September 20, 2017 8:26 PM   Subscribe

You have a book that you are halfway done. It is not what you expected. You hope it gets better but it doesn't. Do you finish the book or call it quits? How long does it take for you to decide that a book isn't worth the effort anymore? What do you do with this book when you are done with it? Donate, Trash, Put on a shelf.
posted by Kilovolt to Grab Bag (74 answers total) 9 users marked this as a favorite
1. Quit.
2. ~50 pages or the first instance of sexual assault thrown in as a non-integral plot point.
3. Add to "abandoned" shelf on Goodreads and delete from Kindle.
posted by Flannery Culp at 8:31 PM on September 20, 2017 [11 favorites]

I basically stop reading a book when it loses my interest. If it's fiction, when I'm not interested in the characters or finding out what happens next. If it's non-fiction, if I don't find it readable, or I'm not as interested in the topic as I expected. Life is too short and there are too many books to keep reading one I don't like.

When I read paper books, I would usually keep them on a shelf for some period of time between 6 months and 10 years, and usually get rid of them in a move (donate). Now I read most books on my kindle so it's not an issue.
posted by lunasol at 8:34 PM on September 20, 2017 [8 favorites]

If you are halfway through and not into it, just quit. Unless you are really getting into hate-reading it ... not that I've ever done that.

If you aren't sure, google for reviews just in case there might be enough reviews along the lines of "rough start but the second half is much better" to make you really think that plowing along might be worthwhile.

But seriously, you probably have hundreds and maybe thousands of worthwhile, enjoyable books you want to be reading. Read one of those instead. Donate the book unless you think no one else could enjoy it.

Caveat: One time I picked up a book when I was recovering from surgery and it was like beating my head against a wall - I just could not get into it. I set it aside and moved on to something else. A few months later I picked it up and could not put it down. So, you can always try it again later.
posted by bunderful at 8:38 PM on September 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

Finish the book. If it's bad enough, I write margin notes to other trapped readers.
posted by corb at 8:39 PM on September 20, 2017 [4 favorites]

The answer is 100 years minus your age - that's how many pages to give it before calling it quits. The older you get the less time you have to waste reading books that aren't doing it for you!
posted by peanut_mcgillicuty at 8:45 PM on September 20, 2017 [53 favorites]

Response by poster: I am 3/4 of the way through my current read. I am going to finish it through gritted teeth.
posted by Kilovolt at 8:46 PM on September 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

if a book is just generally boring or full of overly academic type prose or feels slow moving or whatever, i will put it down for a later time when that is something that i need in my life. most of those eventually get read but i have a couple that i've owned for 20+ years that i'm still allegedly working on.

if a book is terrible or offensive in some way, like the grotesque nonfiction thing that someone right here on mefi recommended on the history of dueling, which was full of such smug egregious misogyny in the very first chapter that i almost vomited all over the book and then stabbed it repeatedly, then i throw it in the garbage lest someone else be tricked into reading it.

with books that are so hilarribly godawful that i desperately WANT to stop reading but i can't, frex the twitlight series or that unbearable anita blake trash, i will enthusiastically hate read the entire series so i can complain about its badness in the most accurate manner possible.
posted by poffin boffin at 8:46 PM on September 20, 2017 [14 favorites]

There are some books that reward effort. I would never have finished Ulysses or The Golden Notebook if I didn't have to, but I felt deeply rewarded when I did. Check Goodreads or other trusted sources to see if that may be the case.

I love books, but the world is full of them. If the book is full of harmful ideas or bad facts, recycle it. Librarians will tell you as much themselves. I will throw away a book for being flat nonsense. And if a book is a bestseller, there's no harm in tossing it.
posted by Countess Elena at 8:48 PM on September 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I have a 100-page rule. There are admittedly very few that have failed, but I've stopped feeling apologetic when I put it down, ponder a moment, and say, "Nope. That's enough of my time on that," and then pretty much go full Dorothy Parker on it. There are too many good books out there to spent time on lousy ones.
posted by Emperor SnooKloze at 8:58 PM on September 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

