When Should I Quit a Book I Don’t Like?

photo 3Ask Ginni, our resident Literary Lady, anything you want to know about reading and relationships! She’ll comb the books and wrack her brains to help you out with your page-turning problems, your wordy woes, and your novel nuisances. Fire away, Bookworms!

Dear Literary Lady,
When should I quit a book I don’t like?
Allison P

Dear Allison,

I used to think I had to finish every book I started. I dragged myself through every page out of some misguided desire to prove I wasn’t a quitter, or because I felt obligated to a friend who recommended the book.

Then I realized that nobody cares. I mean that in the nicest and most liberating way possible. Nobody cares because reading is fundamentally a personal endeavor. You are the only person to whom it matters if you quit a book or hang on until the last page. Nobody will judge you for failing to finish this or that novel, any more than they would judge you for falling asleep while watching a movie or not finishing your sandwich at lunch.

As for your friends who make book recommendations, they just want you to enjoy the books they give you. They don’t want to impose a 500-page burden on you as if it were a school assignment. If you just can’t get into the books they recommend, they’ll understand.

So, when should you quit books you don’t like? Whenever reading becomes a chore.

When your dislike of the book takes the pleasure out of reading for you, it’s time to put it down. It’s hard to know when this is happening, but here are some good guidelines to gauge your reading behavior:

  • When you’d rather browse the internet aimlessly than read the book, it’s time to quit.
  • When you’d rather play with your phone than read the book on your commute, it’s time to quit.
  • When people ask you what you’re reading and you don’t want to talk about it, it’s time to quit.
  • When no plot twist imaginable (i.e., a character dying, or two characters falling in love, or an unpredictable act of nature, or a big reveal of a character’s identity, or whatever deus ex machina you can dream up) can redeem the book for you, it’s time to quit.
  • When you keep forgetting who the characters are, but you don’t care enough to go back and figure them out, it’s time to quit.
  • When you’d rather go to sleep immediately than read before bed, it’s time to quit.
  • When you keep counting how many pages are left, it’s time to quit.
  • When you’re in a waiting room or an airport and you’d rather read magazines about cars, babies, quilting, D-list celebrities, birdhouse-building, literally anything else rather than read your book, it’s time to quit.

It’s hard enough to read amid all the demands and distractions of daily life. The book you’re reading shouldn’t make that endeavor any harder. If you get to a stage where the book is affecting the amount of time you spend reading or the enjoyment you get from reading, it’s time to move on. There are plenty of literary fish in the sea.

Love and paperbacks,
Literary Lady

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