Give a Book 50 Pages

Ms. Nancy Pearl has carved out a niche as a self-styled expert with her book recommendations. Her home base in the Pacific Northwest (is there an Atlantic Northwest?) cried out for a navigator and the librarian, with an able assist from public radio, became a celebrity book recommender. Today, for better or worse, her word is gospel when it comes to which book you should read. Or at least some see it that way.

As a professional, she is required to be interesting, which is a lot harder than it looks. Among her maxims is her “Rule of 50” – give a book 50 pages. When you reach the end of page 50, if the book has not grabbed you, put it down and move on to something else.

My own rule is 150 pages, but maybe I read faster. There are books that didn’t quite capture my imagination after just 50 pages but that, on reflection, were well worth the added investment of time. Andy, our former store manager, deigns to give a book 100 pages before abandoning it.

Ms. Pearl, aging like the rest of us, is finding that the list of books she’d like to read is expanding while time to do so is growing shorter. So she tells the Toronto Globe and Mail that she is revising her Rule of 50.

If you are over 50 years old, subtract your age from 100, she says. The resulting number ought to be your new benchmark. So if you are 62, then you should read 38 pages before making the call to proceed. Life is short, after all.

This may be a rule only appropriate for book industry professionals, though. Who wants to be known as a quitter?

Use the comments section below to tell me what your own benchmark is or would be if you knew it was OK to quit reading a book. And while you are at it, tell me what makes you choose a book in the first place … please tell me it’s not the C-J book page.

3 Comments

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3 responses to “Give a Book 50 Pages

  1. Jonna F Frakes

    I feel so much better about myself and my reading habits, now that I know there is an actual rule about this tendency of mine that I’ve always worried was a lack of perseverance. It’s good to know that other people in greater literary esteem than myself occasionally find that a book just cannot be continued, and it isn’t necessary feel I’m a quitter because of it. I finished entire volumes, just hoping that, any moment now, it will start to get good!

  2. Dave Mattingly

    What makes me choose a book?

    Roughly in order: previous books from the same author, friends’ recommendations, book business buzz, interesting title or cover on the shelf.

  3. I can’t bring myself to give up a book even if it is horrible; it’ll still bug me until I know how the story ends. As for what makes me choose a book, usually either recommendations from friends, or my recognition of the author’s name.

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