I unhappily force my way through it. Then I give it away, maybe some will enjoy it.
posted by Chrysostom at 8:59 PM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

Every writer has an essential responsibility to put in the effort to make you care what happens next in the story. If the writer cannot make you care enough, then they're not worth the effort. Sometimes they can tease a bit, but the teasing should be creative.
posted by ovvl at 9:01 PM on September 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

I used to not just finish every book I started, but every *series* I started (ask me how I feel about the Wheel of Time) but somewhere in my 20s I started to be way more interested in how the next maybe-actually-good book might start than how this bad one ends. These days I generally last about 100 pages into a book that's just not for me before I decide that's good enough and move on through the to-read pile.
posted by restless_nomad at 9:02 PM on September 20, 2017

If it's a novel and I find myself skipping forward as early as the second page, I take it as an early jettison sign, I usually don't go much further. With non-fiction it'll normally be something I need to take on board and I'll see it out.
posted by unearthed at 9:02 PM on September 20, 2017

I've quit books after 30 pages. Usually this is because I think the writing is crap or it just wasn't what I was expecting and wasn't interested in. Sometimes if it's a bit further, it's because I haven't come to care at all about the characters or the plot.

I've quit 3/4 in. When I quit 1/3 or more into a book, it's usually because I've realized I don't care to find out what eventually happens to the characters or with the plot.

Over time however, I've found that occasionally I'm just not in the mood for a particular book at a particular time for whatever reason. If I think this is possible in specific cases, I'll note it to myself in a GoodReads review and may return to it later. Sometimes that works out, sometimes not.

I probably DNF somewhere around a quarter to a third of the books I start, but I'm old and have no interest in spending time on something I'm not enjoying. I don't see it as a character-building exercise anymore. Most of the books I read are from the public library, so I just return them, finished or not.
posted by ClingClang at 9:14 PM on September 20, 2017 [3 favorites]

If I'm gritting my teeth, it's over. Last time that happened, I was 30 or 40 pages in.

Getting rid of books ethically can be tough, but goodwill or salvation army pick up and resell.
posted by janey47 at 9:16 PM on September 20, 2017

Life is waaay too short and there are waaay too many books to finish one you're not into! Also the answer is to get your books from the library and then you don't need to worry about what to do with it after!
posted by bookworm4125 at 9:17 PM on September 20, 2017 [2 favorites]

Physical books will be non-fiction for a specific project: skim for what I need. Donate. Hilariously, my library no longer accepts donations.

All my fiction is digital (unless it's a very special book). I usually know by the 3rd chapter if I will continue. If I have to know the outcome, but the journey isn't worth it, I'll skip to the last ten or so pages. Sometimes I end up reading (or watching, since I do this to shows) stuff in reverse.
posted by jojo and the benjamins at 9:25 PM on September 20, 2017

I quit if it gets boring.

In our lunchroom at work we have a lending library, which basically takes up one (over-sink sized) cabinet. I've found some great reads there. I donate and borrow frequently.
posted by vignettist at 9:26 PM on September 20, 2017

Nope. It goes straight into the pile of donations for the animal shelter.
posted by turbid dahlia at 9:28 PM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

There's only one series of books I force myself through due to partial sunk cost fallacy and that's Game of Thrones, but I'm almost free and there are still characters I care about whose stories I want to see pan out. If I'm really struggling I'll put it on hold and read something else before going back to it.

Otherwise I've quit 5 pages in before and 50 pages in. Those then go on a "dropped" exclusive shelf on my Goodreads. There's not many I've dropped over halfway in, but if it happens it's a gradual petering out as I move to something else and it just never gets finished.

