Tuesday, July 3, 2007

No More Clean Plate Club For Me!

Did your mama raise you right? Right after "Clean your plate, there are children starving in Africa" came "Finish what you start." For me, and I think many readers, that also applies to books. I spent most of my life thinking that if I read page one of a story, I had to read all the way to the end. It would somehow be a crime or a sin to not finish the book.

No more! I had an epiphany. I do NOT have to finish every book I start. If it's bad, I'm allowed to stop wasting time on it. Now, it took a lot of effort to convince myself of this. There's that hope of "well, maybe it will improve if I read one more chapter". Or the "I'm not enjoying this, but I do want to know how it ends." Or "I paid $7.99 for this book, it would be a waste of my money if I don't read the whole thing."

1) I've been reading for many, many years. (It's rude to ask a lady her age.) I can't recall any book where the first couple pages or chapters really turned me off, but then the book got significantly better. If the author couldn't entrance me with the beginning, it's just not going to get better. Stop hoping and just stop reading.
2) So I'm not enjoying the writing or the plot, but I do have a compulsion to know what happens to these characters. That's what "skimming" is for! I've learned to flip through the pages looking for a particular reference or character name, and just read snatches to grasp the action. Or just jump right to the last chapter to find out how it ends. (However, I'm going to have to keep this under control - I certainly don't want to become one of those people who read the ending first!)
3) The money's already spent. It won't cost me any more or less based on how many pages I read. So why should I now waste something even more valuable and scarce than money -- my time? I've got a TBR mountain - it's unfair to those books to ignore them while I spend time with a mediocre book.

So I'm practicing. I stop after two or three chapters and actually ask myself "Am I enjoying this story? Is it worth my time?" Sometimes the book isn't so bad, it's just that I'm not in the mood for that type of story at the moment. I'll put it aside and maybe I'll come back to it another time. But if I'm truly not intrigued by the story, or the writing style is driving me crazy -- it's time to quit, to put this book in the "take to the used bookstore" bag, and move on to a much better read.

How many books have you not finished recently? And what made you quit? Or are you still the "Clean your plate" type?

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