One of the latest things buzzing around the book world on the internet is this infographic from Goodreads that sums up why people don’t finish reading books. Interestingly, it also demonstrates that a whole lot of people do, in fact, finish books. Good news for those of us attempting to write them.
This is a conversation I’ve had often with my reading friends–once you start, do you have to finish? Until a few years ago, I was a pretty religious finisher of books. If I started it, by god, I was going to finish it. Then one of two things happened.
Theory one is that I became a serious writer. There are moments when I wonder if writing yourself isn’t a bit like pulling the curtain back and revealing the great and wonderful Oz is really just a pathetic old man. Only, I guess in this metaphor, I am the pathetic old man behind the curtain.
Novels have guts. Innards. Smelly insides. When you try to create one, you come to realize this. There are tricks. There are skills. There is ugliness.
On the one hand, knowing how hard it is to write a novel gives you a whole new level of appreciation for the people who pull it off. It also might make you much less tolerant when people don’t pull it off. What frustrates me most is the very good idea with a really strong start that just falls apart somewhere in the middle. I know how easily that can happen. It’s just disheartening when it does. And those are the books I’m less likely to finish reading.
Theory two has nothing to do with writing. It’s just age. The infographic quotes the rule that you should abandon a book after 100 minus your age number of pages. Say, just for the sake of argument, that you’re 39. You should abandon a book after 61 pages. But if you’re 25, you abandon the book after 75 pages. Why? Because you are running out of time to read books! Why waste it on something you don’t really want to be reading?
This, I believe, is the better explanation for what I call “The Pile of Books I Will Never Read But Cannot Quite Bring Myself to Admit” that sits next to my bed. Ask my husband. It’s kind of chaos, and I’m somewhat reluctant to think too much on what this pile says about my inner emotional landscape. I’d take a picture, but it might hurt the feelings of some of the authors involved. I will say that War and Peace is in that pile. Sorry, Tolstoy.
What’s especially interesting about the infographic to me is why people stop reading a book. Number 1 reason–it’s slow and boring. Weak writing is number 2. There’s a good lesson for the pathetic old man behind the curtain.
Do you feel compelled to finish reading a book once you’ve started? What makes you stop or keep going? Are you like my friend, who reads the ending first (it’s horrifying, I know)?