All of my reading now is on Kindle so I just remove them from my device, like I would any other book I've finished.
posted by lesser weasel at 9:31 PM on September 20, 2017

I have an English literature degree. I teach literature. I love literature. However, I am also an unapologetic book abandoner. If I'm not feeling it after about 30 pages, I put it aside with zero guilt. Sometimes I come back to them, sometimes I don't. But life is too short to feel guilty about not reading a book, even a classic that you're "supposed to" love or receive great edification from.
posted by hurdy gurdy girl at 9:55 PM on September 20, 2017 [6 favorites]

I generally give a book about 50 pages. Then if I'm still unsure I'll quit at halfway, or when there is some particularly inane dialogue. I generally look up the plot synopsis on Wikipedia to find out what I'm "missing".
posted by sacrifix at 10:11 PM on September 20, 2017 [1 favorite]

I will still finish it because I'm kind of a complete-ist, but it might take a long time to do so (years is not unheard of). I won't get rid of the book until I've finished it, but it'll get a low rating on LibraryThing, possibly the "terrible" tag, and it's definitely getting donated.
posted by smangosbubbles at 10:17 PM on September 20, 2017

I used to force myself through books, but then I got to the "life is short, fuck this" point (everyone's is different, maybe some people never get there) and if a book loses my interest and fails to re-engage it within a couple of chapters/20-40 pages, I give it up without (much) regret.
posted by rtha at 10:19 PM on September 20, 2017

It is very rare that I give up on books, but if I'm still really struggling to be engaged at the halfway point, I might ditch it. I usually just donate them; very occasionally I'll resell on Amazon if it has enough market value to make it worth the trouble to go to the Post Office.
posted by desuetude at 10:34 PM on September 20, 2017

In most cases, I quit when I lose interest. I'll make an exception if the book is considered (for good reasons) to be a classic or if it's recommended/positively reviewed by someone I respect, but that only goes so far. E.g., I am quite sure I will die before I get around to giving Moby Dick another shot.
posted by she's not there at 11:12 PM on September 20, 2017

If I've read 10% of a book and am not enjoying it or getting anything useful out of it, then I stop reading and give it to a charity shop. Life is short, and there are lots of good books to read!
posted by Perodicticus potto at 11:12 PM on September 20, 2017

Read a synopsis online. Done.

I also do this a lot with TV shows. I worked in TV, plus I have kid now. I just can't once I get the gist. Synopsis or bust.

(Except for Twin Peaks 3rd Season, which I am saving for when I have the bandwidth to dig in and enjoy it.)
posted by jbenben at 11:16 PM on September 20, 2017

I pretty much always finish a book if I start it. It's only another couple of hours and who knows, maybe it'll connect up in an interesting way with something else in my brain later.

(Barring egregiously bad writing, which I check for before I buy a book or check it out.)
posted by kindall at 11:59 PM on September 20, 2017

If it's nonfiction, I quit. If it's fiction, I grit my teeth and finish it. In some cases I've been rewarded by a strong finish, but mostly it is just to be 'done' with the plot and the characters in my head.
I keep the books, though.
posted by Nieshka at 12:09 AM on September 21, 2017

I use the hundred page rule, but only loosely. If i really want to finish (for reasons) I give myself permission to skim, sometimes really skim, and often i find myself diving deep into certain passages, or even finding my way back into enjoying the book. Several times, but not so many, I have gone back to a book i've abandoned and finished it.
The last book I hate finished cured me of hate reading a book. It was Jonathan Strange and Mr Norrell and I hated it so much that I sometimes can't help but mention it as a book to avoid in recommendation threads. Don't be me, don't hate finish a book.
posted by OHenryPacey at 12:10 AM on September 21, 2017 [3 favorites]

You as a reader have a right to do whatever you want: Reader's Rights. You have a right to stop reading right there. You have a right to stop reading after page 1, if you want. You have a right to trash it, if you wish, but it would be perhaps better in this day and age to donate it to a charity or to a paper drive.

As for me, I usually give it 30-50 pages (about an hour's investment). Then I delete it if it's in e-form or leave somewhere around town for others to pick up (Bookcrossing). I've looked up online summaries/synopses for badly written books with good ideas, just to see how the story plays out. The older I am, the less I fret about it.
posted by gakiko at 12:23 AM on September 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Oh! I forgot to mention: when I was still in the US and had more physical copies than digital, I would list books (dropped or finished happily) on Paperback Swap to get credits for more books I wanted to read. It was really fun going to the post office with a whole stack of books (wrapped in printer paper and taped to high heaven) and shipping them to different parts of the country. Since the sender pays, it balances out when you request books yourself.

