When to Quit on a Book

It was interesting to discover that Nancy Pearl and I have something in common: we both know when to quit on a book.  In a recent article she wrote for The Globe and Mail, Pearl discussed her “Rule of 50,” which is one she has always employed when reading a book.  It is essentially that when she gets to page 50 she stops and decides whether she is still enjoying the book or not: if she is, she keeps reading; if she isn’t, she stops and gives up on the book and goes on to another.

I’ve developed pretty much the same rule over my years of reading and reviewing books.  It didn’t take me long to realize, and each year this “philosophy” is confirmed all the more: there are simply too many books in this world that I want to read, and more of them being published each and every month; also it’s not going to stop.  So over the years I’ve developed my own rule for starting a book: I’ll give it fifty pages to hook me and make me interested; if I’m not engrossed by that fiftieth page, I’ve got plenty more books to read, and in my opinion the author didn’t do their job, at least for what I was hoping to get out of the book.  Sometimes, if I’m mildly interested, I’ll give it a hundred pages and then decide.

I believe this is definitely a good practice to acquire and use when reading, and I encourage others to do it.  That way you’ll be wasting less time on reading something you’re not enjoying — just like wasting time on something else you don’t enjoy and don’t have to keep doing — and spending lots more time on reading books you want to read, and perhaps feel a little less like all this reading is hopeless, as you’ll never get to read everything you want.  This way at least, you stand a shot at it.

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