I’m a Quitter

Hangs head, shuffles toe in the dirt.

So, um, yeah… About that.

I picked up the habit over thirty years ago. The deal is, once you start, you can’t stop. Not that anyone ever taught me that. They don’t say these things to your face. It’s just expected, you know? Once you crack one open, there’s no turning back. Later in life, especially my early adulthood, I’d have several going at a time. Because I couldn’t quit. Even if one was difficult to swallow, you just kept chugging until the end.

And I thought everyone was like that. I’ll tell you now, I was shocked the first time I learned that some people abstain. I mean, dang. Who could live like that? It had to be horrible. Like wandering parched in the middle of a river, unable to take a drink. What a barren lifestyle. And still, I couldn’t quit.

There were times I wanted to. Long, dusty, dry ones that seemed to have no end in sight. Weird ones that made no sense at all. Anachronistic ones I just wanted to hurl against a wall with force… But by gummy, if I started a book, I had to finish it. Them’s the rules, right?

It wasn’t until I was a young mother, and somehow found myself a volunteer Slush Reader, that I learned the dire necessity of quitting. Faced with an avalanche of reading material, a toddler, a nursing baby, and a budding small business to run, I had no choice. I read on the computer while the baby fed, but that time wasn’t unlimited, (days it felt like it was. She was a hungry kid, and now that she’s half a head taller than I and wearing a size twelve shoe, I know why)  so I learned to read three chapters in before quitting. Forcing myself to slog through to the end made reading a chore and painful. Far from being a trove of pleasures, I was learning the hard way that not all books can be read to the end, much less should.

What brought this on? Well,on Facebook Joshua Hocieniec, in a conversation about Neil Gaiman’s American God’s wrote: “I’m no quitter! Though I am feeling like I have a couple of better books that I could be reading instead.”

He’d been slogging though the book, hoping it got better, and finally asked online for some encouragement. I couldn’t offer him that – I’ve never read anything of Gaiman’s – but it made me think about quitting. I’ve been doing a fair bit of reading over the last week. Some of it was sheer escapism, after a grueling couple of months finishing up the degree. Some of it was the hope that if I prime the pump, my own stories will well up, and a little part of it was researching since I’ve been reading non-fiction and fiction. But as much as I am binge-reading, I’ve been quitting. I quit reading a series when it became badly edited, repetitious and mean-spirited (non-fiction set in a hospital ER). I quit reading a book when I was so bored I kept falling asleep on my tablet. I quit reading another book because it was so dated the cop procedures in it would only be useful if I were to write a historica.. coff, a book set in the mid-1970s.

In this day and age, with reading material so bountiful it’s almost unimaginable… Did you know you can find the whole Conan series for free on Amazon in one handy collection? Sherlock was free yesterday, too! Anyway, there’s no need to cling to whatever text is handy. Gone are the days you had to read the soap bottle (if you still must, I recommend Dr Bronner’s) or the cereal box. Now, I can prop my phone up next to the bowl (hm, I have a hankering for cheesy grits now) and access an unimaginable library to my ten-year old self. I’m living the science fiction future and it’s chock full of books!

This poses a problem, though. I’ve gotten old enough to confront my own mortality and recognize that I have limitations in life. I’ll never be able to read All the Books. I may not even be able to read all the books physically in my house as I write this. Certainly not all the books on my eLibraries in various places. I’ll die with books unread, and confronting that makes me react in way that may seem a bit childish to some. Faced with the bitter reality, I’ve become a quitter. I want to eat my dessert first. To savor the Good Books, and scrape the equivalent to dog poo sandwiches into the trash bin, then click the empty trash button. Life is short. Too short to waste my precious time on bad books. So yes, I’m a quitter.

But enough about my habits. What books are you addic… Er, overly fond of? Let’s bring in the New Year with joy, escapism, and shenanigans between the pages!

112 Comments

Filed under CEDAR SANDERSON, reading

112 responses to “I’m a Quitter

  1. Draven

    You shoulda put the Conan thing at the very end…

  2. I love that you give me permission to stop torturing myself. I need that because I too have a hard time letting myself off the hook. On the other hand, I know that the temptation to quit just because the going gets rough is deceptive. So now I need a post on how to know when it’s time to quit….lol

    • Well, that handles next week’s topic :p And yes, it is a good question. Especially if you are trying to read something iconic you feel like you are supposed to enjoy. I know in the past there have been books I struggled with, put down, and enjoyed later, in a different mood.