I got and got rid of a lot of books that way.
posted by lesser weasel at 1:13 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

It took me a long time to accept that I could (1) stop reading a book if I wasn't enjoying it, and (2) give books away when I finished. What helped me was to think about why it was so hard for me to do either of those things. In my case, (1) was hard because my self-identity is very wrapped up in being a reader and in being somebody who sticks with tough intellectual tasks. And (2) was hard because I was using my bookshelf as a memory aid and a voting booth.

Eventually, I realized the following:

• I'm going to read a certain number of words in my life. Whether those words are from books I find worthwhile or books I'm forcing myself to read, it's going to end up at the same number of words. So why not make them enjoyable?
• If I want to remember what I've read, a text file on my computer works just as well as a house that has been taken over by books.
• Buying a book, re-reading it often, and recommending it to friends are all endorsements that an author appreciates. Keeping a book that I'm never going to read again is not.
posted by yankeefog at 1:41 AM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

(Oops, sorry-- I just realized that, instead of answering your questions, I gave you the backstory to my answers. My answers are:
1. I quit reading it.
2. However long it takes for the author to lose my trust that they know what they're doing.
3. Donate it to a thrift shop.)
posted by yankeefog at 1:43 AM on September 21, 2017

Quit, register it on BookCrossing, and release it into the wild. Someone else may very well enjoy it.

I generally give it 50 to 100 pages. Life is too short to read books that don't work for you.
posted by Too-Ticky at 1:49 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

As to whether I finish a book, it depends on what I am disliking about it: in general, if it's poorly written, or contains sentiments to which I am politically or morally opposed and doesn't seem to examine them or deconstruct them in some way (e.g. drive-by racism or objectification of women), I will usually stop as soon as it becomes evident that this is an issue, whether that's one chapter in or 50% of the way in. In general a throwaway sentence won't bother me, it's when this kind of thing is a characteristic of the book. But if it's good but boring, or if it's good but I'm not really feeling it, I will continue.

I feel like life is too short to waste time reading bad writing, but sometimes a book can be really good without gripping you. Arundhati Roy's last book felt like that for me - I knew it was good, but I didn't... feel it. Still, I finished it because I wanted to be able to back up my assertion that it didn't work for me based on having finished the whole thing.

I never throw away books - I accumulate books that I won't keep, then give them to friends or charity shops.

As for TV shows, I have no patience. The second my attention flags, I'm out.
posted by Ziggy500 at 2:27 AM on September 21, 2017

Jumping on the "life is too short" wagon. Just let it go, and move on.

Apologies if this has been mentioned above; I have kept lists of books I have read since first grade (Thanks, Mrs. frost!!). I used to log every title, but in my late 30's, started keeping track of just the good ones. I loosely catagorize books I read into: 1. One time read, ok book, but only worth one go.
2. GOOD BOOK! I am likely to want to reread this one, and often recommend it to others. 3. OMG, MUST OWN THIS AND CHERISH IT FOREVER!! I have read A tree grows in Brooklyn probably 25 times. Same with a lot of other books in my life. E-readers have changed my world!!
posted by LaBellaStella at 3:24 AM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

If you find that you want to keep a book that you did not finish just because you don't want to lose your record of books that you read, then apart from BookCrossing (which will keep the book on your virtual bookshelf, along with your comments, and allow you to possibly hear back from it if someone finds it and logs their find) GoodReads is another good option.
posted by Too-Ticky at 3:34 AM on September 21, 2017

Unless it's assigned reading for a class, I feel no obligation to finish a book that I'm not enjoying or engaging with. I don't view buying a book or checking it out from the library as a contract to read it. As many above have already said, there are just too many books I want to read to spend time on ones I end up not wanting to read.
There are some books that I do just have a feeling about--that it's just not the right time to read them. The novel Tell The Wolves I'm Home is an example--I started it twice and couldn't get beyond 50 pages but somehow knew that if I waited for the right time I would enjoy it. The third time something clicked and I ended up loving it.
I save unfinished books and take them to my local Half Price Books a couple of times a year. Of course the money I get for them is immediately spent on new books.
posted by bookmammal at 3:37 AM on September 21, 2017

