Hemingway said that to write well you have to read widely … and study the paintings of the masters. I do the former, and am working on the latter. But I’ve granted myself an indulgence on the reading.
There was a time when I felt compelled to finish any piece I’d started, or at the very least stay with it until I had to give up all hope that the story would grab me or the writing hold my imagination. No more. I’ve adopted the “two chapter rule.” If the story hasn’t a hold on me by the end of the second chapter, I close the book and put it in the stack that goes to the local library (that I don’t like it doesn’t mean no one will.) I’m talking about fiction here. Some of the non-fiction I feel compelled to read because I want the information inside can get tedious, but I normally stay with it. Builds character, right?
Exceptions, though, prove all rules. The most recent exception is “The Secret Scripture” by Sebastian Berry. Fascinating story. Beautiful writing. It started awfully slowly and I almost gave up on it, but there was something in the writing that kept me with it. I was richly rewarded.
As for books read recently that meet the basic criteria, consider: Out Stealing Horses by Per Pettersen, Homecoming by Bernard Schlink, The White Tiger by Aravind Adiga, City of Thieves by David Benioff, and of course, The Story Of Edgar Sawtelle by David Wroble.