At what point

… do you stop reading a book?

I know it seems like an obvious answer as it should be “at the end.” But let me explain.

My preferred genre is fantasy. I love being transported to other worlds, and have no problem suspending disbelief for things a bit more “out there”. But I am picky about the stories I enjoy. Just throwing a fairy or two and a dragon does not make a good fantasy. And if your creatures are contrary to how I see them in my world view you had better have a fantastic story to show why they would be different.  (I’m old school, think Dungeons and Dragons. One does not consider a dragon a lizard – it takes a full party of healers, warriors, mages, paladins, etc to fight a dragon – they are the be-all and end-all creature.)

Ok excuse the bit about fairies and dragons for a bit, it’s my own little soap box. Following the idea of a fantastic story, I can also go beyond the fairy tale. A good story with solid characters is always a winner. I am currently reading a book that has the potential to be a good story but the characters are actually getting in the way.

The Tower of Fear by Glen Cook (link to Amazon) has an interesting premise. We see a war torn land, previously led by a tyrant priest, a master of the dark arts. The land is invaded by a worse enemy; a demanding warrior nation which wins and poverty abounds. The people are left wondering which was worse. A plot is in the works to reincarnate the priest so he can bring the land back to what the people once knew. In the mean time, the invading military is just trying to maintain order, and try to get the people to accept them and their religion.

At least, that’s what I think is happening. My problem is that there are so many characters, with so many uncommon names, that I’m having a very hard time keeping track. The author jumps back and forth to what I think is three opposing factions (I have yet to figure out which side the third belongs) and actually references two different characters as the “old general”. How confusing is that? One only knows which one he’s talking about based on who he is interacting with.

Admittedly I’m only near the beginning. But usually by page 73 I have a pretty good idea of the plot. I want to continue reading because as I said, it has the potential to be a really good story. But I find myself flipping back and forth looking for what a certain character did previously so that I can keep them all straight. Short of keeping a notebook by my bed, I see no way of figuring this book out. I do hope that it clicks for me soon, as I really don’t like leaving a book unfinished.

But there is more to life, I think, than to waste time reading a bad book. So I ask, at what point do you stop?


6 thoughts on “At what point

  1. Belinda

    My husband generally gives a book roughly 50 pages before he decides whether to abandon a book, which seems a decent metric to me. I’ve only abandoned a handful of books, and it’s usually around that point.

  2. Cymberleah

    I stop at the point where I want to throw the book against the wall. It can be bad characters, bad plotting, a too-slow beginning, realizing that the author has hit one of my pet peeves, TSTL, or, like in your case, too slow. There are too many good books out there to waste time on a book that could have been good.

    I’ve abandoned two books this week. The first, a non-fiction when I was about 1/3rd of the way through, was too wandering and shallow about it’s subject matter (libraries). I like libraries! I don’t need to read thirty pages about how your local library had tech issues! The second one was introducing the characters, and we’d gotten to the “girl that everyone wanted to be with in his high school days suddenly appears to introduce him to a new life”. Sorry, but having the token female character be even more tokenized? Nah, there are other thrillers to read.

  3. Geeklat

    I usually stop reading when I just don’t care enough anymore. It takes a lot of effort on my part to find time to read in spit of the fact that I enjoy it so much. Generally I get most reading done when I find time in my schedule to slot as reading time. I always have a stack of books and so if I don’t have enough enthusiasm to get through it i’ll just hop on to the next with few exceptions. I’ve read some awful books just because they were so awful I felt like I accomplished something by finishing it.

  4. Christine Darrah

    I think that definitely OK to abandon a book at this point, especially if you’re losing interest in it. A friend once lent me a series of three books that, having read the description and hearing from her, I knew I’d love them, but I had a horrible time plodding through the first book. By the time I’d finished, I had enjoyed it, and knew that I’d probably like the other two, but since I had almost dreaded reading each time I picked it up but didn’t want to abandon it, I quickly returned all three books to her.

    However, that being said, I’ve had similar experiences with other books that, before the halfway mark I couldn’t imagine how it took me so long to get into it. A good example of this was A Game of Thrones – the first book in the A Song of Ice and Fire series by George RR Martin. It took me forever to get into the book, but once I did I didn’t look back. I still find that the book seems to take forever to read compared to many others I’m reading, but I love every minute of them.

      1. Christine Darrah

        Yeah, I kind of forgot about that. I’ve never read LoTR (*gasp* “Tell me it’s not true!” you think) for that very reason. I got about half way through the first book and never finished it. It’s always been on my list of books to “get around to” but now that I’ve got my Kindle, I’ve got so many other ones to “get around to” as well…. we shall see. 😉

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