I'd quit reading the book, but I've only done this with one book so far in my life. I'd say a few chapters, maybe about 50-11 pages in. If done, I'd donate the book. The last time this happened, I returned the book -- it just happened to be damaged anyway. A lot of people are very fond of the book that I didn't like, so I feel like donating it would be better.
posted by Ms. Moonlight at 4:29 AM on September 21, 2017

I used to be a completist, and then it was ruining both my pleasure and my professional reading because I'd get totally stalled while hate-reading something. Nowadays I realize that there are more good books out there than I'll ever have time to finish, and there's no point in reading something that doesn't grab me.

If it's something that many of my friends loved, or an author that I've previously liked, I'll give it 100-150 pages to see if it grabs me.
posted by TwoStride at 5:14 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Are you reading Radix? You're reading Radix aren't you!

If it's hailed as a good read or an award winner I'll grit my teeth, bare it, and finish it. Then after it's all done I will mercilessly destroy it in an Amazon review. I did that with Radix by A. A. Atanasio and Downbelow Station by C.J. Cherryh.
posted by Lord Fancy Pants at 5:22 AM on September 21, 2017

I used to always finish books, but now if I do not like the book or it upsets me (anxious, easily upset) I stop. Most of my books are from the library, so I just take it back early.
posted by mermayd at 5:52 AM on September 21, 2017

I'm a mom now so I have precious little free time. No lazing around reading on the weekends, just an hour or so before bed. I better be damn ENTHUSIASTIC about the book I'm reading or it's absolutely not worth it.
posted by lydhre at 6:24 AM on September 21, 2017

I force myself to keep reading while I progress from grumpiness to outright rage. I would probably then give the book to a charity shop as that way human taste being what it it, maybe someone will enjoy it and even if they don't the charity will get some benefit from the sale.
posted by *becca* at 6:34 AM on September 21, 2017

I usually just get rid of books by donating them to the friends of the library, a Little Free Library, or a free table. Whatever.

As for when to stop reading, everyone probably has their own set point. I'm a speed reader so I'm more likely to give it something like 200 pages than most people's 100, but 100 is probably a good estimate of when to stop.

This self-link is what happened when I finished a book when I knew from the getgo that it sucked. Seriously, if ANYONE has a story where a book that sucked got better, let me know, but this is the closest I've got to it, and uh...not worth it. I don't think I would have stuck with that one at all had an agent not sent it to me and I felt obligated somehow. (Now they don't send them to me and I feel better, ethically speaking.)

Welcome to Night Vale was an example of the Internet telling me it got better by the end, but jeebus, I just could not stick it out that long to the part where "it got better." I was so bored.
posted by jenfullmoon at 6:37 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

Life's too short to read books that don't interest you. I give a new book 10 pages to draw me in; if it doesn't, back to the library it goes. (This is my rule for fiction; I read lots of boring nonfiction because it's got information I need/want to know.)
posted by orrnyereg at 7:12 AM on September 21, 2017

I follow the Nancy Pearl Rule of 50 for reading, which is pretty similar to some of the other suggestions above. If you're under the age of 50, the book gets 50 pages to get you hooked. For every year over 50 you are, subtract a page.

There are SO MANY books out there, and there is so little time, I will 100% abandon a book and never look back. If ever I feel a pang of guilt, I just go look at my bookshelf where live at least thirty other books I haven't read yet and might well like way more than the one I just gave up on, and I pick one of those up instead.

I give my unfinished (or finished, but something I don't need to own) books to one of my local Little Free Libraries for someone else to read and hopefully enjoy more than I did.
posted by helloimjennsco at 7:39 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I keep track of every book I read. I found that it was easier for me to put down books I didn't like when I still would enter them on my booklist (i.e. got credit for them even though I marked them as "unfinished", I am a cheevo-driven nerd). Usually I decide in the first 50-ish pages. Sometimes I keep plugging away at it but then will bail when the book had animal torture/sexual assault or Nazis. If I'm reading a book "with" someone else, I may plug away at it which is what I did with a Charles Stross book I read recently. It wasn't bad it just... didn't make me feel like I wanted to keep going, a momentum bad fit.

