I once met someone who always finished every book they picked up. I’m not like that AT ALL. I think I’ve quit a lot of books, and always for different reasons. And while I may eventually pick those books back up again and finish them, there are some things that make me stop reading books and never go back.

Here are the 10 reasons I stop reading books.

And with that, I give you 10 reasons I stop reading books.

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001: The author can’t write women characters.
Look. It’s not that hard. Like, if you want to write but you don’t understand 50% of the population, then you need to reassess your path. I mean, sure, there are a ton of famous writers who get away with it, and have built huge careers (and cocaine addictions and subsequent sobriety) on it. But it’s 2016, and I like to think that readers won’t let you get away with it. I know I sure won’t.

I think Kelly Sue DeConnick said it best:

“So, there’s the Bechdel test. I’ve got another test that works just as well. The Sexy Lamp test. If you can take out a female character and replace her with a sexy lamp, YOU’RE A FUCKING HACK.”

And any book that has that sort of female character in it is absolutely not worth my time.

002: The story relies on stereotypes.
Try harder. Seriously. If you can’t make a character real and authentic, then you need to work on a new draft. And as a reader, there is nothing more boring than reading stereotypical characters or dialogue or scenes. It’s predictable and lazy. Also, when you read a stereotype, it seems like a place holder that the author put in there so they could come back and fix it late. And placeholders don’t move the story forward.

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003: The book doesn’t live up to the hype.
Sometimes the hype machine gets itself all worked up and makes you think it’s totally worth paying $30 to preorder a hardcover copy of what promises to be the book that will define a generation. And then you get it, and it’s garbage. I definitely don’t preorder many books these days, just because I’ve been burned one too many times. So I’m always leery when a book is preceded by the sort of fanfare one typically reserves for a fifteenth century monarch. And if the book doesn’t deserve that fanfare, I stop reading it.

004: It’s not my cup of tea.
Sometimes a book isn’t for me. Simple as that. It’s nothing against the book itself.

005: The story is inspiration porn.
I really hate stories that tell us characters with disabilities or diseases are inspirational simply because they have disabilities or diseases. Characters with disabilities or diseases should not exist to make able-bodied readers feel inspired and good about themselves. Characters with disabilities and diseases should be in stories though, BECAUSE THERE ARE PEOPLE WITH DISABILITIES AND DISEASES IN THE REAL WORLD.

006: It’s one of those books that the pseudo-intellectual boys from college used to talk about.
I have a whole shelf of these, and I’m thinking about doing a blog post about them, and then giving them away to blog readers. I mean, I feel bad about giving you guys books I quit reading, but I also want that shelf real estate back and maybe these books are your jam. (Does anyone want a fuck ton of Bukowski and Salinger?) I only wish I still had the terrible mix CDs from the pseudo-intellectual dudes I knew in college. That would really be fun to go through.

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007: The author’s hand is way too damn heavy.
I get my preachin’ on Sundays. At least, I would if I went to church. But suffice it to say that the minute a book starts preaching to me, I’m done. Or, if the book has a hella preachy tone with the message instead of just showing me the characters and their story, I’m out.

008: I can’t identify with the motivations of any of the characters.
This is pretty much why it’s impossible for me to watch Girls on HBO. Basically, I don’t understand why any of the characters do anything. And if I don’t get that, the story doesn’t make any sense to me. And if the story doesn’t make any sense to me, then it’s really hard to keep reading.

009: I can’t figure out what’s happening.
This one kind of piggy backs off the last one, but doesn’t necessarily require the previous condition. Sometimes, I feel like writers wan’t to pack as many subplots into a story as possible. Then, instead of being exciting and complex, the story turns into a garbled mess where I need a spreadsheet and a flow chart to keep track of all the stuff that’s happening and where the information all belongs. And it’s worth noting here that I’m absolute shit with spreadsheets and flow charts.

010: The author cares about the plot more than the characters or the story.
This is a very big pet peeve of mine. To me, the plot doesn’t functionally matter. I will gladly read books with no plot at all if the characters are interesting. But what I can’t stand is a quick-paced plot that I can’t care about because the characters are basically anonymous shadows of people. If I don’t have the thing to emotionally ground me in the story, then I don’t really see a reason to keep going.

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What about you? Why do you stop reading books?

9 Responses

  1. I agree with pretty much all of these, but especially #1. There are examples of it EVERYWHERE, but a particularly egregious one is One Thousand White Women: The Journals of May Dodd by Jim Fergus. It’s speculative fiction about the U.S. government giving 1000 white women as wives to Natives sometime after the Civil War. I finished it because I couldn’t not, the ride was too wild, but I was soooo mad.

    1. I know what you mean about finishing a book that’s a wild ride. I’ve done that with a couple of romance novels lately. And judging from what you’ve said of this book, it’s definitely a wild ride that I want to know more about. Though, admittedly, I’ll probably be reading the Wikipedia summary instead…

      1. Please. I need to speak to someone else about how messed up the whole thing is.

        Also wanted to add that my “Did Not Finish” shelf on Goodreads makes me feel pretty good about quitting bad books.

  2. Inspiration porn, yessss. Ha! And I vote for that one knowing full well that I am addicted to inspiration porn. But the thing is, if it’s obvious or the length of a novel it’s embarrassing for everybody.

    This list is just great. Someone I know and respect (hi Julia!!) in the publishing industry once assured me that life is too short for finishing bad books. She alleviated a ton of guilt I had about not being able to enjoy certain ones.

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. #10! That’s so true of most mysteries (even highly regarded ones) that not only do I not finish them, I refuse to even start them.

    1. Hahahaha! I feel you, man. I have successfully avoided some of the most popular novels of the past 10 years for this reason.

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