  3. Martin L. Shoemaker

    When I was a kid, I was a limited quitter. If I made it past chapter 1, I finished the book, but there were a lot where I never made it through that first chapter.

    The exception — still to this day — was Dune. I’ve tried several times, and I usually get through chapter 3 before losing interest.

    Today I’m too busy. Today I quit lots of books.

    • Ask me about Dickens — go on, ask! Ole Chuck has failed the 1-2 chapter rule numerous times. To date, I have never finished a Dickens book …

      “Our Mutual Friend”, iirc started out very promisingly with a body being pulled out of the Thames — he made that boring too!

      • I don’t have to ask. I’ve only ever made it through one unabridged Dickens, and that was A Christmas Carol, which is shockingly short for his writing.

        • I guess I’m not the only one who has only managed to read A Christmas Carol cover to cover. I’ve skimmed Oliver Twist when it was important for a novel I was writing, but that was more to pick out bits my protagonist would be thinking about as she read it for a class assignment that was becoming awkwardly relevant in the world to which she’d been transported. The rest of Dickens I bounced off of in spite of all efforts.

          But A Christmas Carol I’ve read multiple times, and watched several of the adaptations. Patrick Stewart’s several times. George C. Scott’s in full for the first time this year, along with the Depression-Era American version with Henry Winkler as the Scrooge figure, Slade. And bits of several others, both live-action and animation.

          • Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

            IMO Dickens suffers due to the “Past Is A Different Country” idea.

            Some of his themes/plot elements were acceptable when he wrote but are less acceptable now.

          • I’ve seen several adaptations, and enjoyed them, but my all time favorite is the Muppet Christmas Carol.

            • Martin L. Shoemaker

              Best Christmas Carol ever! The duet with young Belle and old Scrooge is heart-breaking. (I’m told the duet was not in the theatrical release. What a mistake. It’s the emotional fulcrum of the whole story, the point where young Scrooge walks away from happiness, and old Scrooge sees what a fool he was.)

              • The duet with Belle was cut from the Blu-Ray release, and put in with the special features. I agree with this choice, because as beautiful as it is, it stops the momentum dead, and momentum is critical in movies, especially when you’re trying to get kids to watch.

            • RCPete

              Edwin London did Tala Obtusities, allegedly an opera. Saw a performance in college with a date. The rest of the evening was no prize, either. 😉

            • Slightly (but only slightly) better is “Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol.” But you have to find it streaming or on DVD. Anyone who has aired it in the past few years has cut it to ribbons to accommodate the increased number of commercials of today.

      • Mary

        I got through A Tale of Two Cities.

      • I sometimes have a taste for old-fashioned circumlocution. I haven’t made it through Pickwick Papers, though. That one’s a bit much.

    • I’m trying Dune now, for the third time, just to see if I can read the whole thing. I never made it past page 30 before.

  4. Luke

    I’m kind of floored by someone not loving American Gods. IMO, it’s one of the best books of the last two decades.

    If you like myth, and the oddness that is America, then you’ll love it.

    • I think it’s the style of the writing. I gave up on it too. And I tried a couple of other gaimans and gave up on those too. Just not my cup of tea and the great thing about the current abundance of (e)books is that I can cheerfully go read something else and not worry that I might run out of things to read (a problem I had as a child).

    • Alex

      Eh. I found it clever in a few places. Wordsmithing was great, of course. But I honestly didn’t give a rat’s (whisker) about any of the characters.

    • Nathan

      And yet it doesn’t really hold a candle to Silver John or Haunted Mesa. Want to see the real oddness of America and not the tourist version, read our homegrown weird authors.

    • Meh. I read it. All the way through. It was dumb. Never bothered with Gaiman again, as far as I remember.

      • Read it, but mainly for some of the location stuff. The use of The House On The Rock was a “Yeah, I could see that” sort of thing. But overall? I didn’t started reading more Gaiman. And the book he & Pratchett teamed up for (for whatever values of teamed up…) is the one Pratchett I found very easy to set down “for now” but “now” has grown quite long.

    • fynbospress

      Eh, I like Gaiman best when he’s constrained to short form. Sandman, and some of the children’s books like Coraline, and speeches – when you force him to pare down almost to the impact-per-word density of good poetry, he’s brilliant.

      Let him ramble at novel length, and I find I’m wandering away and not coming back. *shrugs* Different strokes for different folks.

    • Mary

      I got through it. It was not worth it. (Unlike Anansi Boys, which I did give up on, quickly.)

