There’s no question about it: I’m an avid reader, usually am in the middle of at least two books at a time (one upstairs and one downstairs), have a house filled with books and keep taking more out of the library.

That said, there are certain things that drive me crazy when I’m reading a book, and will make me either stop reading the book or decide never to read anything else by the author.  Probably most readers have their own private lists, but here’s mine:

1. When I discover at the end of the book that this was not, as it appeared to be, a stand-alone book, but the first book in a series.  I don’t mind reading series. In fact, I love many of them. I just want to know, when I’m starting a book, whether the story is going to be resolved in this book or not, so I can adjust my expectations.  When I get close to the end of the book and I’m wondering, “How on earth is the author going to make this work?” and then the answer turns out to be, “The author is not going to make this work in this book; you’re going to have to read the next one,” I am not a happy camper and I’m very unlikely to read the next one.

2. When an author has other characters tell you how wonderful the main character is, instead of letting you figure it out yourself from what the character actually says or does. This usually has the effect of turning me against the main character just out of orneriness.  Really, when one character says to the main character, seriously and without irony, “You are your own Holy Grail,” and means that as a compliment, is there any reason to continue reading that book?  Or anything else in that series (and yes, I am not making that quotation up, sad to say)?

3. When an author resolves a serious plot issue by pulling something out of thin air, suddenly giving the main character knowledge or abilities that had never been mentioned before but which turn out to be exactly what’s needed for the character to save the day.  This is not necessarily deus ex machina, but sometimes it comes pretty close.

4.  Related to #3, when an author bestows all kinds of powers and abilities on one character (either the protagonist or the antagonist), such that no human being would ever have all those powers and abilities together. Rigging the game in favor of one character or another annoys me immensely!

Those are my deal-breakers.  To win an Advance Review Copy of a new book (one of the many goodies I acquired at Book Expo America), comment and tell me what authorial sins turn you off from a book or series you read.



  1. A number of things…when an author so blatantly has not done proper research on a historical novel or mystery, rushes an ending, in a none to plausible manner, especially in a mystery.



  2. Amen to all of the above, I give a writer fifty pages to “grab” me and I have a few criteria:
    “Show me” the nature of my hero’s character rather than “tell me” Populate their landscape with interesting folks which will deepen/enhance my appreciation of them. Think of the Uncles in Jim Early’s Jim the Boy , the agoraphobic mother in If I run, If I die, by Michael Christie or Almandine in The Story of Edgar Sawtelle. Ivan Doig’s use of the teenage children as narrators in The Bartender’s Tale is brilliant but it is really a story of the mother. We love her indirectly for how they emerge. If my hero has such good taste or luck to associate with these rich beings, I care what happens. And ultimately I have to care.

    One smaller nit, as I age I find non essential profanity is not only a turnoff for me, but I consider it sloppy writing and in the end a flaw. I love David Mamet who has turned f**k into poetry, but his writing ennobles the word its plain usage alone does not permit. Just sayin”!

    Keep reading, Try Mr Mac and Me by Esther Freud how an artist can influence a young man to stretch into his talents despite the world around him. Read on MacDuff!


  3. If there is not a character I like in about 10 pages, BOOM, that book is toast ! If the writing is bad (Anna Quinlen’s recent book – – awful writing) or just way too simplistic (paperback summer reads) then I cannot go further. If the theme has been done before, and done better before (“Maine” by Courtney Sullivan) then ….well, I skimmed that book thinking, “There has GOT to be a reason she wrote this other than to copycat other books.” and finding the answer is “no”.


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