How Long Would You Give A Book?

By Prudhvila Mulakala on February 24, 2015

The release of “50 Shades of Grey” this weekend got me wondering about the huge number of people that read the book series. More specifically, I was interested in how many readers enjoyed it enough to create the cult status it currently has in our society.

This is a series that has captivated thousands with mediocre writing and relationships that are blatantly abusive and emotionally manipulative. If that many people were willing to continue reading three books with this type of content, how many of them would really enjoy other books that are well written?

A friend of mine mentioned that she would only give a book that she picked up about three pages to capture her attention before putting it back. The idea of this flabbergasted me because what are the chances that a book would honestly be able to keep the reader’s attention in that short timespan?

In a culture of immediate gratification, the practice of working through the exposition has become less and less common. Nowadays, books have to fight with television shows and movies for a person’s attention, so the lack of excitement in the first chapter can be fatal for some.

The first few chapters of most books are normally rather confusing and boring, particularly if it is the first book in a series. The author needs time to set up the story for the rest of the book, or the entire series, but for a reader it can seem like pages and pages of unnecessary exposition.

The picture above is the first page of the extremely popular “Harry Potter” series, well known to most people today because of how captivating the series and characters are together. However, even the first page of “Harry Potter” is not very attention catching, but because of the cultural phenomenon that this series created, with the movies and fan created works, most people have worked their way through the first few chapters to get to the story that is loved by so many.

This is comparable to the pilot episode of a television show, wherein the same phenomenon exists, but to a lesser extent. Shows have constant movement occurring, even if it doesn’t further the plot; this movement makes it easier to capture the audience’s attention and makes people more likely to turn in next week. Books don’t have that sort of advantage, because books have a lack of movement, except for in the imagination.

So my question is: should we start reading more boring books? Or rather, should we all start writing more exciting books?

Both of these have potential and I would love to see how it plays out as our generation gets more involved in the literary realm outside of required works for our college classes.

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