I seem to be doing this more and more often.  A book I selected, either on Amazon or in the library, turns out to be such a let-down that I don't bother reading past the first few pages.

The other day I returned 6 books to the library, 5 of them unread.  I checked out 6 more, based on a list I made at home of authors who looked promising.  It's been 48 hours and 4 have already been eliminated.

It strikes me that the reasons why we won't bother to read a book might be interesting, so I'll explain my rationale for the latest 4 rejects:


1.Ian Rankin, THE IMPOSSIBLE DEAD.  Not perhaps a fair example since the novel is quite good.  But it turned out I'd already read it.  Note the generic title which would fit almost any crime novel.  There is also a generic cover:  a car in a field.  Nothing here relates to content.  Readers get angry when they buy books they've already read.


2.  K.O.Dahl, THE FOURTH MAN.  Scandinavian, that's why I picked the author.  Alas, this one is a noir novel (not my favorite) about a police officer obsessed with a dangerous woman criminal.  Predictably he'll get in deeper and deeper.  Not much suspense there.


3.  Martin Walker, THE CROWDED GRAVE.  Picked because it's set in the French countryside. Bruno, the local policeman is a good protagonist, but the plot is pure cozy (I don't read cozies), and this is the usual Christie-style gathering of local characters somehow implicated in a murder.


4. Kjell Ericksson, THE HAND THAT TREMBLES.  Another Scandinavian.  This book has a disjointed beginning of trivial and unconnected events in the protagonist's youth and middle years. Apparently the suspense is supposed to come from the reader's wanting to know what made him disappear from a good job in Sweden and take up a life as a poor man with a different name in Bangalore.  Frankly, I didn't care because nothing at all had happened in the first 45 pages.


So, let's hear what makes you stop reading. 

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Finding out it's a cozy will do it. Stiff dialog that reads like writing and not a plausible impersonation of speech. For that matter, implausibility of any sort. For example, any book where a housewife outsmarts a professional criminal to not only save her family but also get the crook arrested or killed has some heavy lifting to do with me. 

There are more, but this list has already touched enough of my bases I'm tired of reading my post.

Amen to implausibility.

Patience. It seems when it comes to patience the amount I give the moving image (television, movies) and the written word have switched positions. Where as the 16 years ago me had the patience to wait for the whale to show up in "Moby Dick" but not to watch "The Wire" episode by episode for the payoff (which I have as The Wire may well be my favorite series) the reverse is now the norm. If a story doesn't get to the heart of the action in the first three chapters I have to at least feel that something exciting is going to happen - or something, a sub plot perhaps, has to catch my interest - or I'll close the book and move on. Nothing against the stories or any particular style but I've lost the patience to see things through past that point (again, doesn't mean the author didn't put it there just that I'm not built to make the journey if I don't "sense" something interesting coming). Wishing, L.J, all reading and our friends and families a very happy new year. All the best. 

Yes.  I have also changed a lot.  I used to love Christie and all the other British small-town mysteries, or the American husband-and-wife detectives.  No more.  Now they strike me as oldfashioned and lacking in excitement.

I put down Twilight after two paragraphs, the prose obviously amateurish. I wouldn't have if I hadn't already developed my palate as a reader.

I've learned I have to read half a page before buying a book to determine whether the prose, the first hurdle for me these days, is at least competent.

Bad writing will do it.  But the four titles above were not badly written.  Something else turned me off.

I don't mind cozies if the characters aren't a group of nitwits.

I find that I need to connect in some way with the narrator(s) if I'm going to spend more than a few minutes in their company.

And writing skill helps as well, though the best written story in the world may still not appeal to me if I'm not interested in the plot/characters.

Very important to have a protagonist people can identify with.  I cannot read books like Dexter, for example.  I don't approve of him or such books.

1. Bad (or stilted) writing. Though before I buy a book or check it out of the library, I will usually read at least the first page. If that doesn't seem promising, I won't go any further. Usually. 

2. Too slow. I have read every Elizabeth George mystery since she started writing---except for the last one, which I quit after only a couple chapters.  What was it called? I can't even remember!   It was like wading through sludge. I also realized that I did not care a whit about any of the characters, or what happened to them, including Lynley, whose latest affair is not only inexplicable but a bore.

3. Too much violence/gore. The killing/torture of animals.  I don't care whether it's gratuitous or not, it puts me off immediately.  Don't even get me started. I quit reading Barry Maitland's novels because of one such incident involving a cat, completely unnecessary.  And I tossed Minette Walters'  "Fox Evil" after page one. Yeah, I'm a bleeding heart, and proud of it! 

4. Novel turns out to be a cozy.  :)  Or humorous. Although I can make exceptions for a writer like  Jane Langton, because she's a wonderful writer and artist, and "one of a kind."  Actually, her books are not so much humorous as literary and witty, although her detective, Homer, is the classic lovable bumbler! 

I love funny characters and humor.  That is one thing I wish I were better at.  George is another of those authors who cannot devise a memorable title that fits the content of the book.

Violence usually doesn't bother me.  A lack of ethics does.  Also, I have a problem with sexual torture of women.  There is too much of that in a macho society and too many women are abused by their men.

The death of a cat (or other animal) is acceptable for me if it is necessary to the book.

There are 350,000 books published a year, so there are more books to be read than anyone can read in a lifetime. The only time I read something and have to force myself to read on, is if the author expects feedback. If I read for pleasure, and the book doesn't please me, I move on the next one. Same with movies, comics and music. The creator of the work better get me engaged ASAP, or I'll move on. And it's not a 'lack of attention span', it's 'don't waste my time with garbage'. Life's too short to waste on crap.
Most of the reasons mentioned before will signal that the book is about to be ditched - bad prose, bad dialogue, dumb characters, implausibility in any sense, failure to engage my senses... It seems that the more I know about writing well, the more difficult it becomes to find interesting books to read.

That last statement is so true.  I'v become picky since I started writing.


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