As a reader, this question has plagued me for a long,long time. When is it okay to say ‘no’? At which point is it acceptable to shake your head, physically push the book away and say something like ‘That’s it. We’re done.’? Or do you have to let your relationship with the book run it’s course; sit around waiting, hopelessly bored until you reach the end and you can toss the book on some dusty shelf and get on with your life?
I used to do that. I used to pick up a book and think ‘Goddammit ! I will finish this no matter how boring it gets.’ And I did. I used to fall asleep reading a book and when I woke up, I would go back to the book just so I could get it over with. I used to get so annoyed with the characters, I would start cheering the antagonists on. I used to try to slog through thick, dense purple prose until I found myself skimming it and not retaining it. I used to do a lot of stupid things (I probably still do, but at least they’re different stupid things.)
I used to pursue these books with an almost single-minded determination because of a strange sense of book loyalty. (Who says there is no honour amongst readers?). I have a really, long complex process of vetting books I read. It begins with the cover, goes on to recommendations and finally moves on to online ratings. I guess all that research gets me ‘attached’ to the books. I try to finish reading them out of respect for whoever recommended it to me and their general-good-taste-in-books. I keep on telling myself stuff like ‘It’s going to get better.’ but sometimes it doesn’t.
There’s a certain point where you just have to cut your losses, where you just say ‘Stop’. Life is short and there are a lot of books. I don’t have the time to waste on books that I don’t like. For some people this point is a number like a hundred pages or 3 yawns. I can’t say my ‘point’ is so definite.
I guarantee a quarter of the book; I’ll read that much if I pick it up. After that, it get’s pretty subjective. It depends on the writing style, the characters, the world-building and yes, on my mood too. If the writing is thick and dense, if the characters are one-dimensional and completely unrelatable, or if the world-building has too many complex names and very few fresh ideas I will put this book down as soon as I pass the quarter mark. But even if the book has all that, I might put it down anyways. I might close the book permanently if the repeated use of a term annoys me (rad) or if it reminds me of something else or simply because I’m in a bad mood. Hey! I never claimed to be reasonable. That’s the best thing about being a reader; you don’t have to be.
So the line in the sand with books is the same as it is with boyfriends (probably, I wouldn’t know): If he makes you uncomfortable, or if you can’t see yourself falling in love with him (or at least deeply in like), or you just can’t relate to him- it’s okay to say ‘Stop. This isn’t working out.’ and decisively write out the words ‘The End’.