Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Books Not Finished

Given I’m an author, you may think I’m about to talk about unfinished manuscripts lingering in a drawer, but actually the title of this blog refers to published books.

Goodreads – a website for readers that allows you to list your personal library, organize them on ‘shelves’, rate and review books, and join in online conversations with other readers - has just produced a survey based on some of their 18 million members to see which author’s books were most often shelved under ‘did not finish’.

Obviously there are many reasons why readers might not finish a book. They might have tried a new genre and not liked it. There might have been something in the story or the language that offended them. They might not have enjoyed the style, or maybe found too many faults with the grammar and spelling. Or they might just have been unimpressed by the story line or characters.

Some readers feel that if they start a new book they should finish it, regardless of their level of enjoyment; others have no qualms about ditching a novel that doesn’t grab them early on. Apparently as readers age, they tend to have less patience with the “started, so I’ll finish” attitude. This may be from an increased confidence in their own opinions or just a sense of “so much to read, so little time”.

So, who topped Goodreads list of ‘ books not finished’? George R.R. Martin’s A Game of Thrones(A Song of Ice and Fire #1) hit the top spot followed by  J.K. Rowling and E.L. James. Given these authors’ successes this might come as a surprise, but on further consideration maybe it’s not that difficult to understand.

 J.K. Rowling had a huge fan base after the Harry Potter books, many of whom were eager to snap up the next novel automatically. But Casual Vacancy was a contemporary novel for adults and not necessarily of appeal to readers who like fantasy, magic and adventure.

E.L. James’ trilogy 50 Shades of Grey sparked intense public interest which surely prompted many to buy the first book out of curiosity, but while some discovered they didn’t enjoy reading about the erotic subject matter, still others thought the standard of writing was poor. 

It sounds like a dubious distinction to be top of a list with such negative connotations. But in reality, it’s a factor of how huge your audience is. If you sell millions of books, a small percentage who do not finish it is going to put you much further up the list than an author with the same percentage but fewer sales.

So what about you? Once started do you have to finish a book? If not, which books have you put aside?

I usually do finish books but recently I stopped reading Sorry by Zoran Drevenkar. It was given to me as a present,  but I found it way too dark and disturbing. (The cover does say "your worst nightmares are about to begin"!) 

This post  originally appeared on Scarsdale Patch.


  1. In the past, I've generally tried to finish books.

    However, I've been really busy lately and have a long list of books that have piqued my interest enough to put them on my To Read list. So, recently, there've been a couple of books I've had to pass on after a few chapters. Life is literally too short to spend time with these books.

    Like you said, passing on a book doesn't necessarily mean it's a bad book. It just means it's a book that's not for you.

  2. My To Read list seems to be growing at an alarming rate, partly because like you I've been too busy lately to read as much as I would like, but also because of all the indie authors I'm discovering whose work appeals to me and all the interesting recommendations via Goodreads.