    • I also love Gaiman’s work. My husband doesn’t like his prose, though.

  5. Randy Wilde

    Hmm, I just bought American Gods last weekend on sale… now your post is making me think about returning it while I can. 🙂

    As far as addicted, my comfort food books are Starship Troopers, Dragonsong, and Dragonsinger. Other “overly fond” books are Heinlein titles, most of Anne McCaffrey’s Pern, Katherine Kurtz’s Deryni, the Chronicles of Narnia, Poul Anderson’s Flandry, etc.

    It’s rare for me to quit a book… I usually try to stick it out.

    And thanks for the Conan link.

    • I read the free preview of it and wasn’t impressed. Some of my friends list it as one of the best books they’ve ever read though.

    • Gaiman is definitely an author that some people I respect like but that I find tedious and demotivating. Chacun a son gout

    • It’s one of those things. Some people will love a book, others can’t stand it. It’s part of the reason I rarely buy ebooks that are more than $5 from an author I don’t know. Limiting the risk I’ll be mad at myself for wasting money.

      • TRX

        That’s why I laugh at the people who desire “curated lists” and “recommendations” for books.

        Even good friends who have similar tastes to mine don’t agree more than 50% of the time. At that rate, you’re down to random chance.

  6. I hate abandoning books, but I’ll do it if I’m not hooked.

    When I was in high school I was addicted to the Star Trek novels. In college I lost interest. Now, usually fall back on John Ringo or Sarah Hoyt.

  7. I have “Get Out Of Book Free” cards. You want I should send you one?

    It doesn’t work for book reviewers, mind. We have to pray that the Holy Spirit will send us grace, so that we will review the work for what it actually is, rather than take vengeance on it because we had to read it until the end.

    • Frankly if it makes you feel like it was a penance to read it to the end, it deserves the review it gets. I’ve had books where I finally skipped ahead to the end, just to see if it gets better. Usually the answer is no, and on the rare occasions it was yes, I left feeling that the story had been fluffed beyond a thin plot’s ability to support it.

      • I once read through a whole book thinking, “there must be a pony in here somewhere.” Got it for free from a review stack and thought it was a “literature” genre writer attempting science fiction. Turns out it was highly lauded in certain SF circles, but it didn’t have half the charm or wit of, say, Jasper Fforde.

      • Mmmm…. You probably have better mastery of your temper than I do. I’d give the book a far worse review than it’s flaws actually deserved.

  8. Right now, Bernard Cornwell’s Sharpe books are my addiction. I’ve put reading them into the Things I’m Not Allowed to Do between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m. category or I’d have no life. Also, it helps make them last longer.

    I “discover” I’ve abandoned a book when I realize I’ve started two others. That usually means I’ve abandoned the second one, too. Having more than one novel going doesn’t actually work for me that well.

    • If it’s scrolled off the first page of the kindle library then I’ve abandoned it (except for very rare cases e.g. Mackey Chandler’s April which I enjoyed on the second attempt)

  9. When I had only paper books, it was more obvious when I’d quit because the book would languish on the bedside table below different other books. With ebooks it’s less clear but I figure that (as noted above) if it’s scrolled off the first screen of my kindle I’ve abandoned it.

    • I’m close to that criteria on the Kindle books. I occasionally take a look at what I have in KU, to make sure I’m not missing reading a title I should review.

    • This. I’m much more likely to quit an ebook or fanfic because it’s just pixels. Much as I love long, plotty works, the writer better capture me within the first few chapters/1-2k words.

      Read AmGods years ago when it just came out, and I can’t even remember what it was about.

      I think Ballantine did a Conan trilogy a number of years ago that I really liked, so that’s on my wishlist while I wait for the price to drop. One thing that I’ve learned about free classics is that proper formatting can be worth $1-$2, but the freebies at least get me interested.

  10. Sanford Begley

    A year or two I started a fight on FB with a favorite author. One of his friends and sometime collaborators had written a book that was a paean to SJW virtues in its first chapter. My question was ” If a book spends its entire first chapter proving it belongs to the puppy kickers, why should I go to the second chapter?” The author of the book blocked me on FB for that, and the favorite author came back with what was basically “Because I said so”. I still have that question, if the first chapter isn’t representative of the rest of the book, why should I slog through to find out. I can’t read all the books on my kindle account in the years I have remaining. I wouldn’t care if it was my wife’s book, if the beginning sucks I’m not going to finish it

  11. Just recently I quit on Clifford Simak’s “Way Station”, Neil Stephenson’s ” Snow Crash”, both of which are supposed to be classics.

