How to Make Me Stop Reading

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?

41 Responses to How to Make Me Stop Reading

  1. Jeannie Delahunt April 20, 2022 at 4:27 am #

    Basically, anything that doesn’t hold my interest.

    The example you gave with a Santa (maybe the real Santa) and the Salvation Army bucket in a neighborhood would’ve intrigued me. Even as I read what you wrote my brain asked, “How come?” Until answered, I would’ve kept reading.

    I crave to know what makes characters tick. If that’s lacking somehow, I can lose interest and turn to something else. Dialogue that doesn’t move can also turn me off, especially, if it doesn’t improve.

    Thoughtful post. Thank you.

    • Jeannie Delahunt April 20, 2022 at 4:30 am #

      Sorry about the double post. It did’t look as though it went through the first time.

  2. Jeannie Delahunt April 20, 2022 at 4:29 am #

    The example you gave with a Santa (maybe the real Santa) and the Salvation Army bucket in a neighborhood would’ve intrigued me. Even as I read what you wrote my brain asked, “How come?” Until answered, I would’ve kept reading.

    I crave to know what makes characters tick. If that’s lacking somehow, I can lose interest and turn to something else. Dialogue that doesn’t move can also turn me off, especially, if it doesn’t improve.

    Thoughtful post. Thank you.

  3. Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 20, 2022 at 4:37 am #

    I used to finish every book,
    not render authors silent,
    ’till one fine day I found it took
    loving words about a violent
    murder right in Chapter One,
    and that was it, you see;
    snowballed from there and I’ve become
    the best pacifist me.
    No more will I let it go,
    I won’t even skip past
    for deep within I’ve come to know
    that as one reads, one’s cast
    one’s heart into a spirit-place,
    and the choice is hell or grace.

    Those who know my history would find this a real head-scratcher, but spending years working in a brutally violent atmosphere does not make one’s reading choice a sort of busman’s holiday.

    Real violence is something that in its profanity treads on the edge of the sacred, and its meaning is cheapened through detailed description meant to hook a reader.

    For this reason, I can’t stomach murder mysteries (even those without graphic violence), for using killing as a plot device seems simply wrong, and an insult to what God has created in His image.

    And yet, the only work of craftsmanship I can still do is the design and carving of custom rifle stocks.

    Go figure.

  4. Tim Eichenbrenner April 20, 2022 at 5:11 am #

    Thanks, Bob. And, with you writing as a reader AND as an agent, I’m sure there’s a lesson in this blog for us authors!

  5. Pam Halter April 20, 2022 at 5:14 am #

    What makes me stop reading is that I don’t CARE. I don’t care about the plot or characters. I have no interest in finding out what happens next.

    Life really is too short to force yourself to read something that doesn’t matter to you.

    As the parent of a special needs adult daughter, my stress level at a normal setting is what my doctor says is enough to kill an elephant. I don’t want to read things that disturbs me or makes me have bad dreams. I want a good satisfying read that makes me wonder what happens after I’m done reading. Like, I think about the characters and play out scenarios in my head of what they’re doing right now. haha! And I know it’s a great story for me when I feel like I’m missing something when I have to close the book to do life.

    I also love re-reading favorite books. It’s like spending time with old friends. I’m re-reading Spindle’s End by Robin McKinley right now. 🙂

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 20, 2022 at 5:27 am #

      Pam, if I may, this is for you, with deep respect, and with love.

      Some superheroes need no capes,
      and will not deign to fly,
      but behind the part-pulled drapes,
      they’re strong enough to cry.
      Their hearts are always on the line,
      broken, bleeding, stressed,
      but outwardly they look just fine,
      not caring if the world’s impressed
      that they accomplish every day
      what we couldn’t for an hour,
      keeping decency in play
      and never lending sour
      mien to mar their dignity
      to garner deserved sympathy.

      • Pam Halter April 21, 2022 at 4:16 am #

        Oh Andrew! That made me cry. In a good way. Thank you. You’ve captured situations like mine beautifully! Can I share this with my small moms’ group? There are 5 of us, and we all have special needs adult children, except one mom whose daughter is only 10.

        Those women have saved my sanity more than once! haha!

      • Pam Halter April 22, 2022 at 4:20 am #

        I shared it with my group. One of the moms said, “Someone SEES us!”

        That’s a fabulous compliment coming from her. 🙂

        Thanks again!

