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What is the Most Memorable Reason You Have for Abandoning a Book Halfway Through?

4143550512_9563c71f26_bThis blogger largely abandoned paper books nearly a decade ago, but lately I’ve been paperpunking and it has reminded me of just how many ways ebooks are better than paper.

Some of the movies I want to see later this year are based on books, so I’ve been reading the books first. And since in many cases the used paper books were cheaper than the ebooks, I’ve been buying and reading paper books again.

And in some cases, discarding the book half way through.

For example, A Slight Trick of the Mind is a Holmes novel by Mitch Cullin which has been adapted into a movie starring Ian McKellan. The movie is coming out later this year, but after reading the book I suspect I won’t be watching it.

The book may feature a 93-year-old Sherlock Holmes but it is written in such a way that the character works just as well if we assume he is a senile old man who merely thinks he is Holmes. In short, this isn’t what you would think of as a Holmes story (there’s no Holmsian mystery to solve) but more of a "what does Holmes do in his retirement" type of fanfic.

But that is not why I abandoned the book.

I gave up on it because the font size is too small. Reading this book is too much of a struggle (my arms aren’t long enough). If the font size were just one or two steps larger, I would finish the story just to see how it ended, but the disappointing story simply doesn’t inspire me to put up with the frustrating reading experience.

This isn’t the first book I’ve dropped halfway through, but it is the first paper book which I have put down due to a technical issue.

So tell me, what was the most noteworthy reason you have for abandoning a book (font size, weight, sheer mass, or writing style)?

Conversely, is there a book you wish you had abandoned sooner? (I’ll post an answer to this in the comments.)

images by allaboutgeorgeVox Efx

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Nate Hoffelder May 3, 2015 um 11:43 am

The one book I wish I had abandoned that still bothers me is the 5-book omnibus edition of Game of Thrones.

It took me close to three months in late 2013 to finish it, and it wasn’t until I got most of the way through the last book that I realized that the books weren’t actually going to get interesting at any point. (If I had liked the books I would have finished the omnibus in a week and a half.)

It’s not just the disjointed story telling style (scenes frequently ended before the natural conclusion) or the abrupt change from Danearys being the focus to her brother but also the point that GoT was an exercise in the author abusing the reader. Martin introduced characters, made you like them, and then killed them off in job lots.

Yes, I get that the series is set in the middle of a war, but that doesn’t mean that he has to kill off lead character after lead character. And it’s not just the nice guys or the good guys; he even kills off the likable villains as well as pretty much everyone who could stop Westeros from going down the crapper.

And he did it over and over again across 5 books. It’s eighteen months later and I am still pissed off.

Kevin May 3, 2015 um 7:51 pm

Interesting comment on "Game of Thrones". I had exactly the same experience, and stopped reading them for the same reason – basically boredom and irritation at a writer who thinks readers will still be interested in his meandering narratation after he kills of the key person interests.

Nate Hoffelder May 3, 2015 um 8:05 pm

I wish I hadn’t bought the omnibus. If I had been reading the single ebooks I would probably have burned out after the second or third book.

Tyler May 3, 2015 um 9:27 pm

I purchased the omnibus and tried to read them but gave up. Now I am listening to them on Audible and really enjoy it. Much different experience having it read to you.

Tom May 4, 2015 um 10:13 pm

I would only tackle these on audiobook, I haven’t tried reading fantasy books since Earthsea, which I loved but would other books live up to it? Good to know the audio version is worth a listen.

Sharon Reamer May 4, 2015 um 6:35 am

I did make it through 4 of the books because I had spent five years waiting for A Feast for Crows but then was disgusted with the whole thing. And mad. Still made. Made myself watch first two seasons of the series to see if maybe I was missing something. Nope. Only managed to get my Beloved as mad as I was.

rur42 May 3, 2015 um 5:01 pm

I abandon books when I begin to feel like the author is merely filling up white space. This usually involves books the run 300 pages or more, you know the blockbusters.

vorpal May 3, 2015 um 5:28 pm

A few months ago I sat down and read the entire Stephen White series (about 22 books), which revolves around a phsychologist living in Colorado. Throughout the series, the author built up a terrific, compelling world–the protagonist, his wife, his police buddy (and his wife), neighbors, dog, and so on. Somewhere around the middle of the series, the author started killing off known characters…one of the neighbors goes first. Then his police buddy gets a divorce…then his partner goes up in smoke. The other neighbor moves away. The last straw was when the hero himself gets divorced. I stopped reading that book in the middle and never bought a sequel.

It was like watching someone build an exquisite house by hand and then knock it down, room by room. I guess the author was sick to death of Alan Gregory. I suspect that, in the last book in the series (which I didn’t read), the author kills off Alan. Fooey.

Mike May 3, 2015 um 6:37 pm

A very long time ago I sat down to read "War and Peace" and ended up giving up at the start of the Battle of Borodino when Tolstoy started talking irredeemable nonsense about historical inevitably, how Napoleon’s troops would have killed him if he had’t attacked. Over the years I kind of forgot about this and tried again only to end up throwing the book across the room in disgust at the same point. "War and Peace" ended up as part of my next charitable donation. At least it wasn’t my e-reader or tablet that got thrown – I think a paper book is a bit better able to survive such treatment!

