The Rules of Books, or A Short Rant on Why Putting Arbitrary Rules on Subjective Art Forms is Stupid

People make rules for everything.

Even books, as varied and subjective as they are, are not immune. Of course, these rules are different for everyone: some people have rules not to break the spine or crease the pages, even on small paperbacks; some people dog-ear pages and others swear by bookmarks; some judge books by their cover, not even picking up ones that don’t catch their eye; some always finish a book even if they hate it; some refuse to eat or drink near the pristine white pages of their newest read; and so on. The rules change depending on the person.

Save one.

The one rule most people seem to adhere to, and the one I hate the most, is the 60-page rule. This rule states that any book should be given at least sixty pages to prove itself worthy for you reading, as if anything less than that is doing it a disservice. I call bull.

If a book has not captured my attention within the first chapter, if I don’t believe in the characters or the story by then, I will drop it so hard it won’t even be marked as a DNF on my Goodreads. I’ve read many first chapters in my life, and if I’m not sold by then, fifty-or-so more pages won’t change my mind. Most of my DNFs that I’ve bothered marking were only 10% done or less when I decided to drop them like the hot garbage they were in my mind.

Every book I have ever loved, I’ve fallen in he first few pages–hell, the first few paragraphs. Simon Morden’s The Lost Art, my all-time favorite book to date, took only a couple sentences. The Belgariad took the same, The Legend of Drizzt the first scene. My most recent read, Neil Geiman’s American Gods, was even less–I was hooked on Shadow’s story by the first sentence.

These books are so strong, so sure in themselves, that I could never see myself waiting sixty pages to see if I loved them or not. I was already in love by page number one. I didn’t even notice the numbers at the bottom of the pages on American Gods until I checked them so I could update Goodreads with my reading status. Before that, I was just reading, not thinking of anything else save the story within.

I suppose my point is that rules like this, ones that everyone think should apply across the board, are ridiculous. People are too varied for that–reading, a subjective art form, is too varied for that. Different people have different rules, just as they have different tastes.

But maybe the 60-page rule works for you. Maybe it takes you a little while to get into a story, and that’s fine. Just don’t hold other people to some arbitrary page number as if the book they’re reading will magically work for them by that time. We all have our own ways of reading and weeding out potential DNFs from our ‘to be read’ piles.


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