  6. Len Bailey April 20, 2022 at 5:20 am #

    I like a well-crafted opening with short, clipped, ironic prose that pulls me into the character, setting, and plot. But if the writer continues with that same style further in, it becomes tedious. Either the writer loves his own style (not realizing he must loosen it up to carry the main body of work) or uses it (descriptions of mountains, streams, advancing storm) as a filler and substitute for real events that advance the plot. Reading a writer in love with his own style is a desert duty forces me to wander in alone.

  7. Deb DeArmond April 20, 2022 at 5:29 am #

    Life is too short to read bad books.

  8. Stacey April 20, 2022 at 5:53 am #

    I’ll stop reading if offensive language or content takes over or if the characters are unlikeable. Like you, I only have so much time to devote to reading, and as I age, I am becoming more and more selective about what I allow my mind and imagination to dwell on.

  9. Jeannine April 20, 2022 at 6:03 am #

    If I realize I don’t care at all about the characters or what happens to them, I stop. If there is absolutely no gleam of hope in the story, I stop. There’s enough bad news and people who behave horribly in the world already. I don’t need to spend my precious time reading about more of them.

  10. Jennifer Hallmark April 20, 2022 at 6:24 am #

    If something unbelievable or unreasonable happens, I’m alarmed. If it happens twice, I’m done reading.

  11. Toni Wilbarger April 20, 2022 at 6:31 am #

    I am also getting to be a certain age, and I don’t have time to read as much anymore. I’ll give a book “the boot” if the opening couple of paragraphs contain too much description or flowery language. I need to know up front what’s going on and who is having the problem. I don’t have the patience to wade through flowing sentences that take 12 words to describe what could have been said in five.

  12. Loretta Eidson April 20, 2022 at 6:46 am #

    I’ve done a lot of reading and writing book reviews to help promote other authors. I love doing this for them, but I find myself getting bogged down and somewhat stressed over getting the book read and the review written by their release date. I’m finishing up my commitments now and will continue to review a select few until my schedule lightens up. Thank you for this post. Whew! I’m not alone in this pile of books. Lol

  13. Patti Wade April 20, 2022 at 6:54 am #

    I stop reading when what I’m reading doesn’t matter or make sense to me. I need connection and order with conflict, small bites rather than a mouthful. I want to go with them on the journey, not just hear about it. I don’t need to like everyone, but I do need to have some feeling about them. And, bonus for subtle humor that makes me grin.

    What a great question, and tool!


  14. Megan Schaulis April 20, 2022 at 6:58 am #

    Like you, Bob, I’ve recently given myself permission to put a book down. Sometimes I come back, often I don’t. My reasons are usually more about me than the book. I’ve picked up some wonderful books at the wrong time.

    One DNF that stands out in my mind was a popular rom-com that involves a girl in horrible debt due to repeated bad decisions. I found no humor in her actions and by halfway through I could tell she wasn’t going to change. No thanks.

    Question: If you found a glaring typo in a published book, specifically an ebook, would you notify the author?

    • Carol R Nicolet Loewen April 20, 2022 at 10:05 am #

      Megan, I found some glaring typos and grammatical errors in one ebook and did notify the author, as kindly as possible. Never heard back though.

  15. Sean McClure April 20, 2022 at 7:40 am #

    Similar to your “Santa” example, when a subject is not well researched, I will stop reading. This goes for well known authors as well. I wont name names, but an author everyone has heard of started a book with a student pilot flying a single engine Piper Seneca.

    First of all, a Seneca is a twin engine aircraft which is known in the aviation community as a “complex” aircraft. A student would not learn in this airplane.

    Second, the preferred student airplanes are typically Cessna 152’s, except in higher altitude states where a the power of a Cessna 172 or Piper Warrior is needed. Piper made a trainer called a Tomahawk, back in the late 60’s but it was prone to unrecoverable spins, and therefore not widely used as a trainer, although some can be found from time to time.

    All that to say, when an author doesn’t perform even the minimal amount of effort to research details, it is a turn off for me. Of course content has to be good too. There are plenty of books I couldn’t make it through the the first few pages.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 20, 2022 at 8:07 am #

      Hey, I really liked the Tomahawk!!!!!

      Liked the Seneca, too, though the aileron-rudder interconnect of the Seneca I was weird.

    • Andrew Budek-Schmeisser April 20, 2022 at 8:15 am #

      Liked the Beech Skipper, too, though it flew like the ‘big’ Beech aeroplanes.

      Had I the money and the health, I’d buy a Tommy today, and I have flown stuff like F4Us.

  16. Deb Gorman April 20, 2022 at 7:51 am #

    “Well, Bob, as you know . . .” I probably don’t have to “explain”, do I?