    • I keep being told to read Snow Crash, and resisting, because I don’t think I’m going to like it. I’m not a fan of very-long-windedness, which I am told Stephenson does.

      • “Snow Crash” has a lot of problems, but for me the worst was an inconsistent tone. So much of it reads like a parody of Cyberpunk Sci Fi, (like the super-high tech pizza delivery tracking stations) but then he tries to invoke a grim noir feel. The two moods just don’t mix well.

        • Bob

          Maybe it’s just me, but I thought the tone was a perfect balance and shifted seamlessly from satire to seriousness. Maybe it’s just a personal thing.

          • scottsaxbury

            liked it much better than Cryptonomicon, which I never finished, and less than I liked Anathem, which I read twice in a row.

      • I got Snow Crash in paperback years ago included with a computer game, and found it pretty good. I recently tried Cryptonomicon and OMG what a slog. I finished it, but never again! Description to distraction… Some books lose me right away – overly preachy or gratuitous sex are the quickest ways to convince me that plot is lacking. On the other extreme I also remember sitting on deployment in Kuwait thinking “I’m gonna be so p1ssd if I get killed and miss the end of the Potter books.”

        Completely unrelated… with Kindle Unlimited, do you get more money if I reread the book or does it top out when I finish it?

      • Bob

        Re: Snowcrash: MINOR SPOILER-

        When the villain’s chief enforcer/badass killer shows up, and he’s riding a motorcycle with an odd-looking sidecar, and a character comments that that’s no sidecar: it’s a nuclear warhead that’ll go off if the guy dies, I was totally hooked.

        As far as evil badass enforcers go, I’d give this guy fair odds against one of Correia’s heroes.

        And as for long, winded, I guess it depends what the author’s being long-winded about. In Snowcrash-

        MAJOR SPOILERS, but if you’re resolved not to read it, you should at least know what you’ve missed out on. DON’T READ unless you’re resolved not to read it:

        -when you’re dealing with questions of language and thought and applying computer programming to the human brain, then tying that back to ancient times with the idea that everyone’s mind was enslaved by being programmed by a single language and the virus-like fragmenting into different languages allowed for freedom of thought (‘the curse of Babel), and the villain’s plan is to resurrect that primordial language, which would allow him to mind-control the entire human race, well then some lengthy explanation is necessary.

      • fynbospress

        I re-read Snow Crash not that long ago, and found it suffered (for me) the same problems as re-watching Akira and Heavy Metal did – that being groundbreaking for its time, it was awesome and remains so in many people’s memories. But a lot of what it did became the basis of tropes, or was later expanded on and done better by other authors. So re-reading / re-watching became a slog of “this has been done better” and “this has been done to death” and “Oh, so trope. So very trope.”

        I honestly don’t know if it’d come across as awesome to people reading it for the first time, because part of the problem is measuring it against the high bar set… twenty four years ago, when it first came out. (Oh, that’s longer ago than I thought. Huh. It has been a while! Though I might not have read it until ’94 or ’95, I think.)

        P.S. If you haven’t seen Heavy Metal since the 80’s, don’t rewatch it. At least not sober. Like 80’s kid’s cartoons, it’s best left as a happy, slightly vague and fuzzy memory. Ghost in the Shell has held up remarkably well to rewatchings, if you want to see something again!

      • If you read any Stephenson, go for The Big U, which is perhaps the only novel of his that could be considered short. (Heck, I think it’s even under 300 pages.) It’s basically the university experience squared, cubed, and diced, and then put under pressure until it explodes. A lot of fun is made of conformity (as in social fraternities/sororities AND “activists” who clearly have no clue about what they are doing.)

        However, if you have bad memories of academic bureaucracy, there are several points when you’re going to want to kill some in-universe characters. And they deserve it.

    • TRX

      I liked Way Station, but I generally like Simak’s stuff. I agree that Simak’s style of writing could put some people off.

      Snow Crash could have done with an editor who was willing to chainsaw 25-50% of the bloat out. And Cryptonomicon and Reamde would have been okay novellas, except they’re trilogy-in-one-cover length, mostly needless exposition and irrelevant subplots that don’t go anywhere. Stephenson has lots of interesting stuff, but it’s like he saves everything up and jams it into the next book, whether it fits or not.

