20 percent

How long do you give a book you don’t immediately love before you decide to quit? For me (with fiction) it’s most often 20 percent. If you can’t pull me in in the first 50 pages of your 250 page book, I’m out. With Anne Marie MacDonald’s Fall on Your Knees, though, it took 100 pages before I finally got the groove and eventually loved the book. But until then I couldn’t “get” the narrator. So there are exceptions.

Much depends, of course, on hype, either from people I know or the bookselling machine at large. I’m also more inclined to stick with a book if it makes me laugh even once, which has surely knocked out some worthy, po-faced classics. I’ve lost steam after 100 pages, and I’ve quit in quiet disgust (Really? That’s how you describe an ass?) after five. And of course, these days, I’m more likely to blame quarantine malaise for my disinterest. Do I hate this book, or do I just hate sitting in this chair for the 130th day in a row? I suppose the lesson is that there’s no hard and fast rule, which has never in my life stopped me from wondering if I’m doing it wrong.

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