List-O-Rama - My Path to Book Abandonment
Goodreads always has an interesting story to tell when they release data about their users’ behavior. (It’s also a bit creepy, but part of what we give them in exchange for using the site--but that’s a subject for another day.)
Their most recent data dump was all about why readers give up on a book.
This is an interesting topic to me because after a lifetime of being a compulsive book finisher--I believed I was obligated to finish reading something I started--I am now a committed book abandoner. It’s funny, I can remember very clearly the first time I said to myself, “You know what? Life is too short to read something that’s making me miserable,” and close a book without finishing. It was The Mysteries of Pittsburgh and I hated everything about it (your results may vary).
Here are my most common reasons for saying adios to a book.
#1 Third Person Universal Omniscient Narration
Every once in awhile this style works for me--such as in I’ll Be There--however, most of the time, I can only make it through a couple of chapters before this point of view drives me batty. I gave The Diviners the ol’ college try because it was my book club’s book, but I made it through maybe five chapters before I had to give up. I feel like a tremendous jerk about that one in particular, because so many people have adored The Diviners, but I just couldn’t do it.
#2 Frequent Factual Errors
I get that fiction is fiction, but novels riddled with easily-Googleable factual problems distract me to no end. For example, last year I read a much lauded novel that was filled with lovely writing. However, it was also filled with errors of geography (it confused the Adirondack and the Appalachian Mountains and frequently referenced unrealistic travel times and cities’ proximity to one another). Worse yet, the author completely flubbed how the graduate school admissions process works. All of these little errors distracted me from the loveliness of the writing to the point I couldn’t enjoy the book. (This one I actually finished after taking a long break--since I only had maybe 40 pages left when I threw up my hands in frustration and quit. And, yes, there was another factual error in those remaining pages.) Incorrect descriptions of sports is another factual detail miss that often pushes my buttons--hence I've given up on Miranda Kenneally's sports-themed series.
I can forgive a few errors--it’s hard to get it all right, especially with technical terminology, but when things simply don’t make sense to the casual observer, that’s a problem.
#3 Massive Historical Info Dumps
I love historical fiction--when it’s crafted in a certain way. However, oftentimes with historical fiction characters exist solely to jump in and tell the reader all about the time period. If I wanted that, I’d simply pick up a non-fiction text on the subject, not a novel. Historical fiction that works for me is akin to A Northern Light, in which the details of the historical context were revealed through the character’s interaction with her world. I’ve quite many a historical novel after just a few chapters because of this issue.
#4 Animal Death
These days, if an animal dies, 75 percent of the time, I close the book and don’t continue reading. I’m sick of this plot device as a convenient emotional manipulation.
#5 Every Character is Irredeemably Horrible
Think Gone Girl-type novels. I am at a point in my life where I prefer something a bit gentler. I love difficult, challenging characters, but when every single person is simply horrid and has no redeeming characteristics, I just can’t. Interestingly, I used to like these sorts of novels when I was in my 20s, now I dump them when I realize that none have any redeeming qualities.
#6 Excruciatingly Slow Audiobook Narration
Since I’m a pretty fast reader, I cannot listen to a book in which the narration is slow. I’ve tried that speedup function in the Audible app, but that just sounds crazy. So, if the narrator is slow, I say goodbye to the audiobook. I recently did this while listening to the third Beautiful Creatures book--the narrator was glacial and I calculated that I wouldn’t finish listening to that lengthy novel until next year if I stuck with it. I'll finish this series, because I do enjoy it, but I won't be trying the audiobooks again.
#7 World-Building Rules are Violated
This happens a lot more than you'd think in urban fantasy series, in which set of rules for the world is established and then a few books in, those rules are broken without explanation or consequence. I have a really hard time with this because it feels like the author hasn’t committed to her world and I don’t know if I can trust the story. I have dropped many series because of this.
#8 Tedious Setup
I’ve been scolded (by authors even!) for not reading far enough into a book to “understand” the story, that it’s important to stick with it until it “gets going” later on in the novel. I have a very hard time with this concept. I just can’t commit to a book on the promise that at some point something will happen. (Interestingly, though, I actually love confusing/bizarre book beginnings, which I know a lot of people hate.)
#9 Story Climax in the Prologue
This storytelling style rarely works for me. The writing and premise has to be pretty killer for me to keep reading if the climax of the story is revealed in the first pages. I know some people adore this type of novel, so this is clearly a personal preference thing.
#10 Writing Style
I realize this is an annoyingly vague statement, but I have read the first chapters of a ton of books and not continued on because the writing style is not one that works for me. The most common of these is stream-of-consciousness that turns me off, but I’ve also dropped books in the first chapters because of loads of made-up slang--hence, I’m not much of a fantasy or science fiction reader. (Interestingly, dialect doesn’t bother me, as I find it less disruptive than manufactured slang peppering the novel.)
So are you a compulsive book finisher or are you like me and willing to walk away from a novel that’s not working for you?
What tells you it’s time to say goodbye midway through a book?