Marcie May 3, 2015 um 8:30 pm

GRRM takes so long between books that I forget the characters and the plots (and I’m not interested in watching all that gore and sex in the HBO series–at least in the books I can skip the graphic parts). I am most interested in Jon Snow’s story, so I’ll keep reading (or skimming) to find out what happens to him. The books' tagline is Winter is Coming, so I suspect he is in the middle of whatever that will be.

Nate Hoffelder May 3, 2015 um 8:38 pm

You should give up now. What happens to Jon Snow will piss you off.

Marcie May 3, 2015 um 8:39 pm

Just curious, Nate–you seem to be a library advocate and yet you prefer to buy books. Do you tend to read rare or esoteric books that libraries don’t carry? With library books, price wouldn’t matter. I’m a big reader but never purchase anything unless I know absolutely that I want to keep something. Which hardly ever happens. I check it out, read it in a couple of days or maybe a week, and return it. Hard copies and ebooks both. Of course the publishing industry would collapse if all readers were like me, but it is easier on my wallet.

Nate Hoffelder May 3, 2015 um 8:42 pm

If my library has a copy, I’ll reserve it and read it. If not (and i really want to read it), I will go buy a copy.

Name (required) May 4, 2015 um 2:52 am

Like the first poster I abandoned Game of Thrones after reading some 20% of the first book. I have no problem with that, the book got filed in "obviously not written for me" category.

What was a really memorable book I have abandoned was The Road by Cormac McCarthy. This was THE sickest, ugliest, nastiest, most disturbing thing I have *ever* read. Plus the missing punctuation, quote marks or even names for main protagonists. After reading about a third of the book I gave up and looked up the further progress on the net and desperately started to look for mind-bleach, or an unicorn, or something to get it out of my head.
I understand that some people think that it is a great book, but when I take a book in my hand, I do not wish to be "emotionally shattered" as one of ecstatic reviewers described the book. I wish the book came with a warning – I was practically suckered into reading it. This is not a post-apocalyptic Science Fiction that I was led to believe was the case.

I have never abandoned a paper book because font, physical size or layout issues. Back then I wasn’t as spoiled by a formatting [that I can change on my e-ink reader] as I am today. And, anyway, an average paper book [used to be] typeset in a manner that was vastly superior to a [practically non-existent] typesetting on the vast majority of e-ink reading devices out there. I will spare you my long-winded complaints about non-existent hyphenation and long list of other issues on Kindle and other popular e-ink readers.

Lori G. May 4, 2015 um 8:38 am

Finally. Someone else who hated the book. Everyone raved about it, so I tried to read it. I have a 50 page rule. I read the first 50 pages, if I don’t like it , I stop. I couldn’t get that far. What is sad is I really liked the movie. The book was terrible. I have tried to read other books by him, and I really hated them, as well.

Richard Adin May 4, 2015 um 4:59 am

Books that I have abandoned reading aren’t memorable; it is books that I have finished reading that have a chance at being memorable. Two nonfiction books that I recommend are "The Greatest Knight: The Remarkable Life of William Marshal, the Power Behind Five English Thrones" by Thomas Asbridge and "The Birth of a Nation: How a Legendary Filmmaker and a Crusading Editor Reignited America’s Civil War" by Dick Lehr.

Unlike Nate, I find that I am increasingly returning to print books for reading, although it irritates me greatly when the publisher uses tiny type as a way to save on costs. I admit there are advantages to ebooks, such as adjustable font size, but cost is not one of them. Unless the ebook version sells for considerably less than I can buy a print copy, I do not buy the ebook version — I like to "own" books that I have bought and saving a few dollars by renting a book doesn’t strike me as a good deal, especially now that some booksellers make it difficult to download ebooks.

Sharon Reamer May 4, 2015 um 6:42 am

I used to never abandon – for some weird reason known only to my subconscious, I felt I had to finish a book once started. No longer. Life is too short and I read far more now than I read even five years ago (ebooks! Yay!) Since I’m an expat and didn’t have access to English-language books through the local library (at least not many), I was limited for a long time by how many I could stuff into a suitcase when visiting the U.S. or the U.K. and then by how many I could afford to order on Amazon. Once .de started up, my reading increased.

And since I have a Kindle, it’s exploded. I read one or two books a week, sometimes even more.

And so I have learned to abandon books.

Most recently, I abandone the first Wheel of Time book after about 5%. It was a reading circle pick, and I do try to finish all of those, but…just…couldn’t. I realized I had also read it once many years ago and wondered how I got through it the first time.

I recently reread the LotR trilogy (maybe the 5th time?) in paper (cheaper than the ebook) and had no trouble ripping through it in about a week.

Mary May 4, 2015 um 8:38 am

So much of this resonates with me. I abandoned Stephen White’s Alan Gregory series for exactly the same reason as vorpal above. I felt totally betrayed by the author. Most times I abandon books because either they don’t seem to be moving along for me, or because the author’s writing is annoying me in one way or other.