When I am done with a book it usually goes back to the library. If for some reason it's a book I own, it almost always goes out (thrift store, recycling depending) if I did not like it. Or, if it's a book that someone else might like I'll try to point it in their direction.
posted by jessamyn at 7:41 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used to power through it so I could say I never gave up on a book. Now I don't have time for that, I will drop a book any time.
posted by Naib at 8:09 AM on September 21, 2017

I just quit whenever I start feeling like it's a slog. Or I'll put the book down, go read something else, and if I never get back to it, oh well.

I get rid of excess books via paperback swap or at the little free libraries around time. Even if I didn't like it, someone else might.
posted by tuesdayschild at 8:49 AM on September 21, 2017

I used to run a playwriting contest, and we had a rule of thumb for our volunteer screeners: If they were in the first couple scenes of a play and it was absolutely terrible and they were finding themselves wishing they could just give up, we asked them to first randomly skip ahead to somewhere in the middle and read a few pages and see if it sounded like it would be getting any better. If it didn't, they they could just give up without guilt.

(However, people were more likely to get into how terrible some things were and keep reading just so they could have the War Stories afterward.)
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:03 AM on September 21, 2017 [2 favorites]

It takes a LOT for me to not finish a book, but there are some key things that will push me in that direction:
1. I don't like/root for/care about any of the characters. The most recent book that got abandoned for this reason was The North Water. Seriously, it was a book about terrible people doing terrible things. I hated everyone.
2. Poor writing style, or at least a style I personally find annoying or difficult to read. There have been a couple books that I sincerely was interested in for the content/characters but just couldn't get past the writing style. The Dexter books are a good example. I just couldn't handle the writing style for some reason.
3. Stupid story points that make exactly ZERO sense. I remember Grave Illusions (which I was reading for a book club, NOT voluntarily) where she was a vampire "trying to blend in" but meanwhile dressed entirely in black leather and 6 inch high black stilettos. Give me a god damned break.
4. Too many plot twists. (I'm looking at you, The Magus...). I have stopped reading books with only 10% left to read just because I am so fed up with the fucking plot twists.

Things that will make me push through:
1. If the book is part of a larger series of books that I have otherwise enjoyed and intend to read more of the series.
2. ....

There is no set amount of time or pages I will give a book before I give up on it. It really depends upon the book and why I am giving up on it. I have given up on books 2 chapters in. I have also given up on books after having read 90% of it.

If I stop reading a book I usually leave it half read on my kindle. Those books are like the jeans I have in my closet that don't fit but keep "just in case" I lose weight and can fit in them again. Those unfinished books are a source of shame for me, so by keeping them around it lets me pretend that I COULD finish them.
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 9:33 AM on September 21, 2017

The older you get the less time you have to waste reading books that aren't doing it for you!
Yes. I had a "Have to finish this book because I paid for it (or, because it was a gift)" chip on my shoulder well into my adulthood, but as I get older I have less and less patience for books that I don't actively enjoy reading. And because I already have a house full of too many books I'll probably never actually re-read again (but might someday, better keep them!) I'm far less sentimental about new popular fiction books as objects too.

If the writing is bad (clumsy/hackneyed/Dan Brown style) I probably won't make it more than 20 pages in, and off to the thrift store/off of the Kindle it goes. (Our library stopped accepting donations! Too many old copies of The DaVinci Code.)

If the writing's good and I like things about the story (premise, characters, etc) but it's just not grabbing me for whatever reason, I'll put it back on the shelf for a while to try again later; when I was a kid it took me several tries to get through Dune and it became one of my favorites.

