To Skim or Not To Skim?

imageBack in the days when I spent my hard-earned, part-time dollars on paperbacks at the old B&N, I read books cover to cover always.  Now that I have less time and virtually limitless access to books both inexpensive and free (oh yeah, the library–what was I thinking?!), I find myself growing impatient with some books.  So, I occasionally succumb to what I once considered a grave insult to the soul of a book.  I skim.

I usually hit the threshold of, “Yup…gonna skim this,” for one of two reasons.  I might find there are no layered plots, new interesting characters (that add to the existing story), or instances of rising tension to carry me along.  It just draaaaags.  Or maybe the book has the opposite problem–a bunch of new characters, settings, and problems drop in seemingly out of nowhere and proceed to bump around like plastic toys in a washing machine–ruining what was a delicately woven story.

When I skim, it’s no more than 10%–I swear!.  I skim for sanity because otherwise I’d take what seemed like a very promising book and hurl it at my backyard gnomes.  My gnomes deserve more respect than that.

I can’t really blame the writers on this–only my own lack of patience.  I’m struggling toward an ending right now that makes me want to chuck my laptop out, too so that it spins end over end before landing happily in a flooded ditch.  I know how hard it can be to first envision a fitting conclusion and then get your characters there without taking a major detour through the Oh-My-God-Where-The-Heck-Is-This-Going Forest.  Still.

Do you skim?  How do you feel about skimmers?  Would you like to throw us in a ditch?

Michelle Joyce Bond

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19 thoughts on “To Skim or Not To Skim?

  1. I need action…things have to happen else I grow bored. I have read books with elegant prose that just took me nowhere. I used to push myself through them, but not anymore. I just move to another one.

  2. Like you, I used to feel I always had to read a book cover to cover. But somewhere along the line, I realized life is too short and there are too many great books out there waiting for my attention. So if I get one that’s not fully engaging me, I tend to skim through it to the end. Luckily this doesn’t happen very often, but when it does, I try not to feel the guilt I used to when doing such a thing. 🙂

  3. I don’t usually skim and if I do it’s usually during a long passage about setting or internal monologue that isn’t fresh or interesting. If I find my self skimming entire pages, which happened with a book recently, I put it down and start a new one. I don’t want to read a story to just get from A to B. I want to be fully immersed in another world.

  4. I used to not only refuse to skim, but obstinately trudge through every book I started, no matter how much it pained me. Now, with the years ahead of me much fewer than the years behind, and the list of books to read still growing (damned writers keep making ’em faster than I can read) I absolutely skip dull stuff, and do not hesitate to give up on something that isn’t holding me in place.

    • Ah–the guilt is piling on! It’s hard for me though since sometimes a book shows so much promise in the first three quarters and then falls apart. That never happens with books recommended to me by friends though. Must seek out more solid recs!

  5. If I start to skim, there’s a pretty good chance I’m not going to finish – or I might just skip to the end. And then I’m probably reluctant to buy anything from that author again (sad, but true).

    I actually feel no obligation to finish any book. My time is precious and reading is my preferred form of relaxation, so there’s no way I’m spending my (extremely valuable down-time) on something that bores me or loses me. Just won’t do it.

    Is that too harsh?

  6. Sometimes I skim. It’s bad, but lately I’m tired all the time and when I’m tired and I read I get impatient. Flowery writing can be beautiful, but sometimes I want the author to get to the point. 😦 I try to remember this when I write! Sometime, I remember… sometimes, not so much…

  7. I’m reading for pleasure I don’t usually skim. However, if I come across a book worth skimming, I will put it down. I tend to be pretty lucky when picking books, so I rarely feel the need.

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