Regarding font size, most of my reading is done on a Kindle now because I cannot handle the fonts in regular books. I do check out large print from the library when it is available, and a few times have started a regular print book from the library and then bought it for Kindle because of the font.

Gary May 4, 2015 um 9:29 am

I can’t give you a specific author and title as an example, but in general I stop reading any book where the main character has to do something that is completely moronic, so that the rest of the book can be about the horrible consequences.

Note that the action has to be really, really, stupid to turn me off. I could accept a story about someone who decides to ride out a hurricane in his/her well built home, or who is trapped in the path of a hurricane when the only road out is closed by a collapsed bridge. I would not, however, read a story about someone who decides to move into a a tent on the beach, just before a hurricane hits, just to get a good view and some pictures of the waves.

Becki May 4, 2015 um 10:58 am

I was really psyched to read Scott Lynch’s second novel in the "Gentleman Bastards" series, because of some controversy I’d heard about one of the characters. There was a dust-up regarding his portrayal of a female pirate. But I decided to read the first book in the series first, "The Lies of Locke Lamora". Disconcerting writing style, but I enjoyed the book and was ready to read the second one with the female pirate in it, "Red Seas Under Red Skies". The storyline in Lynch’s books is in a non-linear fashion: you are constantly jumping back and forth in time, relating bits of story here and there, sometimes reading about a character when they were very young and then suddenly you are back in the "present" again. It was okay in the first book. When I started reading the second book and it was the same style, I lost patience. It was too difficult trying to figure out what had happened when, was this scene in the "present" or "past", etc. I never did get to the scenes with the female pirate, and for that I am sad. She was probably a cool character, but I couldn’t deal with the storyline as it was presented in order to find out more about her. (Fortunately I was reading a library book, so no money wasted on my end.)

Runner up: Sense and Sensibility and Seamonsters, which was not nearly as good a spoof as Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. I got less than one third of the way through and gave up, disgusted. Not close enough to the original, and not nearly as well written as I had hoped. (Again, library book. I felt bad for the library that spent money on it, though.)

gingeroni May 4, 2015 um 5:36 pm

"The Lies of Locke Lamora” was one I couldn’t finish. What broke it for me was a "banquet" where the head thief is teaching them how to handle themselves in noble company the better to fleece the rubes. Apparently they’re not just master thieves but also master chefs since they made and served everything themselves to a noble house’s standards. I’ve served up my share of family feasts. There is no way what the author described makes any sense.

gingeroni May 4, 2015 um 5:38 pm


Rob Siders May 4, 2015 um 12:35 pm

I’ve started and abandoned whatever the first book in THE LORD OF THE RINGS series is many times. Same with a number of James Ellroy’s books once started leaving out all the adjectives. I do really want to love Ellroy because reviews are almost always very good, but great Caesar’s ghost they make me want to scream. INFINITE JEST.

Sidenote about movie versions of books… if there’s a movie coming of a book I want to read I wait to read the book until after I see the movie. I got tired of being let down by perfectly entertaining movies because they didn’t live up to what I’d imagined or because little, but important, things deviated from the books. I think a movie is a different telling of the same story and should be able to stand or fall on its own merit.

Christie May 4, 2015 um 6:17 pm

Mostly I want to finish a book that I started reading, but there was a book from Thomas Mann named "Felix Krull", that I couldn’t finish, because I fell asleep. It was so boring.
It was in my fathers book collection and I had already finished nearly all his fiction books. Well, after three restarts, I gave up at around 75%. I couldn’t even be bothered to try the other books from this author, I was afraid they were boring, too. So since my school days, I gave German authors a wide berth. I stuck with mysteries and Terry Pratchett novels…
When I watched the first "Twilight"-movie, it left me with a lot of questions, because this kind of fantasy was new to me. So I read the books and found them much better than the films (no surprise there!) and I got my entry to vampires and werewolves and to my first (paranormal) romance novel.
I never wanted to read books, where I would get nightmares from, so I never read anything from Stephen King. But a short visit to the horror genre from Laurell K. Hamiltons Anita Blake series let me develop a phobia against guns that made me wish I stopped reading the series around book 8 (Blue Moon). In book 9 (Obsidian Butterfly) there is a gun-toting chapter -or more than one- that I find horrible when I remember the story.

Tom May 4, 2015 um 10:21 pm

Great blog topic, and I hear you about small font size!

I usually try to finish books but sometimes I fail. I’ve stopped reading two books lately because of casual homophobia. Is it too much to ask for military post-apocalyptic zombie tales to not include it? I think it might be, perhaps the authors think the audiences they are writing for require it? I don’t need gay characters, it could never be mentioned, but having actively homophobic characters, scenes or language, is a huge turn off. I want to escape and be entertained, not made to feel bad.

In general though, audiobooks have meant I’ve finished so many more books the last couple of years. I can let them wash over me where if I’d have been reading them I would have put them aside long before.

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