Some of you follow rules: The 40-page rule, or the 100-page rule, or the second chapter rule, or the rule where you take your age and subtract it from 100 and whatever number you get is the number of pages you’ll give a book before quitting.
And some of you just give up.
And some of you never give up.
My colleague Chris Hewitt wrote a Bookmark column a few weeks ago about his irrepressible need to finish every book he starts — good, middling or awful.
“The problem,” he wrote, “may be that I tend to be a completist.” Books, plays, movies — it doesn’t matter. If he starts them, he finishes them.
Some of you were nodding your heads in agreement as you read his column. And some of you were violently shaking your heads no-no-no. Such as Sharon L. Casey of St. Paul, who believes that “life is just too short to waste time on a lousy book when so many good ones are out there.”
Or Glenda Glore of Plymouth, who is what you might call a “recovered completist.”
“I used to feel obligated to finish every book I started,” she wrote. “Maybe it’s the English teacher in me. Now that I’m older, I do not stick with a book I don’t like unless it’s for my book club. There are simply too many good books out there to waste time trying to read ones that don’t appeal to me. I try 30-40 pages, and then it goes into the ‘donate’ pile.”
Tina Rafowitz of Wayzata stopped being a completist the day she turned 50. “I’m not trying to be all ‘Marie Kondo,’ but the tidy-up expert has a valid point. Why use the limited time we have on this Earth doing things that do not spark joy?” she wrote. “One of the first things I did after turning 50 was to give myself permission to not finish a book, or a magazine, or a Netflix series, or even a movie that I purchased online. Freedom!”
But there are still a lot of completists out there. David Bornus of St. Paul, for instance, almost always finishes books. “I like to think that even if it is not very engaging or well-written, I might learn something I didn’t know before,” he wrote. “I liken it to mountain climbing — the ‘summit’ is the last 20 pages. It may have been a hard climb, but turning that last page gives one a feeling of accomplishment.”
Larry Etkin of Minneapolis said in his entire reading life there’s only one book he hasn’t finished: “ ‘Robert’s Rules of Order, Newly Revised,’ which I started to read as an undergraduate,” he wrote. “Way back then I was a speed reader who would finish a 300-page novel in two days or so. I read a lot in that manner but missed a lot of what I call the ‘flavor.’ Now I let a book simmer across a week or two.”
Tom Rinkoski of Minneapolis is another completist, currently enmeshed in James Joyce’s “Ulysses,” and may God have mercy on his soul.
“It is maddening!” he wrote. “I had some vague memory of it being a challenge, but this is frustratingly evil. My completist compulsion forces me to reread paragraphs (such as they even exist in this novel) in an attempt to comprehend Joyce’s unique spin on life on the city streets” of Dublin.
Peter Berk of Minneapolis will finish a bad book if it’s for one of his three book clubs, but a book he’s just reading on his own gets about 50 pages to hook him before he gives it the hook.
“One exception was an audiobook I listened to while trekking in the Himalayas for 16 days,” he wrote. “It was a 27-hour atrocity, but it distracted me from the symptoms of altitude sickness (which was only slightly more excruciating than the book). Later I found out it was the first of a trilogy! For sure I won’t bother with the sequels.”
Laurie Hertzel is the Star Tribune senior editor for books. On Twitter: @StribBooks. On Facebook: facebook.com/startribunebooks.