When to stop reading a book

by on July 24, 2009 at 7:22 am in Books | Permalink

Kelly Jane Torrance has a very good article on this question.  This part is quoting yours truly:

"People have this innate view – it comes from friendship and marriage –
that commitment is good. Which I agree with," he says. That view
shouldn't, he says, carry over to inanimate objects.

It's not that he's not a voracious reader – he finishes more
than a book a day, not including the "partials." He just wants to make
the most of his time.

"We should treat books a little more like we treat TV
channels," he argues. No one has trouble flipping away from a boring

There is more:

"If I'm reading a truly, actively bad book, I'll throw it out," he
says. His wife will protest, but he points out that he's doing a public
service: "If I don't throw it out, someone else might read it." If that
person is one of the many committed to finishing a book once started,
he's actually doing harm.

Mr. Cowen, who says he couldn't finish Alexandre Dumas' "The
Three Musketeers" or John Dos Passos' "U.S.A.," offers a more direct
economic rationale. He notes that many up-and-coming writers complain
they can't break through in a best-seller-driven marketplace. "We're
also making markets more efficient," Mr. Cowen says. "If you can sample
more books, you're giving more people a chance."

1 Chris July 24, 2009 at 8:10 am

I throw out books that I think are bad with my waste paper, giving them a fighting chance of being rescued by a worker at the recycling facility.

Books that I think are worse than just plain bad or that I find offensive get discarded with my waste paper, too. But I destroy them first, just to be on the safe side.

2 Greg July 24, 2009 at 8:44 am

I’m sorry to say that this is exactly the approach I took to “What Price Frame?” Except I did not throw it in the waste bin. 🙂

3 IWantCookieNow July 24, 2009 at 9:21 am

If a book is uninteresting, I usually stop reading pretty quickly. Everything else would be stupid: I’m a very very slow reader of uninteresting texts.

And Tyler, seems like you like to hear yourself talking in your quotations.

4 Candadai Tirumalai July 24, 2009 at 9:55 am

Someone once said (or is thought to have said),
“I never met a man I didn’t like.” That would
be rarer with books. Napoleon liked to read,
sometimes in very busy settings, but he would
throw a book across the room if he disliked it.
In the two decades of my teaching, I got well
into several interesting books which I didn’t
finish purely for lack of time. Since I left
teaching, I have seldom read more than ten
pages of a book I didn’t finish. I was unable to
complete “War and Peace” until I left the
classroom. I do think, however, that you can
read individual poems and only some essays in
a new volume. And I have done so for many years.

5 Brock July 24, 2009 at 10:03 am

If I don’t throw it out, someone else might read it.

I felt that way after making it only thirty pages into Atlas Shrugged.

6 Michael F. Martin July 24, 2009 at 11:34 am

This advice is as old (and venerable) as Dr. Johnson.

7 WestWright July 24, 2009 at 12:32 pm

I like to read the ‘Look Inside’ and reader review features at Amazon in order to get the general scope of a book…I also find many books have longer preview reads @ google books…taking a speed reading course during HS helped me to become a much faster reader which helps in discarding unwanted books long before wasting further time.

8 Hillary July 24, 2009 at 6:55 pm

I usually give books 50 pages – for me that’s 15-40 minutes, depending on genre and how complicated it is. but since I have 373 books in my 500 square foot apartment and another 289 in storage, I mostly read books from the library.

9 Steven F. July 25, 2009 at 3:31 am

This advice has changed my life. I take my attachments to the next level…I refuse to buy another book until I finish the one I am reading. Sometimes I just give up when I have to, but most of the time I significantly miss out on things I thought would be interesting but don’t bother buying just so I can make sure that I stay committed to a book I never finish. Which means the rate at which I read a book per year is very low.

So what shall I do now? Go buy a book. Maybe “Create your own economy?” I’ll let you know if I finish it or not. =P

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