To finish a book or not to finish - that is the question!
I’m definitely a loud and proud spurner. I’m a life member of the life’s-too-short-to-read-books-you’re-not-enjoying club. Notice I said “books-you’re-not-enjoying” not “bad books”. Saying a book is “bad” is fraught with peril. Readers’ reactions to books vary so wildly that you’re simply courting massive arguments by labelling a book “bad”. I’ve spurned books that have been almost universally considered good. I’ve wanted to enjoy them. I gave them a decent go because of recommendations, reviews and reputation. But, ultimately, I discarded them before finishing them because I felt they were sucking away precious time that could have been better spent.
So out of people who consider themselves avid readers, as a spurner, am I in a minority?
According to a Goodreads survey 38% of readers say they always finish their books, even if they set it down and pick it back up years later. Assuming that the people on Goodreads represent the “avid readers” category, are 38% turners and 62% spurners?
The survey gives us some interesting insights. Almost twice as many readers abandon books after 50-100 pages than after 1-50 pages. I would have thought more discarding would be happening earlier on. It looks like even the spurners want to give each book they start to read every chance. One comment from those surveyed was that there is apparently a rule that you should wait until 100 pages minus your age before you abandon a book. If that’s true, those 6 year olds need to be pretty persistent!
The number one reason that readers gave for abandoning a book was it was “slow or boring” (46.4%). The next most popular reason was “weak writing” at 18.8%. The number one reason readers gave for continuing to turn pages was “I have to know what happens” (25.2%).
So what were the books most frequently shelved or abandoned at the time of the survey according to Goodreads? E. L. James’ Fifty Shades of Grey, Stieg Larsson’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Elizabeth Gilbert’s Eat, Pray, Love, and J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy. The top two most abandoned classics were Catch-22 and The Lord of the Rings.
The American mathematician, Jordan Ellenberg, has come up with a way of measuring how far people get into a book before giving up. He called it the Hawking Index in honour of the book which is widely heralded as the least-finished book of all time: Stephen Hawking’s A Brief History of Time. The index averages out the page numbers of the five most highlighted passages in a Kindle book as a proportion of the book's total length. The theory is that if people didn’t highlight passages late in the book, they didn’t get that far into it. So a 10% index is supposed to indicate that, on average, readers gave up on the book 10% of the way in. The Hawking Index for A Brief History of Time itself ended up being 6.6%. By comparison, Fifty Shades of Grey ended up with a whopping 25.9%. Only one other book ended up with a lower index than Hawking’s – a tome I think I’ll be avoiding: Capital in the Twenty-First Century by Thomas Piketty with 2.4%.
So, there’s a challenge for all you turners out there. Pick up Capital in the Twenty-First Century and see if you stick to your guns.
a b o u t t h e b o o k
(clicking on the cover will take you to Goodreads!)
Author: Dirk Strasser
Publication date: November 1st 2013
Genre: Fantasy (YA)
Part of a series?: Books of Ascension #2
Get a copy: Amazon
The most beautiful city on the great Mountain
The pinnacle of Maelir culture
The place where secrets hide
The fate of the Mountain hangs in balance at the time of Equinox, and even the Keep can no longer remain untouched. The Maelir are desperate to defend it, the Faemir to demolish it, the windriders to claim it. But unknown to them all, a dark force has already emerged from the chaos to seize power.
a b o u t t h e a u t h o r
Dirk Strasser has won multiple Australian Publisher Association Awards and a Ditmar for Best Professional Achievement. His short story, “The Doppelgänger Effect”, appeared in the World Fantasy Award-winning anthology, Dreaming Down Under. His fiction has been translated into a number of languages. His acclaimed fantasy trilogy, The Books of Ascension – Zenith, Equinox and Eclipse – has been published in English (Pan Macmillan / Momentum) and German (Heyne). A collection of his short stories, Stories of the Sand, will be published later this year. His most recent short story publications have been “The Mandelbrot Bet” in the Tor anthology Carbide Tipped Pens, “At Dawn’s Speed” in Dimension6 #2, and “2084” in the international anthology The World to Come. He founded the Aurealis Awards and has co-published and co-edited Aurealis magazine over 20 years.