      As an Henry Fonda once told actor newbie Steve McQueen: “Steve, if you don’t have anything to say… shut up.”

      • The big problem I had with “Way Station” is the stereotypes of the backwoods folks as shiftless and no-account. Enoch lived in harmony with the woods and that’s described as wisdom, but the Fisher family–who live basically the same was as Enoch–are said to be lazy and worthless.

  12. I am reminded of the novelization — title and author will eventually come to mind — of Jayne’s Evolution of Consciousness (not Land of the Two Rivers, the novel set in modern times), which I first tried reading when it came out. I had not read Jaynes and it made no sense, so I quit part-way in. I more recently read it. I am not sure I would likr the predicted future, but it was a good read.

  13. Paul (Drak Bibliophile) Howard

    Two thoughts.

    First, there have been times that I’m in a “mood” that a book that I’ve enjoyed in the past becomes a drag to read. So with some new books, it may be that I’m not in the proper “mood” to read them.

    Second, when it comes to “enjoying books”, I go with the YMMV rule. IE I may enjoy/dislike a book but that doesn’t mean others show agree with me.

    • Mood reading is definitely a factor for me, so I don’t review books on a set schedule, because if I’m in the mood for Brit country Mysteries, and trying to force myself to read Mil SF for a review, it’s not fair to the book.

  14. Bob

    Books, books, my cup runneth over. At times I feel like the most decadent and hedonistic of Oriental potentates, wallowing in the odalisques, bloated and besotted with bleary eye roving lazily for something novel to excite mine jaded pallet…

    But yeah, when I resolve to quit a book, I usually read the last chapter so I know how this thing ends.

    What do I get excited about? Stuff I haven’t read about before, and familiar stuff done well.

  15. When I need comfort reading, I binge . . . geology and archaeology papers. Yes, I am seriously strange that way. Fiction? I’ve been reading the Wearing the Cape series, at least until Life (research reading) got in the way. Before that it was M. Lackey, A. McCaffrey, and so on. Oh, and the Hammer’s Slammers and Aldenata series, which probably says a lot more about my subconcious than I really want to admit.

    • snelson134

      Love Wearing the Cape. Also the Black Tide books (all of them). I think that’s because a favorite trope of mine is building something even after disaster. Of all the Ghost books, Kildar was my favorite for just that reason.

      • I think the “rebuilding from disaster” is why the early-Bronze-Age book is starting to push again. And the “The Romans have left, now what do we do?” stories. How do you abandon everything and start again in a new culture and way of life after a hundred generations in one area? And what do you do for or about the people who refuse to see what has to be done?

    • Comfort reading can be anything. I have a couple of history books that I consider comfort reads. Right now, for my mindless pleasure, I’ve been going through that weird little corner of the web known as creepypasta, which is short horror stories, of all things. And the reasoning there is that they aren’t scary, from my perspective—I have kids, and I understand what true nightmare fuel really is, and tales of alien invasions or weird creatures in the dark ain’t it. So I can step back and enjoy the way the story is told (or critique it, since these are amateur writers of varying abilities.)

  16. Reading your post, for awhile I thought you were talking about quitting writing a book. That’s worth some discussion someday: How do you know when it’s time to cut your losses on a writing project and move on to something with a better chance of completion?

    Most books I start reading, I finish. Those I set aside I do so without rancor, generally. There are exceptions: A few years ago, I threw Redshirts at the wall so hard the wall emitted X-rays.

    I don’t often read fiction more than once unless I intend to review it. First pass reads for me are about feelz; second pass for thinkz. A review should involve and discuss both.

    At this point I’ll mention an odd twist to rereading fiction: The stuff I thought was dazzling when I was in high school and college is as often as not a huge disappointment on subsequent reads. (Keep in mind that I was in high school from 1966-1970.) Charles Harness’ The Ring of Ritornel seemed absolutely dazzling in 1968. I read it again–tried to, actually–in the 1990s, and realized that it was just plain dumb. Some terrific ideas, but little else, with plenty of unintentional giggles. This happened a lot, even with authors like Keith Laumer, whom I had flagrantly imitated while I was learning the craft. I remember books like The Long Twilight being highly engrossing. My suspicion, forty years later, is that I must have been easily engrossable when I was 16.

    If I reread anything at all these days it’s LOTR, Niven, early Brin, and John Varley. Varley is a slightly guilty pleasure, but I’m a sucker for dazzling ideas, and his occasionally embarrassing Gaea trilogy is loaded with ideas and startling images. You have to look past all the silly ’70s sex (including descriptions of horse hardons) and the occasional primordial SJW nonsense, but it reads well and moves along.

