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After buying a book, how long do you give the story before quitting reading?

  • More than 50%, less than 100%

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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
When I was young, I used to think I had to finish a book, no matter if I enjoyed it or not. After all, somebody thought it was a good book, right?

Then I started editing and heard about the 50 page rule. I obediently followed it, because it seemed fair. There were books I put down after 50 pages, others I sailed through to the end.

Then I started writing and discovered the craft of fiction. I realized there were plenty of books that didn't make the 50 page rule. So I went down to 20. Years passed and I went down to 10.

These days, there are so many books and so many writers that committing to an entire book is a substantial investment. I need to feel the writer is worth that investment. I need to be seduced by the plot, the characters, or the writing.  And I can usually tell within 2 or 3 pages whether I'm ready to make that investment.

What about you? How many pages do you give a book?
 

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If I buy a kindlebook without sampling, I am afraid I am one of those that still reads to the bitter end and then says "I can't believe I wasted my time reading that book." 

If it is a free book that I picked up because I thought I might like it, I will delete after about 10 pages if I'm not into the story yet or there is something I don't like about it.
 

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Wow.  I am not a person who will slog through to the end for no reason, but 2-3 pages?  If I applied that rule to any number of books I have read and LOVED, I would have truly missed out.  The Road. Never Let Me Go.  The Cage. Into the Forest.  All would have flunked.  And all are what I consider great books.  

I think we tend to miss out on a lot now, because we have become so accustomed to being engaged in some snappy way immediately.  I've been reading a lot of interesting stuff about the effects of the Internet, computers and before that, MTV (fast cuts in film soon followed) and how all these things are preventing us from appreciating anything that takes a little time.  

What do you guys think about this?
 

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In genre fiction, a quick hook is practically mandatory. Otherwise, not so much.

Therefore, it depends what I pick up. If certain genres haven't hooked me in by the third or fourth page, I give up unless the storytelling is otherwise charming/fascinating/compelling/horrifying (depending on genre) so far.

With non-genre fiction, I'll give it a chapter. That presumes it's well written to begin with. For example, I remember having the most awful time with the Yaya Sisterhood book, but in the end I was glad I persisted.
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Good point, LP... I started THE HELP and nearly put it down because of the dialect in the prose. Couldnt seem to get through it. But I persevered, and I'm glad I did. After about page 40. the dialect seemed to disappear. But I'd been captured by the premise, and the fact that everyone thought it was so great made me want to continue.

Hi, Jack. For me, I think it's the prose. And the voice. I like to feel that I'm in the hands of a master, so that I can relax and go wherever the author leads. Usually, the quality of the prose is apparent after a page or so.
 

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I was at the Sydney Writers' Festival last week and the editors discussed this as the 10 page and 100 page cutoffs, which pretty much fall into line with how long a book has to get me hooked (more at my blog).

My rules are 10 pages to make me read further, 50 pages it better have improved if I was dubious at page 10, and at 100 pages or 1/3 of the book I'd better be convinced the book is worth finishing.
 

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Hi LP, yep, me too on the prose.  But I do have to say, I was so irritated by the stylistic choices (namely sentence fragmentation to the point where you are gritting your teeth) in The Road I wanted to put it down.  Until I read the whole book, I didn't understand that the stylistic choices made PERFECT sense.
 

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I don't really have a rule. I just read until I'm either finished or I don't feel like finishing. Some great books haven't really hooked me until half-way through, but then I love them. Some supposedly "great" books lose me by the end of the first chapter. I don't have a rule at all. It's more like a timer in my head.

I often leave a book mark in a book and put it back on the shelf. Sometimes I'll go back years later and finish one. I still read regular books.
;D
 

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I don't think there is a set amount of pages that I give a book.  I just go along until I can't stand it anymore.  Unfortunately, I have had two of those over the last few weeks.  One, I gave about 20 pages, and could not stand it.  The other I gave a bit longer before finally quitting in frustration.
 

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I don't have any set rule, but when I read a sample, sometimes I finish the entire sample and then don't buy it, often after a rather difficult go/no-go internal debate. Other times, maybe by halfway through the sample I delete it and look for the next candidate. Occasionally I may just read two or three pages' worth and decide right away it's not for me: probably for some combination of poor/uninteresting writing, tone, or a "been there, done that, don't care to read it again" sense.

But that's what I love about sampling: I can take a chance on something that may not be solidly in my comfort zone or by an unknown (to me) author, and feel no obligation to continue if it doesn't work for me. It's not as if there's nothing out there for me to read if I give up on a book. (Well, okay, these days I seem to be getting pickier, so maybe not? ;) )
 

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It is very rare that I don't finish a book that I have purchased or even borrowed from a friend. The way I look at it is I've always got something to learn and I can always learn something from even a book that doesn't do it for me.

I'm also a bit compulsive about things like this. I can't just dust a room, I have to dust and vacuum the room.
 
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At least 10-15 pages, or at least until I decide it isn't going anywhere.

But you're right. You've got to give a book a chance. Putting it down after one sentence, or one paragraph, isn't fair.
 

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Phil Stern said:
At least 10-15 pages, or at least until I decide it isn't going anywhere.

But you're right. You've got to give a book a chance. Putting it down after one sentence, or one paragraph, isn't fair.
My new book starts with: It was the best of times, it was the blurst of times.

Will that keep you reading?
 

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I don't have a set amount of pages, because my reasons for reading each book are different.  If a friend or family member recommended it strongly, I tend to give it more of a chance than if I saw it mentioned on goodreads or a book blog.  On the other hand, if it's an author who posts frequently here in the kindleboards, I'm also more likely to give a book a chance, because I feel like I want to see what they are all about.  What better way to do that than to read their work?

That being said, there have been some books where I got to a certain point and just put the book away in disgust.  That is a really rare scenario for me, though.
 

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libbyfh said:
What about you? How many pages do you give a book?
It depends on the situation. If I've already bought the book (especially if it's an expensive hardback) I'll give it 30-50 pages. If I'm browsing in the book store trying to decide what to buy, the book has to grab me from the first page because that's usually as far as I read before purchasing. If it's by a favorite author or it's part of a series I've stuck with loyally through the first dozen books (like Wheel of Time) I'm going to finish the whole thing no matter whether I'm enjoying it or not.
 

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jackblaine said:
<snip> the stylistic choices (namely sentence fragmentation to the point where you are gritting your teeth) in The Road I wanted to put it down. Until I read the whole book, I didn't understand that the stylistic choices made PERFECT sense.
Now I'm intrigued. I knew it's a book to which people have strong reactions, but didn't realize stylistic choices might be part of that.
 

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I thought of Cormac McCarthy as a "men's writer" (don't ask me what I mean by that; it's an ill defined subjective category peculiar to me) until I saw the move of No Country for Old Men, which I thought was brilliant.

At the time it came out, I heard some people loved the movie of The Road, but lots hated it. As I haven't seen it, maybe I should give the book a try.

[Edit: Ooops! Sorry for the off-topic. I forgot which thread I was writing in. Thought we were in the book recommends thread.]
 
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