geekery

Are you an impatient reader?

Confessions of one impatient reader.
Remember back when you were in school and you HAD to finish the books assigned by the teacher? When I was in college, I couldn’t wait for the term breaks when I could read whatever I liked. Over time I developed my own personal philosophy on reading. It goes something like this…With so many books in the world, why waste time reading ones you don’t like? If a book doesn’t work for me, I put it down and find another one. I’ve shared this philosophy far and wide and mostly had people thank me for giving them “permission” to put down a book they didn’t like.

I still think this is a sound idea for the most part, but lately I’ve been thinking a lot about when to make the call that a book isn’t working for me. Over time I came to be one of those people who expects a book to capture my attention from the first page.  Harsh? Well, I never had trouble finding plenty of books to read. My keeper shelves are groaning with the weight of the many much loved books stored there.

So what changed?
For the last two years I’ve been trying to read more purposefully. My not-so-secret dream is to be an author myself, so I started by reading books that had been successful in my genre. Not because I liked the particular premise, but because I wanted to study them. I also looked for debuts to see what editors had recently been acquiring. Now, this wasn’t a hardship since they were in the genre I normally enjoy, but not everyone thrilled me either. I started trying to be more patient, so I could get through these books and learn something about the market.

The last two books I picked up, are books I might not have finished if I’d tried them a few years ago. One started with a scene that didn’t work for me, but by scene two I was hooked.  The one I’m reading now I picked up in the middle of a series. There was so much catching up to do, the old me would never have waded through the first five pages, but on page six…lightning sizzled up off the pages. It would have been a shame if I hadn’t kept reading to that magical page six.

Should I change my outlook?
I still think my “with so many books in the world, why waste time reading ones you don’t like” philosophy is a good one, but now I’m thinking maybe it should be balanced with a bit of patience.

What do you think? How long do you give a book before you give up on it? Are you one of those people who always finish the book? Why or why not?

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23 thoughts on “Are you an impatient reader?

  1. I always give to the end of the second chapter because I too have read books that start out slow but then hit the gas several pages in. But if by that point I’m yawning and distracted, I move on. I have a TBR pile of a hundred books or so that’s always waiting.

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  2. I have only had 2 books in the last 10 years that are DNF reads…. I sometimes sit down and start a book that does not “Pop” immediately even though I fell in love with the synopsis first time I read it… When that happens grab another book and sit down to read and then once done go to another book and by that time pick up the first book and it generally lives up to the book blurb and I finish it with no problem…

    Impatient reader, yes at times… Always finish a book, yes although there may be a few that I “skim” instead of devouring every word if it gets too technically inclined or the world building starts to repeat and it is the 2nd or third book in a series do not need to reread all of that stuff over so skim until it picks up with fresh material…

    Yes I would say rethink your philosophy Charlie, there may be reads over the years you missed out on because it just did not “gel” right away with your expectations!

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    • I’ve definitely gone back to books that I didn’t finish the first time and found that at another time I had a very different take on the book. Just goes to show that the reader (and her mood, life experiences, etc) are an important part of the reading experience.

      I know lots of people who skim, but when I try to do that I usually end up having to go back and read to figure out what I missed.

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  3. I try to read until I just can’t stand it anymore. I *might* flip forward a couple of chapters to see if it’s any better. I did that with Rebecca – could NOT get through the first chapter, so I started it at chapter 5. What an amazing book! When I was done, I reread the beginning and it made much more sense.

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  4. I tend to read until I have enough of a sense of the writer’s voice AND of the main characters. If the writer’s voice is too distracting to overlook, I don’t finish the book. If the main characters are not engaging after a chapter or two, I don’t finish the book. That said, I never take home a book that I haven’t “tasted” first by reading the first scene or chapter. If it doesn’t entice me then, I don’t take it home, which means I don’t have to confront the to-finish-or-not-to-finish question.

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  5. Books? Grab me quick or lose me. No patience at all.
    Of course, book authors who read and write are different from readers who just read.
    I’ve found that readers who don’t write have a lot more patience with books.
    I once had a friend who said, “I hated that book. (425 pages of a Scottish Historical) but I said I’d read it so I did.”
    Most of us don’t have time for that.
    Maybe time is the key to patience with reading. If you have time, you might also have patience.

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    • I think that feeling of having to finish a book is what turns a lot of people away from reading. A great book flies buy like a good time but a bad book feels as if it is stealing time away from your life and stomping on your spirit.

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  6. I’m so glad you asked. Being a writer makes it difficult to read a book filled with flaws. Each one jumps straight of the page and ruins the story. I’m in the midst of reading a historical romance that started out so unbelievably awesome I couldn’t put it down. About 50 pages in, the author started telling me everything the characters saw, felt, heard, and thought. The actions and reactions are implausible, the dialogue is unrealistic, and I’m on the verge of throwing the book in the trash at page 120. It has less to do with patience and more to do with wanting to gag myself with a spoon! :-\

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    • I had this problem when I first started writing, but I think I’ve overcome it. If the storytelling is good and the characters are likeable I can ignore the less than stellar writing–mostly. So there is hope! But for the moment, I say put the book down now. Come back to it in a year a try it again then. If it still bugs you, give it to someone who might love it.

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  8. I agree, patience is often a virtue. But…I will not finish a book if by page say…70-100 it still doesn’t interest me or doesn’t seem to be going anywhere. Generally speaking, I’ll give a book 30-50 pages, that’s it. My time is limited and if an author can’t hang onto my attention within 30-50 pages, he or she probably won’t manage to do so through the rest of the book.
    When I read All the Pretty Horses, by Cormac McCarthy, the first page threw me – by the second page, I was totally hooked.

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    • I think this is why personal recommendations have always been so important in book buying decisions (or so the surveys have said for years). If a friend recommends a book you’ll give it that time to hook you. Not every book can start with a bang.

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  9. Here’s my idea on the ‘page six’ dazzle — why not dazzle the reader (me) on page one? Or the first line or paragraph? At least that’s what I’ve learned via creative writing and all the how to write stuff I’ve studied. On the other hand, some books that are my favorites are slow to get going. It’s kind of like– let’s see. I read for study as well, too. That’s how I learned the formula in some romance lines. Patient? Not really.

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    • Yeah, it is a dilemma. Some of my favorites stray from what I was taught as a newbie writer. I don’t think a book has to dazzle on the first page, but it has to have something that keeps me reading. Maybe it is voice or an idea or a compelling character. Any one of those will do. It doesn’t have to have them all right up front. ~Am I not merciful?~ 😉

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  10. Here is where I risk hell and damnation. :ducks:

    I give most books about 2-3 pages to intrigue me. If that fails, I’ll read the blurb again. Reassured that it’ll get better, I’ll read a couple more pages.

    Once I know who the main characters are, I almost always read the ending first. (Don’t everyone hurt me at once. LOL)

    Reading the end doesn’t bother me at all. For me, it’s the journey, not the ending that counts.

    I have put down books. Many books. But I will give EVERY effort to books that are recommended to me by friends or given as gifts.

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  11. I guess I’m a patient reader, then. I’ll give the book about halfway to grab me. But these days I usually only read books that have been recommended to me.

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