If I'm just "meh" about a book and know I'm never going to actually finish it, though, off to the thrift store it goes. No shame or guilt anymore. Life's too short.
posted by Funeral march of an old jawbone at 9:46 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I used to grit my teeth and finish every book. Then I decided that life's too short to read shit I'm not enjoying. Now I give it about an hour of reading time - how many pages in that is depends on the book - and if I'm not at all interested, I return it to the library that it came from. (I don't buy books unless I've read them already, they're the next in a series that I already love, or I can't get it through the library/ILL, in which case I buy used or just decide not to read it. If I bought it and I don't like it, it goes to the thrift store.)

Things that have made me give up on a book in recent memory: main character's obsession with the breasts of every woman he met (in a fairy tale!), outright misogyny/homophobia, boring-to-me writing, bad writing, lack of interesting plot.
posted by okayokayigive at 9:52 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

When I was younger I finished any book I started. That all changed when I was reading Midwives. As a midwife at the time, I thought it was pretty dumb and offensive and I actually threw it in a garbage can after reading the first 3/4. Now I don't feel the need to finish all books, though I do finish most. When I'm done they go on the shelf, the Goodwill, or occasionally I leave a good one in a public place for someone to find.
posted by latkes at 10:15 AM on September 21, 2017

I finish most books, even ones that I'm not super jazzed about. The only book I have ever willfully given up on was Ulysses, after exactly 38 pages.* Sometimes a book just isn't keeping my interest, and ends up in my "not today" pile after I find myself putting it down more often than I'm picking it up. I do usually revisit those books eventually when I'm in a different headspace.

I would never, ever trash a book, even one that I found distasteful or bad. In fact, I find the idea of throwing away or recycling a book far more egregious than any book could ever be. I always donate books that I don't wish to keep.

*It's the only book I've ever read that truly made me feel like I was being trolled by the author... I imagine Joyce laughing madly about all the generations of people who would suffer through and pretend to love that drivel. But I still donated it and I hope it made some masochist somewhere very happy! :)
posted by schroedingersgirl at 10:16 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

As soon as I hit the eight deadly words, the book is done. "I don't care what happens to these people." If I don't care, why bother continuing to read? It generally gets donated in the next purge, although if the book is particularly toxic (anything by Piers Anthony for instance), I have few compunctions these days about sending it in for recycling.

I used to try to finish all the books I bought. But even if I did buy it, you know what? That money is gone. It is always gone and reading a book that I don't like and does nothing for me furthers the waste that this book represents, it does not redeem the purchase.

Things that can get me to stop caring- the characters are bigoted and no one is calling them out on this and they are not supposed to be the bad guys, the characters demonstrate underlying prejudice in the world, being generally boring, and being completely irritating. Life's too short to do things for leisure that don't actually bring pleasure or relaxation.
posted by Hactar at 10:20 AM on September 21, 2017 [4 favorites]

Also, I'll add that I will generally try to find a summary online if I'm curious about the resolution and the ending isn't obvious. But I'll only spend a few minutes looking before giving up on it.
posted by Hactar at 10:22 AM on September 21, 2017

I forced myself to slog through to the end of The Bone People. I figured I live a cushy first-world life and hadn't suffered enough. That book evened the score.
posted by BostonTerrier at 10:56 AM on September 21, 2017

I will abandon a book if it doesn't grab my interest within the first 75 pages or so. Other books I have abandoned halfway in or more. Usually it's when there has been a long tease of some sort of mystery and I realize I'm just reading to find out the answer,* and not enjoying the journey. So I might throw in the towel and just Google for the answer to the mystery and move on. (I mostly read on Kindle, but physical books get donated to a local thrift store).

*It's usually "ghosts" or "aliens"
posted by The Deej at 11:30 AM on September 21, 2017

Good question! I try to finish fiction even if it doesn't interest me (I chalk it up as a study exercise in how not to write). Only very occasionally have I given up entirely, never to pick it up again. Sometimes I regretted not finishing a book, then go back to read it... and regretted it all over again.
Any books I don't want anymore I donate or give to friends.

Tangentially, I have a lot more patience with books than I have with movies or tv. There are so many movies and shows that have been recommended to me that I watch a snippet of (if that) and then just look up on IMDB and Wikipedia, read the plot synopsis and consider 'watched' (yeah, Lost, I mean you). Time is too precious to waste on crappy -- or good but overly long -- tv.
posted by fregoli at 11:54 AM on September 21, 2017

Hardcover that you spent $30 on? Finish it.

