Book chat

When should you give up on a book?

Man sitting on a park bench reading a book. It is a moody black and white scene.
Image by José Manuel de Laá from Pixabay

Once-upon-a-time I would persevere with a book, no matter how much I was hating it, in the belief that it might get better the further I progressed. Often I was rewarded. Many of the books I considered abandoning turned out to be wonderful reads. Some examples include Peter Fröberg Idling’s ‘Song for an Approaching Storm’,  David Park’s ‘The Truth Commissioner’ and John MacKenna’s ‘The Space Between Us’.

But lately, I’ve abandoned several books^, because I simply wasn’t enjoying them. It hardly seemed worth persevering when there are so many other books vying for my attention. Does this now make me a fickle reader? Or maybe a lazy one? Perhaps it was simply a case of right book, wrong time?

Apparently, crime writer Mark Billingham recently told the Cheltenham Literary Festival that if a book hadn’t gripped you after 20 pages, then it was OK to give up on it and “throw it across the room angrily”. I think we can do without the violence, but I’m beginning to think he’s onto something. But maybe 50 pages is a more realistic measure…?

How about you? Do you have any rules about when you should give up on a book, or do you keep going until the bitter end?

^ I’m not going to mention the titles here (head to my Facebook page if you’re really interested), because it’s not fair on the writers, plus I don’t want to put people off reading something that might really “wow” them. Just because they didn’t work for me, doesn’t mean they won’t work for you. Books are the meeting of two minds — the author’s and the reader’s — and sometimes, for the slimmest or most personal or ridiculous of reasons, the alchemy just doesn’t work.