Nancy Pearl’s Rule of 50 and the Books I Did Not Finish

It’s typically a rare case for me not to finish a book. At some point, I think I convinced myself that not finishing was giving up on an author or myself as a reader. But I have come to understand that neither of those is true at all. For whatever the reason, it’s okay to stop reading a book, especially if you’ve lost interest in it, because there are so many other books that could be more interesting to you.

This year, I’ve decided to try out Nancy Pearl’s Rule of 50 for dropping a bad book. Pearl, a famous librarian with her own action figure and author of Book Lust, acknowledged that the world of books is immense, but time is short. So “If you’re fifty years old or younger, give every book about fifty pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it, or give up.” Over fifty? Subtract your age from 100 and use that as your guide.

To prep myself, I’ve been thinking about some of the books that I did put down and why I never finished them:

See Me

Before picking this one up, A Walk to Remember and A Bend in the Road were the last Sparks novels I read, and that was back when I was in high school. I recall enjoying, and maybe even being emotionally moved by them. After getting only a few pages into this later release, though, my immediate thought was “Not for me!” It’s funny how your reading tastes change.

Infinite Jest

Yes, I could not get through this notoriously unapproachable hipster tome that once had a movement dedicated to reading it. Honestly, it both confused me and bored me. I can’t say how many pages I made it through, because I made the biggest un-hipster-like mistake of trying to read it on a digital device. If you ever attempt it, I’d suggest purchasing your own print copy that you can mark up, dog-ear and post-it to death and carry around in a satchel so it weighs constantly on your mind.


Another gigantic hipster tome of doom, but I actually did find this one approachable and intriguing. The only reason I put it down was because I checked it out from the library back when it was on the new shelf and the two week checkout period was up before it seemed I had a chance to crack the spine. Not wanting to accumulate overdue fees, I returned it, and I never bothered to pursue it again. I’ve enjoyed Murakami’s other works, so I think if I ever have 46 hours and 46 minutes to kill, I might just check out the audiobook.

Marvel and A Wonder

Up until I checked out this book, Joe Meno was one of the few authors that I had to purchase every title they’ve written. Unlike any of his previous novels, though, I just did not care for the characters in this one. The contemporary Western feel of it, too, put me off. But to admit, even after giving up on the library’s copy, I bought my own. I guess I’m not quite ready to give up on Joe Meno yet either.

I look forward to being more ruthless this year in my inclination to stop reading books that don’t interest me, if only for the chance of finding more that do. What are some books you’ve dropped?

- William Ottens is the Cataloging and Collection Development Coordinator at Lawrence Public Library.