and commented:
    An interesting debate… As someone who admittedly and somewhat actively gives up on novels, I usually abandon books when I find that I’m rereading the same passage over and over without enjoying or retaining what’s on the page. What do you think, lovely readers? At what point is the right point to abandon?

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  21. Hmm I try to pick books I sort of ‘know’ I’ll like so I avoid this but I have encountered it before. I think I give it maybe 10 pages or so. That’s what I did with Rebecca. After the nth time of her imagining what might happen as opposed to describing what was actually happening, I gave up!

    Liked by 1 person

    March 23, 2015
  22. writerwriterwriter #

    When you realise you’re no enjoying it, give it twenty-thirty more pages and then decide.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  23. Jasmin #

    I don’t normally quit books, but it’s happened. I try to give a book 50-60 pages or so, but I didn’t even get that far in Frog Music by Emma Donoghue.
    However, I believe that part of quitting it was being disappointed. Her previous book, Room, got me very excited for Frog Music and I was let down. To be fair, the books are very different. But still, having high hopes does factor in to when I drop a novel.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  24. Once I know that the book isn’t working out for me, I give up. This can be anywhere from halfway through to a couple of chapters. Sometimes you just know that you hate it or find it boring. At that point, I figure why waste time on it. I have too much I want to read to spend it reading things I don’t like.

    Liked by 1 person

    March 23, 2015
  25. The Naked Lunch is like improvised jazz.. If you try to follow it note for note you become lost and disorientated. The trick is to follow its rhythm, not take it too seriously and then gain the overall picture. It’s a masterpiece because of its relationship to postmodern and modern philosophy and art/literature history and theory.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  26. If I’m not hooked by the first chapter, I’m putting it down. Most of the time, I will stop reading the book and then go back to it later and try another chapter. Usually I continue that process until I finally finish it or sometimes a miracle happens and a book picks up. There are also those times when a book starts out great then declines by the time I’m a little over half way through it. Ahhh that’s the worst because I don’t know if it might get better again or if it will continue to suck til the end.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  27. For me it depends on whether the writing AND the content is good enough. Sometimes I have loved the writing but been absolutely disgusted by the plot and stopped reading it after the first page, sometimes I have loved both of those things but suddenly the story starts to drag and the characters don’t behave like themselves etc etc at those times I have stopped reading the novel halfway through.
    But I believe at the end of the day what matters is whether you want to read it or not , because frankly my dear there is absolutely no use in filling up your poor brain cells with garbage.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  28. I used to read the whole thing, now I give it a couple of chapters. The last book I gave up was Gone Girl, but I saw the film last night and loved it – one of the rare instances where I thought the film was most definitely better than the book.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
    • Oh really? That’s interesting because Gone Girl was a pretty fast read for me. I hated the story because I’m really not into psychological thrillers. But I kind of thought it had a good flow with the writing anyway. 🙂

      Like

      March 25, 2015
  29. I recently gave up “At Swim-Two-Birds” halfway through. I was just LOST. It’s not that the writing wasn’t enjoyable. Flann O’Brien really could write a scene, and his dialogue has that ring of truth to it. But what was going on? Then, I did what I try NEVER to do before reading a book: I read a synopsis. NOW I get it, but I had no prayer of figuring it out from context. (The context keeps switching, and O’Brien doesn’t always tell you when it does.) I will pick it up again sometime, but I’ll have to start it over. The language is simple; the story is not.

    Gravity’s Rainbow also defeated me halfway through, not because I was lost, but because it was too dense. It became a chore to read.

    Like

    March 23, 2015
  30. I haven’t given up on many books in my lifetime. I guess I’m the eternal optimist, that if I read one more page, one more chapter that I’ll start enjoying the book.

    Like

    March 24, 2015
  31. Theoretically 50 pages, but if a book does not hold my interest it usually gets put on my nightstand to be revisited sometime. I have often found that a second attempt is valuable. Some of my favorite books I could not stand the first time I read them.

    Like

    March 24, 2015
  32. lia1990 #

    Reblogged this on The Roller Coaster Ride and commented:
    What do you think, when should you leave a novel alone.

    For me its the story line and how fast the story is going on.

    Nobody wants to read a novel to feel bored.
    You should always feel connected to the characters and the story, thats when you can’t quit on a novel.

    Like

    March 24, 2015
  33. The fear is that the book is on the verge of getting better or I’ve missed the crucial bit that would mean I’d be enjoying it more. Recently I read David Grossman’s To the End of the Land. It is an absolutely brilliant book but it has a 50 page prologue which irritated and bored me. I recommend it all the time but say all you have to know about the prologue is three children meet when they’re ill in hospital. Start the book with the first chapter then go back and read the prologue at the end if you want but don’t read it at the beginning!

    Like

    March 24, 2015
  34. I try to give the book 50-100 pages, depending on its length. I’ve only given up on three over my whole reading life–a book has to be REALLY BAD for me to not finish it.

    I almost gave Naked Lunch up, too. In fact, I probably didn’t absorb the entire second half of the book, I just read the words. That book is something else.

    Like

    March 24, 2015
  35. I always read my books till the end. There was this book, “Kenya Cowgirl” that I had started reading. I hated the first few chapters but was hoping it would get better. It never did. But even though I read the whole book and still didn’t like it, I had at least given it a chance. I think writers deserve that much. And if we’re gonna give it a negative review, I think we should read the whole book. To make sure the whole story, and not just a part of it, stinks.

    That’s my opinion anyway.

    Like

    March 24, 2015
  36. I had to figure this out last summer when I quit two books in a row. Usually I can plow through a book even if I don’t think it’s that great. These particular two, however, began feeling like a chore. There were other factors that played into why I quit them: ridiculous plot, pacing that was way too slow, and characters that weren’t relatable at all. I realized that if reading a book isn’t fun anymore and if I dread reading the next chapter, it’s time to chuck it.

    Like

    March 24, 2015
  37. It all depends for me. On the writing. On the characters. On the whether I liked the author’s previous books. There’s no set number of pages on when I decide when to quit. I hate not finishing a book though, so I always try to give it a few chapters more before giving up.

    Like

    March 25, 2015
  38. I’m the type of person who can read a book in a day if time allows. If I have to put that book down due to grown up commitments then I give it a week. If I can’t find time to finish a book within a week I know im not that interested in it and I dont finish it.

    Like

    March 29, 2015
  39. I have to finish the book, I feel like I have made a commitment and have to read on till the bitter end. Unfortunately I have regretted this level of commitment on many occasions!

    Like

    March 31, 2015
  40. Reblogged this on lebronneguggenheim.

    Like

    May 16, 2015
  41. Andrea #

    Books under 500 pages I give at least 50 pages. Books that are over 500 pages, I give at least 100 pages. I just find that the bigger the book the slower it will probably move.

    Like

    June 23, 2017

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