Paperback that you got off the used table? Dump it.
posted by greta simone at 11:54 AM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

If at any point that I think to myself, "is this something i need in my life right now?" the answer is probably "no" and I abandon it.

If I think it should be preserved for posterity--future archaeologists will appreciate pulling it out of the nuclear rubble surrounding my apartment because it helps them build a bigger picture of the past--I keep it. Otherwise I put it in my neighborhood's Free Little Library.
posted by tofu_crouton at 12:43 PM on September 21, 2017

I usually read the rest of it really fast, which is kind of the worst of both worlds.
posted by dfan at 1:21 PM on September 21, 2017

> This self-link is what happened when I finished a book when I knew from the getgo that it sucked.

Leah McLaren's name on the cover was all the warning anyone would need. I've always been morbidly curious about her novel, but life's too short and your synopsis will do just fine.

Anyway, I probably bail on almost as many books as I finish these days. Life, its fleeting nature, etc.
posted by The Card Cheat at 1:33 PM on September 21, 2017

I've stopped reading lots of things, mostly if they fail to keep my interest in the first 20 pages. I've also slogged through things that have turned out to be more predictable than I thought, and I don't regret finishing them.

I did, however, throw away James Dobson's "Dare to Discipline" when a relative gave it to me, and I don't feel one tiny bit bad about that.
posted by daisystomper at 2:37 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I stop reading books all the time. I could stop a book one chapter in without a backwards glance. The second I am disinterested in the people, or the writing is bad, I quit. There are way too many books out there. I don't owe it to anyone to finish a book.

I do hate-read books from time to time - especially pre-pub books with a lot of hype. I just hate-read The Resurrection of Joan Ashby. And I didn't like it any more at the end than I did in the middle. Mostly I do that so I can feel quietly superior to all the people who buy into the hype, because I am not a nice person.

I almost never keep books. A lot of the books I get are pre-pub galleys so I either recycle those or give them away. Most of the rest are library books. Sometimes I will buy a book but I give those away too. I don't re-read books and my house isn't that big.
posted by lyssabee at 2:59 PM on September 21, 2017

25-50 pages. If I don't like the style or the characters or the plot, done. Then it either goes back to the library or get traded in so I can get something else. Why would I want to spend time with things I don't like? I do the same with movies, too—just get up and walk out.

Now I am a re-reader so if I'm delighted with a book, I may keep it around for a while. My permanent library of about 200 books is all books I know I'll like re-reading. I very seldom add anything to the PL because I know that books are everywhere, so nearly all my PL are out of print.

Life is too short to read bad books or drink bad wine, so please yourself first.
posted by MovableBookLady at 5:17 PM on September 21, 2017 [1 favorite]

I give books a max of 50 pages to grip me. If it doesn't get going by then, it goes in the box of books I need to sell.
posted by reenum at 7:18 PM on September 21, 2017

Leah McLaren's name on the cover was all the warning anyone would need. I've always been morbidly curious about her novel, but life's too short and your synopsis will do just fine.

I'd never heard of her. Is she notoriously awful at writing before this or something?
posted by jenfullmoon at 7:44 PM on September 21, 2017

I stop whenever I feel like I really don't care what happens to the characters. I am also generally reading a few books at the same time and sometimes I notice that I've abandoned one or two to focus on the others. I'll probably get back to those at some time but they aren't a priority.

I love to reread favourite books and people are publishing new ones all the time; life is really way too short to persevere with a book I'm not enjoying.
posted by kitten magic at 1:35 AM on September 22, 2017

Most of the time I stop reading if the next two times I pick up the book I'm just not interested to find out what's next and it feels like homework - this was the case for Ready Player One for me.

On a few occasions I "hate read" the rest, one of which was The Notebook which despite being a paperback made a delicious satisfying THUNK when I threw it across the room after I finished it.
posted by like_neon at 5:37 AM on September 22, 2017

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