What Stops You From Reading?

— April 15, 2011 (21 comments)
It's rare that a book bothers me so much I have to put it down (especially if my to-be-read pile is small, an event which happens all too often out here). In 2.5 years I've read over 70 books (thanks, Goodreads) and only stopped 3. But there are a few things that might stop me from reading a book.

I hate a main character. They're arrogant, stupid, or both, to the point where reading about them makes me feel angry and/or dumb. It has to be pretty bad, though. I mean, I've never stopped reading a James Patterson novel.

It's boring. Usually this will be because there is some promised tension in the beginning, then pages and pages pass before the tension is ever brought up again. I'll put up with slow books, though, if something else is driving me: a fascinating world, witty banter, or sometimes just a friend who said it was worth the whole read.

The writing pisses me off. This is really, really rare. I don't normally care about quality prose one way or the other--even when it's not very good, I can still get through it so long as it makes sense. But there was this one book, with a host of featureless characters and As You Know, Bob dialog oozing out of its spine. I stopped that one on page 62 and never looked back.

So what stops you from reading a book?

Enjoyed this post? Stay caught up on future posts by subscribing here.


  1. For me, it's when an author handles a delicate subject badly. Give me a male author who has a female character raped and then healed through either a) sex with the hero or b) giving birth to the rape baby, and I'm done. I don't care how good the book is.

  2. What Lora said ^ Bad handling of delicate topics.

    Most of these come from using clich├ęs instead of delving deep into the issue and seeking to understand all its facets.

    Another thing that'll stop me: the impression this book brings nothing new to the table. If I feel like I'm rereading another book, except not as good, I'll stop. But really, you need to be quite the copycat before I think you have no originality.

  3. I'll stop reading a book for some of the same reasons you listed. The main character is too stupid to live is a big one. In fiction I think we expect a little more of our characters than we would real people. I just read a book where both main characters were doing incredibly silly things - I couldn't finish it.

  4. I'm have to agree with Lora and Claudie. I used to finish a book no matter what. Now, my time is too precious to spend with books that don't add something to my life. I've been dreadful lately about starting (but not finishing) books.

  5. I've only ever given up on two books in my life. Both were for basically the same reason. I had expected, whether via hype or from the jacket copy, or whatever, that there would be some action eventually, but the pacing just dragged, and nothing ever HAPPENED.

    I mean, something may have happened, eventually, but I couldn't wait any longer.

  6. I'm like you on the characters and it is boring. It is like a show I watched that kept getting me LOST. I couldn't handle it any longer because of all the unanswered questions. It is the same in books. If there is all this promise for tension but nothing happens I get tired and put it down.

  7. If it's boring, I'll stop reading.

    Also, what Lora said.

    And if the writing is really, really bad.

  8. I'm pretty stubborn, so even when a book is grating on my I usually keep going. The only recent example of one I just couldn't continue with was a self-published book that was not even close to being ready to publish.

  9. I made it through grad school and all the reading that goes along with it. I no longer feel obligated to finish a book I've started. If I'm 2% or 90% through it, if I'd rather be doing or reading something else I will. Sorry War and Peace, you did not make the cut.

  10. Many of the reason given here would stop me from reading, but so can smaller, more annoying things.

    Yesterday I stopped reading a book because, out of nowhere, the first person pronoun "we" popped up in a third person narrative. It irked me since I was pretty sure I wasn't one of the characters...

  11. All the reasons you said, plus Lora's reason.

    I've become an extremely impatient reader, here in my state of increasing crotchetiness. I've kept statistics in previous years, and if a book hasn't grabbed me by about page 10-20, I put it down.

    I know I'm missing out on good stuff because of this, but I'm also not wasting my time hoping the bad stuff gets better.

  12. I can't think of a book I've read that handled a delicate subject badly. So that reason didn't make my list, but that would definitely fall under the "makes me angry" category.

    Thanks for all your comments, guys! It's really interesting to learn about people's reading habits.

  13. Like you, it has to be pretty egregious to make me stop. Although if I've got other, more interesting reading fair it could be the end of the line for the problematic book.

