When to put a book down and why is a contentious topic with almost as many opinions as readers. My father, for instance, never puts down a book. He will read it until the end no matter how much he dislikes it. I’ve seen a rule floating around that if you’re under fifty, you should give a book fifty pages before giving up. If over fifty, subtract your age from a hundred and stop there.
My personal opinion is that I only have so many hours left in my life and I don’t want to waste them reading something I don’t enjoy—unless, of course, I’m obligated to read it. Below, I list what makes me throw in the towel. I hope this will help both my fellow writers to avoid these errors and readers who are faced with the difficult question of when to put that book down.
Years ago, I was reading a fantasy novel about dwarves marching off to war. Every night, they would camp and drink tankard after tankard of beer. This had me thinking numbers. There were four hundred dwarves, marching for two weeks, each drinking a minimum of a quart of beer (probably a lot more) each night. That meant they would need at least 1,400 gallons of beer, roughly 27 large barrels worth. And yet, there was no mention of this. The army in fact “traveled light” other than their weapons and war machines. I realize fantasy requires some suspension of disbelief, but come on!
Even in this modern age (or possibly because of it), typos still abound in published literature. There is a point when the misspellings and poor grammar are so prolific that the reader spends more time deciphering the text than enjoying the story. It is then that I pull out the bookmark and set it in my stack of books to give away. That said, I recently read a book with the worst editing I had ever seen, and stuck with it merely because I so wanted to know how it ended.
Clichés, Formulas, and Stereotypes
There are some books out there that read as if they were made by a cookie cutter with all the originality of a Paint-By-Numbers picture. When you know what’s going to happen or how a character will act simply because it follows a cliché, I see no purpose in reading it. It’s basically just filler. I realize these can be fun for a mindless vacation read, but I don’t waste my time on them.
We’ve all encountered that character that just pisses us off. I don’t mean when the author intentionally crafts them to do so. No, I’m referring to those misguided attempts that rear up all through literature. Dr. Van Helsing in the novel Dracula did that to me, with his interminable monologues that felt like Bram Stoker didn’t know what an intelligent person sounded like. Or the dwarf from the aforementioned fantasy novel that always said, “Aye ‘tis true” instead of just saying “yes.” It shows the importance of multiple beta readers.
Glaring Little Errors
I read a novel once that I categorized as “fluff,” an original story without too much literary merit. I was enjoying it until I came across a scene that went something like this:
A: “It’s so good to finally meet you.”
B: “I can’t wait to meat you.”
Bad puns aside, what made me stop reading was the fact that both these characters were supposed to be speaking in Russian and yet they used an English homonym. I found myself unable to read it after that. To the writers out there: the little things do count.
There are many more reasons to put a book down, but those five are the greatest offenders for me. Some may sound like pet peeves, but they bothered me enough to stop reading a book I paid good money for. I would be curious to know in the comments what makes YOU stop reading a book.
Until next time,