    The way to read Snow Crash is to assume it’s self-parody. Because it is, intentionally or not.

    Bottom line: Some bags are mixeder than others. There are no un-mixed bags.

    • I was being deliberately ambiguous with the beginning of this post. Silliness.

      There are books I can reread over and over. But I have learned that I can go back to books I loved 20 years ago and hate them. Sanford has the same problem, where he’ll rave at me about a book he loved back in the day (and he graduated highschool in 76) but when I find it and buy it, it makes him sad.

      • Not silly at all. It got my attention, and I would very much like to hear your thoughts on when to abandon writing projects. When I was in high school I finished three full-sized novels (one was 120,000 words long) and then didn’t finish another for literally thirty years. I have a box full of aborted fragments. I wish I could remember why I stopped on some of them.

        • I have some of those, as well. I also have one that I finished, a decade after starting, published, and now sort of wish I hadn’t. Yes, i’ll do a post up 🙂 Ideas are always welcome!

      • You’ve heard of the Suck Fairy, right? The Suck Fairy visits certain things that you used to love and points out the flaws that you were too young to notice. The Suck Fairy does not visit all properties equally—some things from your childhood tend to hold up pretty well, actually—but if it’s something you loved unreservedly, and you haven’t seen it for a while, do not expect to encounter the same thing when you revisit it.

    • TRX

      I was probably in my early teens when I read The Long Twilight. Even then, it felt like something that had once been a much larger work, chopped up and put back together with big pieces missing.

      I read it again a few years ago, and it felt much the same way. Or maybe it was put together from pieces Laumer cut out of other novels. But overall, it felt like a bunch of disjointed bits that didn’t quite fit together. (The House in November wasn’t quite as bad, bit it has a similar overall feel)

      And I’m a rabid Keith Laumer fanboy…

      • Me too. He taught me how to do humorous SF, basically. I read everything of his that I found, and some stuff worked better than others. The Great Time Machine Hoax still reads well, as do most of the Retief books. Not so much Earthblood, granting that it was a collaboration.

        I wonder sometimes if the publisher didn’t lean on him to take what might have originally been a novella and thicken it up enough to make an MMPB out of it. A lot of the army stuff just didn’t fit, and made it read like a Fifties monster movie.

        We were probably all easier to please when we were 16…

    • Robin Munn

      If I’m about to bring up bad memories, my apologies. But what specifically caused you to dent the wall so hard with Redshirts? You’ve piqued my curiosity.

      • It was derivative, only mildly clever (in some isolated spots) and not funny at all. The characters all sounded the same to me. It was metafiction, and I don’t much like metafiction to begin with. The damned thing had just won the Big Hugo and I expected exponents better. I wouldn’t have accelerated it quite that hard toward the wall if Old Man’s War hadn’t been superb.

  17. I’m afraid I still have Completionist Syndrome. If I start a book, I feel squirmy inside if I don’t finish it. It’s gotten worse since I decided to review every book I read on Goodreads. I don’t think it’s fair to judge a book without having read it… at least enough to judge it. But where is that point? So, yes, Cedar, this must be your next topic! 🙂

    That said, I have quit a few books, but mostly only if they make me angry or disgusted. It hasn’t happened often though. The thing that will make me stop (or start skimming) in a book is repetitiveness. Atlas Shrugged is one of those that I quit, but still feel irked about because I had read the majority of it (and liked it). Unfortunately, it got so bogged down in repetition that I couldn’t even make myself read the final diatribe from Gault. The same thing happened to me while reading Isiah & Psalms in the Bible (still need to fix that 😦 ).

    Then there are some out there that I DID finish, that I really wish I hadn’t… The Road from Cormack McCarthy for instance. I hate depressing books, and crappy endings are the worst! Unfortunately, if the writing is decent and the characters believable, I can’t justify stopping. Is that an OCD thing? *shrug*

    Anyway, you are right though, life is too short to read bad books. Unless you are a speed reader, in which case I dislike you very much for your superpower.

    • I’m not sure I qualify as a speed reader. Last time I was tested (I was about 12) I read at 1200 wpm. I can usually finish a novel (roughly 80-100K words) in 2-3 hours.

