At a recent writers’ workshop that I attended, there was a brief discussion on reading reviews. Some did, some didn’t; a very few read every review, regardless. One person commented on a “One Star” review that they had committed to memory. That review said, “I finished it, but I don’t know why.”
I noted that it meant that even if the reader had not liked or enjoyed the book, they had been engaged enough by it to not be able to not finish reading it, that they hadn’t been able to just let it go.
I’ve read books like that, that were so bad that I couldn’t put them down, sort of a literary train wreck that people so often are rubbernecking over.
They are not that common. While it’s easy to write a book that wins your “Book Against the Wall Award”*, it’s far more difficult to write one that the reader may toss aside, and yet pick it up again, put back down. Rinse. Repeat … until they have read it to its conclusion.
To be able to grab hold of the reader is a goal that most authors hold, at least in my experience. Engaged readers are willing to keep reading, whether they like the story or not.
- “Book Against the Wall” award: In the previous century, it was relatively easy for a book to win one of these awards. The story simply was so poorly written that the reader would hurl the book across a room and into a wall. It was possible to win the award several times, even for the same book, depending upon how often the reader returned to it, in hopes of finding improvement. I think my personal “record” was in awarding it five times. I have noticed, however, that with the advent of ebooks, it is more and more unlikely to be awarded. Ereaders cost much more than paperback books…