What Makes YOU Stop Reading A Book?

I’ve read a lot of books. A LOT of books. When I was a kid, I’d get sets of books and be thrilled at the promise of spending countless hours sitting upside-down in my mom’s recliner with an open book. Reading and appreciation of a good story is part of who I am.

But in recent years, I’m afraid to say I’ve become a bit of a book snob. I don’t often finish books (for reasons we’ll get to). And yesterday, an exchange on Twitter happened in response to this post by Sarah E. Boucher.



I know I’m not the only one who doesn’t finish books, but yesterday’s chat got me asking myself why I personally don’t finish a book I start, because in thinking of such things we can avoid them as writers. I narrowed it down to three reasons.


I would argue this applies to all readers, not just children. Although some scene setting should be there.

1. It’s boring

Boring is a pretty subjective term, but for me it means the narrative has slowed to a crawl, usually because the characters aren’t doing anything. This could be because there’s too much description or the characters are doing little more than purposeless talking. I like action. Movement. Plot points needs to happen.

2. The narrative is cluttered

That means there’s too much extra “stuff” in there, stuff I’d have a writer cut if I were their editor. Repetition is a big one (I put down an extremely popular book for this reason). Lots of filtering (he saw, she thought, he remembered, etc) can be a deal breaker if it gets too annoying. Abundant adjectives and adverbs leave little room for reader imagination. Basically, if I get the sense the author loves their own words so much they won’t listen to the editor, I’m less inclined to finish the book.

3.  The dialogue is inauthentic

This is my #1 deal breaker (despite its #3 position on the list). I can tolerate a boring story if the writing is decent, and a cluttered narrative can be forgiven for a gripping tale. But if a kid sounds like an old man or a character drones on for three long paragraphs, sounding like a philosophy textbook, I bail. In the words of those younger than I am, I just can’t even. Fiction is a reflection of reality, and the characters need to do their part by acting and sounding like actual, real, relatable people (even if they aren’t literally people. Everyone related to Frodo and Hagrid). Forcing me to believe someone communicates in an unrealistic way puts the brakes on me buying into the rest of the story.

So that’s why I don’t finish a book. What are your reasons for bailing early?

42 thoughts on “What Makes YOU Stop Reading A Book?

  1. Pingback: Writing A Book? Avoid These Two Pitfalls – A Writer's Path

  2. Pingback: Writing A Book? Avoid These Two Pitfalls | A Writer's Path

  3. Too many characters for sure! I can’t handle when we need to hear from every single character and they aren’t even a part of the plot. I hate it also when authors get too sentimental and reflective and don’t move on with the story, already!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Hi, for me, any book with a page or more of names and places I have to revisit three or four times in the first chapter is gone. Any book with subplots/characters divided by chapters that has me checking when that chapter ends to get back to the other character’s story is gone too. I put up with this from Tolkein and Ludlum but not one author since. Also, if they don’t write any better than I do, :/ gone again. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Pingback: Writing A Book? Avoid These Two Pitfalls | Allison Maruska

  6. Funny, this post comes out just as I give up on a book. The time travel story I was reading had good reviews with a scattering of low ranking ones. A sign a broad mix of readers chose it. The other reason I gave this unknown author, to me, was it had a high sales ranking.

    But even though I’m a lover of this genre, I’m bailing mostly for reason one above, some of three. I keep chanting, get to the point. I’m a believer of the adage, every sentence, paragraph and chapter need to move the story forward. This author seems to think conversations that have nothing to do with the story make for an engaging story. When the they actually make me do is skim them.

    If I cared for the character I’d put up with this fluff. Sadly, that not the case.

    So, now, what to read. Hmmm… i hear there is a new release of the PROJECT RENOVATIO series out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • “I’m a believer of the adage, every sentence, paragraph and chapter need to move the story forward.”

      Same here. My reading for pleasure time is rather thin lately, so I need the story to move! Banter is rarely as interesting as the author thinks it is.

      I’ve heard about that new PR book too! 😉


  7. I agree with what others have written. I stop reading a book if I encounter graphic or gratuitous sex or violence. I absolutely refuse to read a book about child abuse. If I’m halfway through a book and still don’t care what happens to the characters, I don’t finish it (although I wish them well.)

    Liked by 1 person

  8. I agree with all three reasons and find myself also not sticking with a book if the author seems to have gotten out a dictionary of uncommon words to use. I’m all for the complexity of description but there is something distracting when I have to look up a word every paragraph or two because the words are either outdated or overly complex.

    Thanks for this insight! Makes me think about my own writing and reasoning.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I usually put a book down if it seems to be the same plot compared to the last book I read by another author. I get tired of the same plots and same characters in a book…granted….there is not a lot of originality out there since most urban authors stick to the same or similar story line…therefore I try to be that unique writer that I wanna see. I write books that I wanna read. I step outside the box. I don’t conform. I make my own path.

    I also will put down a book with too many grammatical errors (missing words or misspelled words). It takes away from the story and I get tired of playing the “fill in the blank” or “fix the word” game.
    I got my own writing issues to fix. I don’t wanna fix anyone else’s unless they are paying me.

