wIsr 00: why I stopped reading

I receive far too many advanced reading copies to give each book I receive a proper read and thoughtful review. I actually have to look for reasons not to continue reading because my time is valuable and I can’t afford to waste it.

In terms of scope, “why I stopped reading” (or wIsr) is similar to One Paragraph. (You can learn more about One Paragraph here.) The primary difference between them is that the books in wIsr will focus on—as you may have already guessed—why I stopped reading. One Paragraph is for things I have finished but don’t have time to give a proper, full-length interview.

So here’s how it’s going to work. I’ll include the title with an appropriate link (if any) and then explain how many pages I read, why I put the book down, and how many pages in total to give an idea of how far I got before getting fed up. I may also include the book’s genre, how it came into my possession, and in what format I received it. In some cases, I may include what I’ll be doing with my copy (ie: giving it away, donating it, or deleting it forever, etc.) and to whom, if anyone, I would deign to recommend it.

I will always try to pinpoint why I didn’t finish the book in question, but these are some common reasons I might stop:
—poor writing (sentence structure, paragraphs, etc.)
—poor spelling, grammar, punctuation, etc.
—poor plot or no plot
—gender essentialism or sexism
—setting/characters not internally consistent
—offensive material (which I’ll generally specify)
—I’m lost/it’s confusing
—it’s boring

As with One Paragraph, I’ll post these in batches of five with the date I stopped reading each book listed next to the book’s title.

As a writer and editor myself, my standards for what makes a book “good” or “great” are extremely high; for instance, I usually rate on Amazon.com books I’ve read either two or three stars. Rarely will I give four stars, and when I do, I would probably recommend that book to anyone. I almost never give five stars. (To be fair to myself, though, I almost never give one star ratings, either, because I can almost always find some merit in at least the effort, if not the execution.)

Because I have such high standards—I swear my education has ruined me for any “beach reading”—I often pick up a novel, memoir, collection of poetry, or the like with high hopes and low expectations. Just because I can’t or won’t finish a book doesn’t make it bad or even poorly written, it just makes it a book that doesn’t excel the way I hoped it would. I never pick up any book expecting not to like it; I don’t have time for that bullshit.

I am critical of everything I read because I want poets and authors to excel in their field. Writing is an art, and my criticism should be seen as constructive, not derogatory.

Viannah E. Duncan

Viannah E. Duncan is a writer and activist hailing originally from Los Angeles. She lives outside of Baltimore, Maryland, and holds an MFA in Creative Writing from Wilkes University. She has a cat, Cleo.

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