      • Yes, you are definitely a speed reader from my perspective! From what I’ve found, 200~300 wpm is average. I am on the low side of that range (225-ish), but with a better than average comprehension rate. 8 hrs is my usual book read time, so it’s usually several days to get through one. I’ve tried to improve on it (forced speed reading), but I just start missing details and the entertainment factor goes away. So… count your ‘superpower’ as a blessing!

        • snelson134

          I’ll agree with that; I was considered very fast at 740 wpm.

        • TRX

          I tested at 950 in high school. I probablly don’t run much over 100 now. Back then, I could just simply vacuum text in, whether it was fact or fiction. It all got filed away as-is.

          But the more I learn, the more I’m critical of what I read, and I’m prone to stop and think about it.

          “the material which one has acquired through reading must not
          be stored up in the memory on a plan that corresponds to the successive chapters of the book; but each little piece of knowledge thus gained must be treated as if it were a little stone to be inserted into a mosaic, so that it finds its proper place among all the other
          pieces and particles that help to form a general world-picture in the brain of the reader. Otherwise only a confused jumble of chaotic notions will result from all this reading. That jumble is not merely useless, but it also tends to make the unfortunate possessor of
          it conceited. For he seriously considers himself a well-educated person and thinks that he understands something of life. He believes that he has acquired knowledge, whereas the truth is that every increase in such ‘knowledge’ draws him more and more away from real life, until he finally ends up in some sanatorium or takes to politics and becomes a parliamentary deputy.” – AH

          • Hmmm…. well, I read fiction for the most part, so I’m not trying to educate myself, nor do I spend a whole lot of time questioning the validity of what I’m reading. I know its made up from the start! 🙂

            Also, on principle, I don’t think I’ll agree with Hitler on the purpose of reading in general. You left off the first part of that quote…

            “Reading is not an end in itself, but a means to an end. Its chief purpose is to help towards filling in the framework which is made up of the talents and capabilities that each individual possesses. Thus each one procures for himself the implements and materials necessary for the fulfilment of his calling in life, no matter whether this be the elementary task of earning one’s daily bread or a calling that responds to higher human aspirations. Such is the first purpose of reading.” – AH

            Addy got it all wrong, see. Reading IS a purpose unto itself. That purpose being entertainment in my case. I can see where my examples in the original post may have led you to think I’m reading for education, enlightenment, etc, but those were examples of ‘oddities’ in my reading habits, not the norm. The Bible is the only thing I would say I try to absorb into any sort of ‘life calling’. Maybe if Hitler had stuck to it as his one good source, and then maybe found some good Agatha Christie mysteries to read for enjoyment he wouldn’t have been such a turd? :/ Certainly, his ‘higher human aspirations’ left much to be desired!

            • TRX

              I tried to trim it down to just the relevant part. “There’s no pedant like a German pedant.” Or Austrian, for that matter.

              If I’m reading fiction for entertainment, I’m still prone to stop and recap events every now and then, or even slide off daydreaming about alternate paths the story could go. Reading fiction-for-entertainment at maximum speed simply gives me less value per entertainment dollar.

      • I hate it when people call me a speed reader, because in my mind, “speed reading” is a specific style of reading wherein you skim fast enough to get through the text while still absorbing all of the information therein. Of course, my dislike is probably based in the way people have called me a speed reader in the past, as in, “Well, *I* spend a lot of time lingering over the descriptions, building the world in my head, and hearing the characters’ voices when they speak.” As though they have to assert superiority over me.

        Yes, I do that too. Lovely lush landscapes, tone of voice, and all. I just happen to do it on a supercharged basis. No real secret to it; I’ve just been reading all of my life, from the time when I was two, and you tend to get faster at those things you practice. I practice really hard.

    • I’d suggest reading Isiah as two books. Chapters 1-39 are one section. Chapter 40- the end is a second book. And read for all the bits that never quite make it into the lectionary or sermons. (Or listen to Randall Thompson’s “The Peaceable Kingdom,” feel aghast, and then realize he’s quoting Scripture.)

      • Father Mitch Pacwa used to be a college prof, and EWTN had him turn his Prophets class into a TV series, which is available on their website as a podcast/audio series. The eps about the Book of Isaiah are very good, and the whole show is very informative. (Starts slow for the first few eps, but that’s intro info and history.)

  18. I’m starting a whole30 jag tomorrow so I won’t be reading the cereal box. Too much of a temptation.

  19. I gave up on Wheel of Time about 2/3rds through the first book. First time I’d done that, but I was tired of forcing myself through it. Sadly in finishing that series Sanderson seems to have picked up some of the same pacing issues, though they’ve been lessening. Shadows of Self was his most recent book where I felt it was nice and tight.

