When Do You Break Up With Your Book?

Abandoned book

Starting a book is akin to dating. I read book blurbs like singles ads in the newspaper. It has to strike my interest right away for me to invest money to purchase it or time to track it down at my library. As with any first date, first impressions are important. Those first pages help me decide if the book and I would make a great couple. Do I want to take it out for coffee or tea? The first few pages set the tone for the rest of the book.

Or do they?

Sometimes I can tell right away that this book is not for me. It’s not because it smells funny or has mommy issues. It’s me book, it’s not you, I swear. Ok, sometimes it is you. If the writing is horrid, well, our relationship cannot be saved.

Other times, it’s not so clear cut. My book and I come back together for a second date, maybe a third. Still I can’t figure out where our relationship is going. Am I invested in the characters? Do I want to know what happens to them? Do I want to take my book home to meet my friends?

When is the time to break up with my book? I don’t waste my time with Mr. Okay when I could search for the book that makes me ignore my kids as I curl in bed devouring it. Sleepless nights are a sign of a great book. With piles and piles of books waiting for met to crack their spines and take them speed dating, how much time should I invest in a so-so book?

I posed this question to fellow From Left to Write members. It turns out the answer isn’t so clear cut. Here’s what our members had to say:

  • Ariane from The Force Expansive reads at least 100 pages before she gives up on a book. Is that considered a second or third date?
  • Catherine of everyday epiphanies believes “Life is too short and there are too many good books to waste time on one that’s not!”
  • Emily at Naptime Is My Time gives the book three chapters to win her over since it’s easier to track by chapters rather than pages on her Kindle. (I don’t read a lot of ebooks so I find this very interesting.)
  • Ever the optimist, Julie from A Good Joe believes she’ll find a redeeming quality about the book, so she keeps reading, usually until the end.
  • Rebecca from Life of an Army Wife imposed a 100-page rule even though she sometimes feel guilty for abandoning a book.
Personally, I don’t really have a hard and fast rule when it comes to giving up on a book. My 75 page rule has recently been increased to a 100 page rule. Sometimes I’m like Julie. I keep reading the book, hoping it will get better or the end will make up for the lackluster pages. I still feel a teeny bit guilty. Though not that guilty. I created an “Abandoned” shelf on my GoodReads account. Thankfully there’s only one book on it so far this year.
How about you? When do you kick that book to the curb (literally or figuratively)?
Photo by Flipfully via Creative Commons
About Thien-Kim

Thien-Kim is Editor of From Left to Write. She sneaks in her reading time late at night after her family is sound asleep. She also writes at I'm Not the Nanny.


  1. I’ve had a harder time giving up on books than I have had giving up on the wrong men! I used to think if the book got to print there will be something redeeming before the end. Now I know that is far from true and I still have a hard time booting it to the curb.

  2. Thanks for the shout-out! The 100-page rule that I use now was taught to me by a very savvy 10-year-old furious with me for setting aside Twilight after 45 pages. She insisted 100 pages was a minimum, and wouldn’t you know I got hooked on about page 99? After years of feeling like I was not “getting it” and feeling bad if a book didn’t grab me, I now just chalk it up to the writer not having done his or her job if they can’t hook me in a decent number of pages.

    And since I do believe in a LONG first date, 100 pages works for me. ;>

    Oh, and the books that don’t make the cut? They get marked Abandoned on my GoodReads, and go straight to the re-sale stack, expedited out of my house.

  3. I don’t have a hard and fast rule and I don’t really break up with books. Its more like I abandon them. Sometimes it is me — I just don’t have the time to invest. Sometimes its the book — if the writing is bad, I don’t feel guilty about giving up on it. There are so many books on my shelf that I keep telling myself I’ll get back to. Maybe one day I will. More likely than not, if a book doesn’t grab me (or I don’t HAVE to read it), I’m probably not going to pick it back up. Sad but true.

  4. I broke up with two books I wanted to love this year–The Book of Strange New Things and Broken Monsters. I didn’t use a page number rule for these. Basically, I started, then as I felt unable to connect, I tried skimming. I finally gave up on The Book of Strange New Things because I kept wishing it was another book, and I made it to the last page of Broke Monsters (with huge gaps of skipped/skimmed material) feeling like I could have read the first and last page or so without really missing anything. I felt guilty about not digging into these; still, I let go of them without the angst that has surrounded some of my abandoned books in the past (especially heavy hitters like The Book of Strange New Things: dropping a critically acclaimed book often makes me feel guilty and lowbrow…).

    • Emily, I have The Book of Strange New Things and have been hesitant to start it because the themes seem heavy. But the book itself is gorgeous, isn’t it? I haven’t even tried Broken Monsters because I was so disappointed in Buekes’ first book–but I think I was the only person who didn’t like it.


  1. […] my dislike of the main character, I was unwilling to break up with the book.  The book was written in first-person voice, so I had to get past my irritation with Suki and […]

  2. […] “Those first pages help me decide if the book and I would make a great couple. Do I want to take it out for coffee or tea?” muses Thien-Kim in “When Do You Break Up With Your Book?” […]

Speak Your Mind