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Thursday, March 31, 2011

Read All About It!

Reading Song of the Day: "My Number" by Tegan and Sara

This past weekend, Quita and I attended the CNU Writers' Conference and saw some very cool people speak, such as author Katherine Paterson (Bridge to Terabithia), and agents Michelle Wolfson (Wolfson Literary) and Mitchell Waters (Curtis Brown, Ltd).

While there, we heard two very interesting statistics:

1. 70% of readers only read about 30% of books (meaning they stop a third of a way into reading a book), and

2. In a bookstore, you have about 3 seconds to catch a reader's attention.

I have to admit, I've stopped reading a few books that I was forced to read--and by forced, I mean books that were required for school (sorry Great Expectations). But now, if I buy a book, I don't care how annoyed I am with a story--I'm now financially invested! Plus, as a writer myself, I know how much sweat and tears go into those pages--I would be riddled with guilt!

But what do these stats tell you? Well, that we as a society have lesser attention spans. With all the new technology updates, we're used to being rewarded fast. For a book to be successful, you have to draw the readers in quicker and make them care about the characters (which is why we discussed the importance of first lines here).

I got into a great mini-Twitter discussion when I posted the first stat, but we would love to hear all of your thoughts on both of these. Do you stop reading books? If so, why? Also, what draws you attention when you're strolling in a bookstore?

Psst...don't forget to swing by here and ask us questions. We'll answer them on Monday! :)


Meredith McCardle said...

I used to HAVE TO finish a book, no matter how much I just wasn't clicking with it. And then I decided life was too short, so I gave myself the freedom to walk away. I hate it every time I do it—the guilt is overwhelming—but thankfully it's only a few books a year I can't finish.

Jennifer Pickrell said...

I HAVE TO finish, otherwise it's like what Meredith said - I feel guilty. And usually I expect it'll get better. Sometimes it does, sometimes it doesn't, and depending on the outcome I'm either annoyed that I didn't stop reading or I'm pleased I found some hidden gem of goodness. I think my must-read compulsion mostly comes from stubbornness. "I started the book and I WILL finish it!"

Alicia Gregoire said...

I try to finish every book I read. Sometimes I'll put it down and go back later when I'm in a better mindspace. There are only a few instances where I've actively stopped reading and haven't picked it up again.) Like I said on Twitter, I'm a stubborn reader and if I paid for it, I'm going to read it.

Chelsey said...

I've only recently started allowing myself to stop reading a book I honestly cannot get into. It doesn't happen much, but I feel bad because sometimes it's a book that's gotten a lot of buzz!

Jamie Manning said...

Excellent post ladies! I must admit that I typically don't stop reading a book if I can at all help it...mainly because of the same reason you don't like to--I know how hard it is to write a book! With that said, I do understand that to read an entire book you have to have an emotional attachment to it, so putting it down if you don't feel a connection makes sense.

And a standout cover is what grabs my attention in a bookstore. Whether it's the color scheme or model photo or even the title font, something will catch my eye and make me pick it up. Then it's up to the blurb and most times the first page to get me to carry that book to the register!

Sophia said...

When I look at the first stat it doesn't make me think we're a society with ADHD, it makes me think we're bombarded with so many options that we don't want to waste time on something that doesn't 100% thrill us. Same with the second stat: in a bookstore with hundreds or thousands of books, we can afford to demand the best and make snap judgements, there's always another book that might hook us instantly. It's not that we short have attention spans, it's that we're way overprivileged.

I've relaxed my rules on giving up a book for similar reasons: I have a finite amount of time and increasingly high standards as I improve my own craft, I'm not going to force myself to finish a book 'just because'.
- Sophia.

Abby Stevens said...

I usually finish books once I start them. Not because I feel guilty, but because I just want to know how it ends and am usually hopeful almost up until the very end that it might get better. Also, I'm not super-picky, so there's few books I react strongly enough to put them down (though GREAT EXPECTATIONS was one of them! I disliked it so much that I watched the movie instead for summer reading and happily missed the questions I didn't know on the Accelerated Reader quiz because I hadn't read it).

Tere Kirkland said...

I don't feel bad about not finishing a book, but I don't give them away, either. I figure maybe someday someone will convince me to finish it. Or after the zombie apocalypse, when I can't recharge my nook. Shudder to think.

And man, why all the Great Expectations hate? ;) That's one of the few classics I just adore. David Copperfield, too.

KatOwens: Insect Collector said...

I wonder if this stat reflects fiction and nonfiction? I have picked up many a nonfiction book in my day that I thought I needed to read (spiritual, maybe diet oriented, etc) or that I thought made me look smart, that I definitely put down. (Doesn't say a lot about me looking smart, does it. epic fail!)
But fiction, fiction by choice and not for a school assignment, I almost always finish. Even if I am not bowled over, I want to know what happens next. I also pick books I WANT to read.

I reread a few Dickens books when I was in my early 30s, and I enjoyed them in a way I never did as a young reader. I put the Pickwick Papers down, but I loved great expectations and david copperfield later in life.

Racquel Henry said...

And what about House of Breath? Remember that one? Lol. I try my hardest not to stop reading a book, but sometimes, I just can't continue. The book has to be unbearable for me to put it down. In most cases, I try to stick through. My co-worker recently brought up a simple, but good point. When I complain about not liking a book she says, "Put it down then. Why are you wasting your time reading something you don't like? You could be discovering something good instead." What a great point. I'd never thought about it that way.

Also, I'm jealous that you guys saw Katherine Paterson! Bridge to Terabithia was one of my favorite books as a kid! :)

Alex Mullarky said...

I am actually exactly the same as Meredith. I used to hate it and refuse to do it, but now I just do it and live with the guilt. No point in continuing to read something you just aren't engaging with.

Ghenet Myrthil said...

It's rare that I don't finish a book. Lately I've been reading books that I heard about on blogs or from friends. Fortunately they've all been really good so I haven't felt the need to stop reading.

If I was reading somethat I really didn't like, I would probably stop. There are too many great books to read and too little time. I'd rather not waste my time on a book I'm not enjoying. Unless I feel like I can learn something from how bad it is - like what NOT to do as a writer.

Pam Harris said...

You all made great points, ladies! I'll admit it, it's harder for me to stop reading a YA book than anything else--I think it's because I feel like I'm in the trenches with YA writers. If something's been lauded by the YA community, I feel like I have to keep reading or else I'm missing out on something amazing. And Racquel, I think House of Breath should be issued to people that have committed some kind of felony--talk about a punishment!

Unknown said...

Oh, great info, here. And I'm jealous you got to meet Michelle! LOL.

Amie Kaufman said...

I finish reading most books. When I don't, I don't think I ever make a conscious decision to stop reading. I just tend to put it down and fail to pick it back up again. Still, I can't imagine finishing only a third of most books! Even if it's not working for me, I'll usually read it as a writer, to see why.