    I sure couldn’t stop reading this post . . . 🙂

  17. Lee April 20, 2022 at 9:11 am #

    I agree! It’s driving me to be better. Better at creating characters and story lines. I have a difficult time finding books I like. Maybe, just maybe it’s me. But after having reading for a few chapters even slogging through feels like suicide.

    Don’t get me wrong I do find the occasional gem, but I have to really dig. It makes me wonder how they were published in the first place.

  18. Cheryl Coffman April 20, 2022 at 9:38 am #

    Bob one of the things that will make it easy to put down a book is “way to much description” to quote another author.
    Why take all the fun out of the readers experience. We all know what a beautiful spring day looks and feels like. I don’t need a page or more taking the fun out of my memories as a child of a spring day.
    Get to the action and excite me with your words please so I can’t put your book down.

  19. Carol R Nicolet Loewen April 20, 2022 at 10:08 am #

    Bob, thanks for this good post. A reminder to me as a writer of what not to do. What turns me off on a book is repeated typos, poor grammatical structure (unless it’s appropriately used in dialogue), and lack of a purpose or goal the main character needs to achieve.

    My favorites are the ones in which I find myself praying for the main character (whether fiction or non-fiction) and then remember I’m reading a book!

  20. Shimrit Hanes April 20, 2022 at 10:52 am #

    Flat characters that are just moving through the plot. No matter how exciting the scenario is, if the characters are two dimensional paper dolls doing things, and not being challenged, moved, or changed by their circumstances. I put it down and don’t pick it up again.

  21. Regina Rudd Merrick April 20, 2022 at 11:07 am #

    It happened for me when I started a much-anticipated book by an author I’d always loved and trusted to bring me a great read. This time? He did not. I couldn’t find one in the ensemble cast that had any redeeming qualities, so I stopped, and was so glad I’d gotten it from the library!

    It also gave me a boost as a writer – if a NYT best-selling author publishes the occasional dud, even my worst is in good company! Lol!

  22. Steve Courteol April 20, 2022 at 12:34 pm #

    A book with a nebulous setting in a nebulous time… Some authors will have a fictional ‘universe’ set in the land of _______. But if I can’t draw me into a time or place I can relate with, then forget it. Probably Narnia’s biggest weakness to me.

  23. Sarah April 20, 2022 at 1:13 pm #

    My parents taught me from a young age that I was allowed to stop reading books that interested me. I will always be grateful to them.

    • Sarah April 20, 2022 at 1:14 pm #

      Disinterested, not interested lol

  24. Sheri Dean Parmelee, Ph.D. April 20, 2022 at 4:03 pm #

    Bob, I stopped reading a Nicholas Sparks book when he took the side of the man in a divorce. As a woman, I felt violated because I thought good ol’ Nick was always on my side, as the reader. Nope, not in this case. I threw the book away and haven’t read another book by Sparks since then.

    • Grace April 29, 2022 at 11:15 am #

      He’s a wonderful writer. Don’t you think you’re being a little narrowminded. There are some mean and nasty women around too, you know. You may have liked the ending.

  25. Susan Brehmer April 21, 2022 at 8:15 am #

    When I figure out who dunnit too early. When I get bored or bogged down with too many stats or details. In nonfiction, I want to know what the author’s findings were, I don’t want to sift through the lost and found.

  26. Frenchy Dennis April 21, 2022 at 11:04 am #

    Two things keep me from finishing a book. 1) Bad historical research–Grrr; 2) a plot that loses my interest within ten pages.

  27. Molly Jo Realy April 23, 2022 at 1:26 pm #

    When working on my debut novel, I picked up a book from a new author for research and comparison. It had a conspicuous placement at the bookstore, with some great reviews. Except … there were typos, f-bombs, and a huge inconsistency right in the first chapter! How could this be well-received? It gives me hope for my own books, but also, a sense of sadness because maybe books just aren’t as great as they once were.

  28. Grace April 29, 2022 at 11:32 am #

    You’re half-right. It’s the writer’s that aren’t as great as they used to be. What has been taught in an “English” class in schools all across the country for the past 20 years.

    Yep. Nobody can spell or even form a proper sentence. I see grammar errors scroll across the bottom of the TV screen as the “news” is being delivered.

    As for the “f-bombs”….sometimes “oh darn” doesn’t convey the right emotion. Get over it. For instance “Oh darn, Charles, is that a knife sticking out of his chest!”

    So, don’t read books by writer’s you know will use a certain language to make a point. Like

    I bet Stephen King is laughing his ass off at your comment! So don’t read Michael Connelly, Tami Hoag, Dean Koontz, Jeffery Deaver, etc. Your best bet is to stick with Debbie Macomber.

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