  14. There are some books I haven't finished because they were icky, but it's been a while since that happened. I think those were mainly when I was growing up.
    Sometimes really slow books can turn out to be great. Well, I can only think of one, Cold Mountain by Frazier. The first quarter to third of that book was so slow, but then you realized that it was slow in the way that a glacier is slow - it will take a while to get there, but it's utterly inexorable, and it destroys what is in its path.
    I also can't stand stupid characters. The Wheel of Time was the one that really pushed me over the edge. I can't believe how much time I wasted on that stupid series.

  15. I rarely put something down, but it's usually a combination of an obnoxious main character and the obnoxious writing that usually comes with it.

  16. It bothers me when the "narrator" (in 1st person, the MC's brain) decides upon a solution to an ambiguous problem, and like gospel this assumption is always correct. Lots of problems with this kill the suspense and the world is no longer believable, because the MC is a strange version of omniscient.

    The second problem I've had is when the MC makes an assumption (such as, hey if I get this message to the king, he can solve the problem) about a problem that is totally unheroic (such as taking a message to the king, so he can solve the real problem) and then proceeds to have a Tom Bombadil (run into a bunch of weird strangers in a time bubble who have fancy toys to play with that have nothing to do with the plot and destroy the pacing) plus Galadriel (getting sweet gifts that are also magically the exact items said MC is going to need in the upcoming book-- but I can't tell you with 100% accuracy because I stopped reading it) experience all-in-one (you know, like the printers).

    Anyway, yeah that doesn't happen very often. Of course, if you've never heard of Tolkien or you just have a lot more patience than I do (or perhaps this is your first exposure to fantasy), this could have been the best "beginner" fantasy book and might be a favorite.

    Another faux pas is when a fantasy book tries to get "epic" by keeping us confused and continuously changing characters and storyline. For a while this "faking" of an epic story keeps me reading, until about the third drop-off point I begin to doubt the book is ever going to go anywhere, and that I'll ever care about the characters. I mean, just as I start to care about some characters they get switched out.

    Not doing what Brandon Sanderson (though he can sometimes be a little too prescriptionist, but I'm probably just getting picky now- the way of kings was awesome, btw.) and Patrick Rothfuss are probably my favorites right now. Especially Patrick Rothfuss, because I read his book the most recently. It kind of reminds me of Inception in a good way.

    Also, not doing what Larry Correia did in Monster Hunter is a bad idea. Because Monster Hunter is so good. You should totally read it, and I hope the sequel is on Kindle now. Because I want that one.

  17. I know the first problem you're talking about, Nick. It's never made me put down a book, but it hurts. Oh, it hurts.

    And I will absolutely look up Monster Hunter :-)

  18. Mostly I put a book down when it's boring. I stuck through one recently until I made it about halfway because it had a similar premise to my WiP. I wanted to see where the author went with it, but it was sooooo slow. It was supposed to have a mysterious murder but that doesn't even happen until almost halfway through! And when the murder finally happened, the book was still boring. I gave up.

  19. How do books with problem #3 even get published? With all the competition out there, it's amazing that this could still be a problem. Sheesh!

    I much more readily give up on books now. Even if a book is just so-so, I put it down and pick up something else. There are just too many good books out there to waste time on bad ones. That's the beauty of living in America and having a library card, though. It really is a luxury! When I lived in China, I wasn't so picky. I couldn't be!


  20. I'm one of those who reads quite a bit and used to finish everything, but now finds it's a waste of my time if I'm that aggravated. However, I will immediately flip to the end, just to see how it worked out.

    The ones I've put down halfway through were ones where I found myself skipping huge amounts of pages -- in one case, 80 -- and when I started reading again, nothing had changed. I hadn't missed a thing. Makes me wonder who edited those books.

    Also, don't promise on the book jacket (by blurb or cover art) something that really isn't in there. Debauchery, you say? Then there better be some debauchery, not a bunch of Fade to Black scenes. Just sayin'. *coughI'mlookingatyou,KatheKoja*

  21. What you said. Or excessive gore. I really don't like those visual images.