Once upon a time, I finished every book I started reading. I had to. I felt an obligation. If I didn’t finish it, it wouldn’t “count” as a book I’d read. Right?
Then, maybe ten, maybe twenty years ago, I changed. I think I realized how many books there are in the world that I want to read and how little time I had left in life to read them. And I reasoned that plowing through a book I’d lost (or never found) interest in out of some sense of obligation or compulsion was just crazy. So I stopped.
Thank you, Jesus.
Now, in my personal reading, I know what I like and what interests me; so if I start reading a book, it’s already cleared a hurdle. But whether I’m reading for pleasure, personal growth, or professionally, if the first chapter, first page, first few lines don’t drive me forward, I may stop. If at any point, my interest flags, I might slog on for a while. But if my interest doesn’t revive pretty quickly, I stop. Life is too short. The measurement for me is not “can I keep reading?” but “can I not stop reading?”
Along the way, some things may ruin an otherwise-worth-reading book, proposal, or manuscript. For example, a glaring and avoidable mistake, like a recent novel I started that placed a Salvation Army kettle manned by a Santa Claus in the middle of a residential block. (Salvation Army bellringers aren’t Santa Clauses, except in the rarest circumstances, and why would it be in a residential neighborhood?) I’ll also stop reading if I don’t love any characters. Or if the action makes me say or think, “Oh, sure.” Oh, and clunky dialogue. And too many or too glaring point-of-view mistakes. And if I find myself getting confused and it lasts for more than a few lines, I stop.
I realize this may all sound petty. I’m okay with that. I’m old and grumpy, and who knows how much time and how many books I have left to enjoy?
So, how about you? What makes you stop reading?