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.
Are you referring to trade published books or indie/self published books? I notice that lots of trade published novels have mistakes that should've been caught by editors, even half asleep. Of course, self-publishers have the rep that they eschew editorial services, but those who are serious about their writing and publishing make sure that their work gets vetted by at least a few beta-readers.
I was referring to trade published books. I have seen things in books from major publishers that make me cringe. Of course, indie and self-published books can be as bad or worse.
All the books mentioned by me are trade-published. In fact, most of the books I read are trade--published. Not all trade-published books are worth reading, even when they aren't carelessly edited.
And I've also seen trade publications with serious grammar errors. All of my trade-published books have had both content- and copy-editors. Not all were worth their salaries.
I have also found I put down books more often than not. I put down books that have plot lines repeated too often - Night Circus was one I put down and a lot of people I knew loved it. I gave it 50 pages and it still didn't put in a plot twist I hadn't seen before. Story will trump bad writing, however. The Glass Castle was not well written but the story was so compelling I couldn't stop reading. Not having a character I 'like' will make me put down a book including protagonists I have enjoyed in previous books. I am even less patient with tv/movies. If I hear "Give em all you got" in an action flick or there isn't a line that I go "Ahh, that was good", I stop watching. Exposition/info dumps drive me crazy in books and movies (Cronenberg's Cosmopolis doing long idea dumps in case you missed the incredibly obvious theme). Then there are the stories that surprise you - the kid's movie Brave - I will recommend it up and down since I DIDN'T predict several plot twist and the ending was completely unique. Unheard of in children's movies. For book recommendation I now rely exclusively on fellow writers. Most writers read well outside their own genre and I have ended up reading some great things I would never have come across otherwise.
Good story will trump bad writing, but... too bad isn't it?
Here's another Scandinavian book I tossed: Lene Kaberbol's THE BOY IN THE THE SUITCASE. Do note the good title. It's the sort that makes you pick up a book, and it also tells you something about the plot. But this novel (actually co-written by another woman, Agnete Friis) does something I don't like: it focuses on the vulnerability of women for a suspense plot. This sort of thing is extremely common and is the sort where the female lead goes down the dark cellar steps though she knows better. In this novel, a number of women end up chased by the bad guys, starting with the one who picks up a suitcase for a friend and finds an unconscious, drugged 3-year-old in it. He has been kidnapped. Now at no time does this female consider calling the authorities. If she had, there would have been no plot.
I don't read stories like that.
Stories like that drive me crazy.
A. Using women to build suspense like that is lazy.
B. Ordinary people who refuse to call the authorities and still triumph over professional criminals? I'd call it fantasy, but I know fantasy writers work hard so their books make sense.
We toss them because time, like money, is valuable, and as we grow older, we become more and more conscious that life is finite. So why waste it on a lousy book. I toss books when I can't relate to characters, or when the writing is so predictably boring, or when the author takes 20 pages to get into the book. Also, I now mostly read only novelists from whom I can learn something.
Life is short. Spend your time wisely. No bad books. No bad movies. No bad TV shows.
I think some books just don't live up to the hype or our expectations. I've stopped reading some authors I used to consider favorites because their last five books disappointed me. I stopped buying their books altogether.
Yes, I've done this also.
Books in general tend to bore me. If I like a book enough to wade into it for leisure reading, I tend to give it a long time to hook me. Which is good because a lot of books got better as they progressed, although most readers wouldn't give such books a chance. Like "Chasing The Night" by Iris Johansen. It looked good so I picked it up from the college library. Read it in a week. Loved the last third or so like I love a good episode of CM. It wasn't brilliant though. And the first half was pretty darn slow. Yet she's a bestselling author. I could never get away with that and yet I am supposed to take cues from these authors for "how to pull it off."
Honestly, there is nothing specific that turns me off other than that it bores me. I have yet to find a book with a first page so good that I couldn't put it down. Just has not happened for me yet. At all. So really, it sort of makes the "you have to hook readers with the first page" speech feel a bit trite since I cannot recall 1 time a book has hooked me like that.
A story just has to have "it." As a reader, it has to make me want to read more. IDK what or how that happens. I just know when it's not there, and 99.5% of the time, it isn't. The remaining 0.5% usually don't "hook" me from page 1 either but rather have either interesting reviews, covers, and/or synopses that make me willing to give it more time. Sometimes these books have good, if not extraordinary, starts that make giving it a chance easy. Others it's a little dull for a few chapters.
Boy, are you a dream market for writers, Jonathan. :-)
You win the candor award, though.