Posted by: Jeanie F | September 20, 2017

A Question for Readers

Are you in a book club? I am – a great book club with wonderful people. So . . . if you happen to be one of those people, please know that what I’m about to say doesn’t apply to any of the books that you, personally, have recommended.

But here’s my question, and it applies even if you’re not in a book club:

When do you know it’s time to pull the plug?

For me, there are two separate considerations:

  1. Is it a book club book or, otherwise, a book recommended by someone whose opinion I respect and value, or
  2. Is it just something I picked up somewhere, perhaps seduced by an enticing blurb on the cover and a quick flip through some pages?

Generally speaking, if it’s the second situation, I feel pretty comfortable putting it down, but I know a number of people who feel compelled to finish every book they begin. Are you one of them? If so, what’s your rationale (not that you need an actual rationale – just why do you keep reading?)? Do you have a page limit (“If I don’t like it by page ___ , I’ll quit”) or are you an optimist (“I know this will get better soon”) or are you just NOT A QUITTER (emphasis intended)? Whichever you are, I respect your persistence in the face of hardship!

I am not generally in the above category. As I say in my blog heading, I believe life’s too short to read bad books. BUT – what if it’s a book club book?

I happen to be in “the best darn book club in Southern California,” and that is not hyperbole. We have been reading together since 1995 and have read some truly amazing books! A small sample of our favorites includes:

The Angle of Repose (Wallace Stegner)

The Giant’s House (Elizabeth McCraken – if you’ve never heard of this gem, I recommend you look it up)

Lambs of God (Marele Day – see recommendation above, if you haven’t read this)

The Known World (Edward P. Jones)

Well, I can tell that I can go on indefinitely with this, so instead, if you’re interested in finding out what our favorites have been, go to our website, Literary Lite Book Club.  Look at the titles with stars next to them on the page titled “Our Reading List”.

But now I have to admit – we’ve had a few that haven’t worked out as well as we hoped, which bring me to the question above. Just how much of an obligation do you believe one has when one is a member of a book club?

  • Do you read the whole thing because there is an obligation to the group?
  • Do you skim the entire book, just to have the main ideas?
  • Do you read a certain number of pages or to a certain time limit and then, if it just isn’t working, stop and be prepared to explain your problems with the book? If so, what’s your stopping point?
  • Do you stop and look up reviews so you can fool your group into believing you’ve read it (not that I would ever do that)?
  • Or do you have another, creative, way of handling this thorny situation.

It’s inevitable that, if you belong to a group for a long time (like, say, twenty-two years or so), it’s bound to happen. Here’s your chance to come clean – what do you do when you just can’t make it work for you?*


  1. I have a rule and a formula about finishing books. I read until 100 pages minus my age; if it doesn’t grab me by then, I stop. As I get older, the book has fewer pages to get my attention. Of course, some books have me on the first page; others, I may go back to eventually if a good friend insists – sometimes timing is everything.

    As for book clubs, I had to laugh at your choices. I’ve been to meetings where someone has no qualms about saying she did not read the book; other times, someone who has read the first few pages will rant on about what a terrible writer the author is (this is usually an author who has won several awards). Book club discussions can get testy, but most of the time, they are fun. If I don’t like the book selected and I decide not to read it, I do not attend the meeting. I wish others would think about doing this.

    Some hosts feel undue pressure to decide on a book to discuss; others are not well read and find it difficult to produce a book. I like those groups who get together and hash out titles – a book a club member read and enjoyed and wants to talk about, a book someone heard about, read some good reviews, and will read anyway.

    I liked your short list of books. I have an ongoing list too, but many probably would not do well in a book club discussion. Sometimes, I avoid discussions of books I really love because I don’t want to hear a book dissected, or have someone tell me how much she disliked it. Those books I only talk about with someone I trust has my same bent.

    Thanks for your post. It stirred the pot. 🙂

    • I have the 100 page rule, too, but I love your addition of subtracting your age! Think I’m going to adopt it! Thanks for the info about how you choose books – it’s always interesting to find out how other groups operate.

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