Is there some scientific rationale behind our reading habits and predilections? Why, for example, do you sometimes find that you can’t even finish a book that critics and your friends alike say they couldn’t stop reading?
Reading is a deeply mental experience people engage in on an individual, more than a social, level. A person reads for pleasure, for knowledge, for entertainment, for mentally escaping. But what’s the one factor that makes it impossible for some readers to put a book down? Is there even one single reason that is common to every reader?
In fact, there are many reasons why people get hooked by a book. Even if a book initially disappoints a reader, readers do sometimes keep reading. There are several reasons:
They’re curious to find out what happens in the end.
They dislike the thought of leaving something unfinished.
They have faith the author will not disappoint them in the end.
They’re in the middle of a series, and have to read this book before the next one.
They think ending is what tells if a book was worth it or not.
GoodReads.com users cite these and others as the main reasons why they often feel they have to finish a book they’ve started. However, for some people these rules simply don’t apply. In fact, book abandonment rates are soaring, as another book list on GoodReads.com reveals.
Looking at the GoodReads.com abandoned book shelf, you quickly see that a book’s best-selling status is not a trustworthy index as to the books’ acceptance by readers. So while a book might have a groundbreaking storyline and a compelling anti-hero, not everyone will like it.
This explains why readers might have enjoyed J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series, but not the style she adopts with her adult-oriented novel, The Casual Vacancy. It also explains why classic novels like Moby Dick are not to everyone’s liking, much less the range of best-sellers found in airports around the world.
The most cited reason why we have the urge to put a book down without finishing it, according to GoodReads.com users, is a slow beginning or a non-engaging writing style. Not liking the main character, and books that have a weak plot, are two other popular reasons cited in comments on the site.
Other reasons given by people who’ve abandoned popular and classic books range from a hero’s immorality or character incongruence, to a “stupid” plot, and even bad editing of the book, especially in ebook format.
Ultimately, book reading is a truly personal experience. In fact, mood plays a vital role as to what reaction a reader will have to a given book at any given time. If you’re not in a particular mood or even stage in your life you may not like a book that would otherwise become your personal favorite if read a few years before, or later. A teen version of you would interpret Catch 22 differently than you would as a 45-year old, true? Your book selection can even change depending on the time of day or year.
The advantage of rereading books is that you know you won’t be disappointed. This is why many people seem to frequently return to old favorites, and even books that they read as children: for the extra layer of meaning and for the satisfaction of knowing they’ll enjoy the book to the very end.
Cross-posted on the Spreeder blog.
Have something to add to this story? Share it in the comments