  20. Reading slush taught me to quit. Outside of that, if I dislike the main character I’ll quit. If I just don’t click with the characters, but the story problem is interesting I’ll slog on. Some times you can sense the writer starting to flounder and then he/she does something stupid to spice up the book that is so counter to the characters’ characters that you just can’t get back into it. Sometimes this happens between books, and it’s like the MC had a lobotomy or something. And the sequel hits the wall..

  21. Ben Yalow

    I’ve got hundreds of books on my “to be read” pile (some physical, some e-books). So my time is the most valuable thing I have when I’m allocating it to reading — which means I’m ruthless on not wasting y time with a book that’s not serving it’s purpose (which might be to entertain me, or to inform me about some non-fiction information, or whatever). Although I also recognize that some novels start slowly, and will be worth it as they unfold — so I don’t want to quit too soon on something that’ll be really good.

    So I give the novel about 50 pages (for a physical book) or the equivalent in an ebook — which, at my reading speed, is about 20 minutes. If at that point, I can put it down (because I don’t care what happens on the next page/rest of book), then I do, and never pick it up again, unless it’s nominated for an award I’m voting on, in which case I try it again (but still put it down, and vote it appropriately if I can still put it down).

    My comfort reading includes _Lord of light_ (which I probably reread every year), Lord of the Rings, a bunch of Fred Brown’s short stories, and lots of Leigh Brackett and Kuttner/Moore. And Poul Anderson — a lot of which has been reprinted by Baen and NESFA Press (and some of which is still in print elsewhere) — Tau Zero (my second favorite Hard SF after _Mission of Gravity_), _Three Hearts and Three Lions_ (the best non-Tolkien High Fantasy), _The High Crusade_ (SF with knights and spaceships), and lots of other stuff. You pretty much can’t go wrong with Anderson, whose quality ranges from very good to brilliant.

    And, even though it’s non-fiction, and I know what it says, I reread Samuel Eliot Morison’s one volume WWII Navy history (_The Two-Ocean War_), just because it’s so well written, and fun to read.

  22. So far I’ve only quit one book that I absolutely refuse to return to: Walden by Henry David Thoreau. It was the first book I ever read that put me to sleep every time I tried to read it. The worst part is that I was homeschooled, and it was one of the books I picked for myself to read, but it was so oppressively boring that I gave up and read the Sparknotes so that I could write the paper.

  23. The first book I stopped reading was The Grapes of Wrath in grade 12, though I still managed to ace the tests and quizzes about that book by the simple expedient of when faced with a multiple choice question of asking myself what would be the most depressing and/or left wing thing to happen and choosing that answer.

    Generally I find if I buy the book I’ve got more patience with it and will keep reading until it clicks for me (with the caveat that if I had to push myself to keep reading I am never going to read anything else by that author again. Basically, the first book is sold by the cover, the back cover copy, and first few pages. The second book is sold by the entirety of the first book). But if I’ve gotten it out of the library or as a gift I will read until I don’t want to read anymore and then I’ll stop. My trigger isn’t exactly leftist stuff, more often it’s pretentious dreck that was falsely marketed as fun to read.

    A publisher has a leftist literary book that they know won’t sell as a leftist literary book so they give it a pulpy title and a pulpy cover and a pulpy description to sell it and then are amazed when the ‘ignorant pulp reader’ (Hi, Mom!) gets annoyed and stops reading anything by said publisher (Hi, Tor!).

  24. Aimee Morgan

    In my pre-Kindle days, if I bought a book, or borrowed one from the library, I finished it, dammit, because the alternative was reading the phone book – again! There are a very few exceptions – a Piers Anthony book that was too pedophile-y for me to slog thru, anything by Judy Blume – but I could normally force myself to finish a book.

    Now, I’m much faster to stop reading something. Depending on the author, I might hold onto it and give it another try later – Larry Correia’s Grimnoir series required a second look – but after that, I’ll delete it from my Kindle.

    The bad part is that once the first book has hooked me, I usually feel that it is my duty to finish the series. This is why I have read all of the Twilight books, and continue to read Laurell K Hamilton’s books (in the often vain hopes that it will have more plot than the average p0rn flick). I think that’s my Resolution for 2017 – stop reading a series that is no longer appealing to me.

    Wish me luck.

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