Monday, January 26, 2015

Why We Don't Finish Books

I only finish a small percentage of books I start. ( I have said this before). My reasons for this are varied and here are a few recent ones.

Book One: Although the writing is very fine and although there is a fair amount of clever humor, nothing happens. Page after page of nothing happening. And the writing is too self-consciously clever.

Book Two: I could not follow the scientific information in it and this occupied too much of the book for me to skim it. This is not the author's fault. It is mine.

Book Three: A mystery that is an endless series of detective interviews. There is little character development, little good writing. Just following the detective around while he interviews people. The plot might turn out to be clever but I need more than someone following their nose.(This is why I have never gotten into LEWIS on Masterpiece).

Book Four: Looks like this is going to be another serial killer story after all. I have to hear his voice every few chapters too. And I have to think about his victim in the closet. Same old, same old nut.

Book Five: Didn't you do this in your last book, Author? Aren't you writing about the same place, with the same guy, with the same observations again? 

What about you? What was your recent for not finishing a recent book?


F.T. Bradley said...

Annoying (Southern) dialect, too much girl drama, blabby narrative, and depressing story with no hope. Those were all YA books. Depressing stories seem to be a new trend for some reason...

I'm like you: I don't finish a lot of books I start. Thank goodness for the library :-)

Deb said...

I did not finish the very well-received The People in the Trees by Hanya Yanagihara. It's about a Nobel-winning scientist accused of abusing children he adopted from the tribe he discovered. At first I thought it would be an interesting novel featuring my favorite type of narrator: unreliable. But the book was interminable, detail upon detail upon detail piled up. IMHO the book could have benefitted from some really ruthless editing from someone unfair aid to excise huge chunks of it. Anyway, it was like trying to work your way through a big loaf of bread without butter or fixings. I tried but could not make it through--it was just too much! (And keep in mind, Anthony Trollope and Henry James are two of my favorite writers--I don't have a problem with big books; big, dull books--that's another story!)

Deb said...

Unfair aid = unafraid

/Stupid autocorrect

pattinase (abbott) said...

A big book had to really be good whereas a short book I will cut more slack with. Yes, YA really seems to have cornered the market on depressing.

Anonymous said...

Me, too. I find that if I don't care about the characters I don't care what happens. Too often it's just a story line. I've slogged enough. Like you, just going to move on.

Richard said...

I finish most of the books I start, but I vet the books before I start them, and only begin reading things I am pretty sure I'll enjoy. That said, if little is happening except talk and walk, as I think of it, I am put off. I avoid most noir as it's depressing and dark and those aren't feelings I want to read about. Sure, a little, but I want to think things will work out pretty okay in the end. Doesn't have to be happy sparkly, but at least okay. The spiral of doom isn't appealing.

I don't mind some science, it's necessary for most science fiction, and I can skip science if there's an excess of it as long as the book will still make sense. I'm assuming you're talking about THE MARTIAN which I haven't read yet.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I don't mind dark if the writing is very good and it feels true to life.
Not that I'd want every book to be that way, of course.
Yes, with #1 I just didn't like the characters. They were all self-obsessed.
And I am prejudiced against rich people and I have to admit it. It takes a lot for me to get interested in the people in a book like Downton Abbey, for instance.

Steve Oerkfitz said...

Like Richard I'm usually pretty sure going into a book whether I'll like it or not so I do finish most books I start.
Noir or dark subject matters don't bother me. I'd rather read about meth addicts or criminals than Wall Street brokers or country club types.
Bad dialogue can be a deal breaker for me-rereading some older SF that I enjoyed as a teen has had this problem-esp. Asimov and Larry Niven.
The last book I didn't finish was probably Jonathan Franzen's The Corrections.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I am a very promiscuous reader so I make a lot of mistakes in what I think I will like. I take five books out of the library most weeks and may read none in the end. If I were buying them all, I probably would be more selective although I don't read all the books I buy either.

Dana King said...

I started 84 books last year and finished 77. As some have noited above, I have a vetting system so I'm pretty sure I'll like a book at least a little before I start it.

What gets me out of a book is anything that reads too much like writing and takes me away from what John Gardner (I think) described as "the vivid, fictive dream." Bland writing (what I call "best seller style") and too much suspension of disbelief will do it every time.

R. T. said...

Here is my most recent deadend: Red Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson) on Kindle. The problems were not in the book; the problems were in the Kindle version (i.e., corrupt and badly scanned e-text).

Perhaps others have had similar Kindle roadblocks.

More generally, bad writing and boredom send me scurrying away from some and on to other books. Hey, there are millions of books, but there is only so much time in life. Aye, there's the rub.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Yes I hate the way some old books have been put onto Kindle. Almost ruins them.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

The last book I can remember tossing was GONE GIRL, which - of course - is a massive best seller and presumably a wonderful book. Well, it wasn't for me. If a book has no characters who are at all likeable ot at least someone that I can care what will happen to, I quit.

One book I wish I had quit was the second book by Andrew Grant (Lee Child's brother), DIE TWICE. I did sort of enjoy the first one, by the way. In this one I literally got (didn't have to guess) the murderer from the start. At first I thought, no, he must have a twist up his sleeve. But no, his "brilliant" hero never once even considered this person as a suspect. This is a mystery for someone who has never read a mystery before, much like GONE GIRL. But sadly, unlike the odious GONE GIRL this time I read to the end. Don't follow my example.

Jeff M.

Bernadette said...

Similar reasons to you in some instances. Serial killers almost always end it for me (and I weed these out as best as I can but sometimes the blurbs don't tell me what I need to know). And page after page of "and then nothing happened" also sounds the death knell.

Too much violence which seems gratuitous to me.

I don't have to like characters but I do need to have some investment in finding out what happens to them - even hating them is better than being bored by them - with Gone Girl I just didn't care - they were unlikable and uninteresting so I never finished.

Misery Lit. Ugh.

A noticeable lack of editing. Why are books so much longer today on average than a decade or two ago?

George said...

Like Rick, I finish 90% of the books I start because I vet them carefully. I have a 50-page rule: if the book hasn't engaged me by then, I stop reading. The last book I gave up on was Greg Benford's FOUNDATION'S FEAR.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Were the books shorter or I was I younger and willing to spend more time on one book then. I am not sure but I rarely start a book much longer than 300 pages.
Every book sounds good in the review so my vetting system needs work.

Gerard said...

I've given up on DOG SOLDIERS by Robert Stone. I read a review somewhere and had it sitting for a few weeks. Then I read Stone's recent obituary and decided to try the book.

I just couldn't get into the story. Maybe it is too firmly set in the 1970s. The thinking then is a lot different to now.

Jeffrey Meyerson said...

I liked DOG SOLDIERS a lot, but then I read it in the '70s.

Length is definitely another reason for me. In the past I read huge books like SHOGUN and THE STAND and many of Michener's tomes but these days if I see a book is over 500 pages it better catch my interest quick or I will return it.

Jeff M.

Charles Gramlich said...

If I make it more than about 15 pages into a book I will finish it, even if I end up speed reading it. It's not often I start a book and quit ten or so pages in. The last one like that was probably 3 months ago. But I tend to pick books I think I'm going to like and generally I seem to be able to make that judgment pretty well.