Life is too short. When do you stop reading a book, and in no more than two sentences, what makes you decide not to finish it? BOOKS YOU NEVER FINISH

August 16, 1998

Dr. Evelyn A. Flory is headmistress of the St. Paul School for girls in Baltimore County. She has served as a teacher and administrator for more than 30 years. She has taught English in private secondary schools and in New York state's public university system.

When I realize my eyes are on the horizon (or the wallpaper) more than on the page, I put the book down for good.

Rev. Brad R. Braxton is pastor of Douglass Memorial Community Church in Baltimore. As a Rhodes Scholar he earned a master of philosophy degree in New Testament studies at Oxford University in England. He is also a member of Phi Beta Kappa National Honor Society.

A book no longer claims my attention when I discover that its argumentation is weak. Since I am primarily a reader of nonfiction, I prefer my literature to present a strong, well-conceived argument with which I can grapple.

Laura Lippman is a Sun reporter and the author of a mystery series set in Baltimore. Her third Tess Monaghan novel, "Butchers Hill," will be published by Avon this month.

Like the Queen in Alice's Wonderland, I am quick to call for the execution of books that displease me. I will abandon a book anywhere from page two to the penultimate page - all it takes is one jarringly discordant line, a sentence so stupid that it burns through whatever good will I have toward the writer and his/her story. (Perversely, I keep their little corpses at hand because life is short, yet long enough to change one's mind.)

Morton I. Rapoport,

M.D., is president and chief executive officer of the University of Maryland Medical System and has authored more than 40 scientific and management publications.

Life is too short, and unfortunately, most books are not. If I am looking at the page numbers, it is a sign I am about to stop reading.

Brenda Becker is a medical writer and editor for consumer and clinical magazines, including Woman's Day and Patient Care; co-author of "Week by Week to a Strong Heart" (Rodale, 1992); a two-time winner of national awards for writing on cardiovascular disease; and a contributor to journals of opinion including the American Spectator and National Reviewer.

As the working mother of a 3-year-old, I put every chapter of a book to a grueling test: Would I rather be reading this, or sleeping? If no literary caffeine kicks in by Chapter 3, or worse yet, if I have begun REM sleep with my eyes open, the book is history.

Beth Kephart is the author or the recently published nonfiction book "A Slant of the Sun: One Child's Courage." She won the 1998 Leeway Foundation Grant in nonfiction, and was also named a finalist in the Pew Fellowship in Arts program.

The averages get read all the way through - the well-enough done books, the books whose characters I fall for, whose structures I learn from, whose seasoned language keeps me in the author's stew. It's on either side of this that I falter - the books dulled down for obvious commercial appeal, the books neither author nor editor took the time to love (give these 50 pages, no more) or, conversely, the books so fastidious in concept, so extrahuman in construction, so heartbending in language that it hurts - a glorious pain - to plunge right in. Full of envy I finish the best of books, but it takes time, time to turn the pages.

Jim Rouse is an artist and the founder and former owner of Louie's Bookstore Cafe. He is president of the Charles Street Association.

Whether fiction or nonfiction, contemporary or classic, a book loses interest for me when it fails to provide insight into either human nature or some aspect of how the universe functions. I do not read for entertainment or distraction. I read to gain wisdom.

Lyle Denniston has covered the U.S. Supreme Court and matters of Justice for The Sun since 1981. Before that he covered the Supreme Court for the Washington Star and the Wall Street Journal. In his 40 years of writing about the Supreme Court, he has covered one out of every four justices to sit on the court.

Life is, in fact, not too short to finish every book I read. Growing up in the Great Depression, in a large, modest-income family in which there were few books so each was in fact a rare book, it was a natural habit to treasure each one, to waste none. Now that I have the option of choosing books, any I opt to read gets a commitment that ends only with the last word on the final page.

Alane Mason is an editor at W.W. Norton and an occasional contributor to Commonweal.

I'm not sure it really makes sense to run a response from a book editor, because the response is: when I know I'm not going to publish it and/or when I have to read the other 25 manuscripts waiting for an immediate response.

Jean Thompson is the assistant managing editor for staff development at The Sun. She has worked as a journalist for 14 years.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.