    Liked by 3 people

  10. Being mainly a reader of non-fiction, if I start reading a book and it is all familiar to me, I usually lose interest. I like to learn new things when I read. I will also lose interest if the information is written in lofty language and takes too much of my time to process.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. I rarely don’t finish a book I started. Maybe I’m not a very good book snob yet; I’ll work on it. 😉 The things the rest of you have already mentioned are annoying, but I can deal with any one of them if the rest of the story is working. The closest pet peeve I have is when I’m only on chapter 2 and the author has already introduced dozens of names of people and places and races and religions — especially when they’re hard to read / pronounce in my head and spelled almost the same as each other — and I can’t keep track of them and thus I have ZERO idea what is going on. Sometimes I can’t even tell who the main character is supposed to be! The other reason I stop reading a book is more passive — I stop for the night and mean to finish it later but just never pick it up again, because I realize I’m simply not engaged with the main character(s) and their issues.

    Liked by 3 people

  12. Gosh, am I limited to just my top three reasons?

    There are so many reasons – so so so many – reasons that I quit reading a book, you would think I hate reading.

    Or that I’m a lazy Reader.

    Which I am.

    Which, I also believe, all people are.

    Let’s face it, when you get out of school, reading is pretty much for fun. You do it for pleasure. If I’m not pleasuring, I’m not going to continue. No way, no how.

    For those of you about to disagree, consider how much you enjoy reading those reports for work. Moving on…

    I read the first two Harry Potter books and half of the third one. I got busy, that’s part of it, but it’s also because I saw the movies and there wasn’t a lot of mystery left for me. I kind of ruined it for myself. I will finish them because I have a soon-to-be seven-year-old who is going to insist on it, but left my own devices those things are probably be gathering dust on the shelf for a few years before I quietly slip them into the trash.

    I stop reading because the author is trying to be too smart or too cute. If they invoke too much pretentious style trying to look trendy or avant-garde. If they are too obvious or spoonfeed me or right like they think I’m stupid. If they have characters sit down at a table in a diner and tell – without moving – each other everything they need to know. If there’s no suspense, no mystery, no tension. If things are too easy for the characters.

    A lot of times when I read a short story, it reads like I’m supposed to hold my breath for five minutes and then pop a balloon at the end so I can breathe again. Like the author intentionally is withholding information – stuff I’d normally know – until the end of the short story. Which sucks. So I don’t read short stories.

    You all know my pet peeves. I like a grabber opening and I like a fast pace and I love dialogue and I like a cliffhanger ending. Among other things.

    I hate hate hate hate hate when an author will tell me a red four-door Ford station wagon drove up to the two-story, three-bedroom two bath yellow house. I’m like, are you kidding me? Why do I need to know that? I don’t? Then I’m done. Because you suck as an author. If your judgment is so poor that you think I need all that extraneous detail, then I know I’m going to get boatloads of it the farther I read – and I just don’t have any interest in putting myself through that.

    Basically, the list of reasons why I will quit reading his practically immeasurable.

    That said, there are a few people who can get me to stay with them till the end. Many times it was as much the things they did right as the things they didn’t do wrong. In other words, for me, there’s a whole field of bear traps and the reader is walking through it with a blindfold on. Any of those things snaps shut, and they’re done. As in, I’m done.

    This particular comment aside, my writing style – my voice – lens itself to being sarcastic and witty and relatively fast paced without a lot of detail. Which would probably make me a pretty shallow person except I’m not. I just don’t put all that crap in my books. Not anymore. Not since a certain critique partner friend busted my chops about putting the “history of winemaking” into one of my stories. (And math.) After that, after I was finally able to breathe again, I decided to keep The extraneous details out and keep my stories more universally appealing. Because that’s kind of the point, isn’t it? Unless you’re writing a textbook? Which you’re not – see the opening of this lengthy diatribe.

    I do that to the best of my ability, anyway. I’m not the judge; the reader is the judge – but to be honest, if I can’t read my story three or four times, it’s not a good story.

    I read my latest story probably seven times and I would read it again tonight, it’s that good. So maybe that’s the test: Anything you want to skim any of the times you read your story, or reread it, that’s the stuff you need to cut out or trim down.

    If you dare leave something in your story that you yourself would skim, then you deserve what you get.

    Which is me saying mean things about you as I stop reading your book.

    Liked by 2 people

    • You win the Comment Longer Than The Post award. 😉

      You made a lot of good points. It seems we can agree that the story works better when the author isn’t trying to show off (like with their 4-door Ford descriptions).

      Please tell me you saved that math in the description part. It would be a funny post. *nudge*

      Liked by 1 person

  13. I’m not sure I can generalize. Some triggers are book specific. Like if I read 40 pages and think the main character is male based on words, actions, dialogue etc only to discover on page 41 it’s a girl – I am done.
    But any book with a cutesy mother daughter bond – over.
    Any book that need 16 more runs through editing – over.

    Liked by 2 people

  14. Most of the books I don’t finish are nonfiction. I get these books (usually from the library) because I am seeking specific information and I don’t need to read the whole thing. Sometimes I will read beyond what I need to know because the author makes the subject intriguing. But if the writing is dull and I only need to read Chapters 4 & 5, then that’s all I will read.

    Liked by 2 people

Share your thoughts!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s