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Five Reasons I Give Up On A Book

Over the years I’ve become increasingly critical of books and I’ve honestly set more books down than read. Besides the basics like good grammar, words spelled correctly, using the right words, and the book formatted correctly, I have five reasons why I put a book down and don’t pick it back up again. Here they are!

1) The author throws a lot of confusion into the first chapter

I like books that take simple ideas and make them shine. If a book starts in a high-stakes incident like they’re crash landing on a planet or about to storm an enemy outpost, then I need simplicity so I can get into the moment. If I’m seeing a lot of foreign names and technical terms I’ve never heard before along with the whirling action of the first chapter, I put the book down.

2) Too many dialogue tags or names in dialogue

I legit gave up on a book in the first chapter because every single piece of dialogue was tagged. I whisper, he says, I say, I ask, he says with a grin, I reply, he says half-jokingly, he replies, I say softly, I admit, he replies, I counter, he asks rhetorically … OMG STOP. Those are all within the FIRST PAGE of the first chapter of a book I gave up on! I found it so annoying that I actually deleted the book off my Kindle. Also, too many names in dialogue will make me put down a book. “How are you, Grace?” “I’m great, Bob, you?” “Feeling a little shaky today, Grace.” “That’s too bad, Bob.” NO. Just stop.

3) Trying to be purple and failing

There are lots of amazing writers out there that write the most beautiful prose. I’ll never forget reading UNTEACHABLE by Leah Raeder and thinking it was some of the most beautiful writing I had ever read. But sometimes writers try to be that good and fail miserably. What really gets me are the bad similes and using them too often. I’d much rather read serviceable, workman’s prose any day than a book that tries to be purple and fails. I gave up on a book at the 30% mark after reading five boring similes on one page. Nope.

4) Nothing happens in the first chapter for the main character

I’m willing to give a book a chapter, maybe two, to get the ball rolling, but that’s it. In the first chapter, I should see the main character doing something. They need to be interacting somehow with their fellow characters or the environment. For me, it’s all about the main character. If I get nothing but setting in the first chapter, I’m moving on.

5) Doing something “ground-breaking” ie. trying to be clever

I tried to read a book last year where they decided not to use quotation marks for any of the dialogue. Yep. None. It was so damned confusing. Many times I couldn’t distinguish between what people were saying and what was descriptive text. I don’t think I lasted more than five pages with that book. I’ve seen other bloggers review books where the author does things like write text and strike it out, or they put black boxes over the text like it’s been redacted. How about you just tell me the story and try not to get cute about it? No? I set those books aside. If the story is going to rely on tricks to keep the reader interested, then I cry foul.

Why do you give up on a book?

14 thoughts on “Five Reasons I Give Up On A Book”

  1. I give up on books for the reasons you do, especially No. 1. If an author throws too many technical terms and weird sounding names at me all at once, I’m apt to give up on a book. This is probably the main problem I see in some sci-fi/sci-fi romance books. The author tries to make the novel futuristic, but over shoots the mark on the pseudoscience and alien looking names.

    Not being being to pronounce a name makes it hard to remember a character. I read for pleasure and recreation. I don’t want to have to work when I read.

    I want to be able to follow a story without confusion.

    1. Names are tough. I use a lot of Japanese names so I try to keep them short and not all start with the same letter so if people get confused by them, they can just use S or M or H in their head. But yeah, confusing scifi terms should be kept at a minimum or rolled out slowly over time. A hard thing to accomplish!

  2. I usually only DNF a book early when either the writing style doesn’t work for me, as that’s unlikely to improve later. Or when things are too dark, disturbing etc for me.

    I’ve gotten better at DNF’ing books, but I also feel like I’ve gotten better at picking up books that i will enjoy as I don’t DNF that many books.

    I’ve read a book that did the strike-throughs, hoped it would get better and after 100 pages got so annoyed with the writing I DNF’d it. Writing style is something very subjective, but if a writing style really doesn’t work for me it makes it almost impossible to get through a book. On the other hand if the writing style is good I will most likely pick up more books by the same author.

    The too many dialogue tags or names in dialogue can be very annoying too, especially when overdone.

    1. I’ve gotten much better at picking out books that I’m sure will appeal to me as well. And a lot of the time, I can tell from the Look Inside on a book whether or not the book has quirks that will drive me nuts. Too dark and disturbing is another thing that bothers me as well. I don’t mind a hint of dark or when something bad happens to a main character. But starting out that way turns me off.

  3. That first one made me laugh because I’ve edited books like that where I’ve ended up suggesting deleting LOTS of dialogue tags. Some authors seem to think every line of dialogue needs a tag!

  4. Hahaha ok I love this post. I don’t actually give up on books for all these things, but I completely agree in that they annoy me.

    1) I don’t like a bunch of confusion either, especially not at first. I feel like authors should be able to make me want to keep reading just because I’m invested in the characters and want to know what will happen. They shouldn’t have to rely on confusion and the promise of maybe getting answers in order to keep me reading.

    2) In real life people don’t say other people’s names at the end of every sentence, so that’s just unrealistic.

    3) YES. I LOVE beautiful writing in books… but you can tell when that’s an author’s natural writing style vs. when they’re *trying* really hard to write that way. And I’d much rather read simple writing than the writing that’s trying but failing and just has a bunch of terrible similes.

    4) I don’t know, I’m actually pretty lenient about this. I can wait a little longer for real stuff to start happening. But if it’s just info-dumping or something… then yeah, I might not bother with the book.

    5) “How about you just tell me the story and try not to get cute about it?” Haha yes, exactly how I feel. There are some rules that can be broken, but those are not them. Those kinds of things you described do nothing but throw me out of the story by reminding me that I’m reading a book and not actually there. Does that makes sense?

    Great post!

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  6. Last book I gave up on was because every other chapter was a rerun of the one before but from the opposite viewpoint. They even repeated the dialogue. I felt it was a cynical ploy to pad out a failing book and gave up.

  7. I almost gave up on Ancillary Justice because it was so different and I wasn’t sure I cared, but my husband told me to hang in there…and I’m very glad I did! I usually try to give the author a chance and read to the end, but if I don’t care about the characters, I can’t finish. Confusing plots are OK, I try to follow the thread if I can, trusting it is going somewhere.

    1. Yeah, I’m sure if someone pushes me to continue with a book I’m not enjoying, I might give it more time before giving up. But yes, characters are everything so if I’m no connecting or enjoying them, then I’m out! :)

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S. J. Pajonas