Book finishers are the most hopeful people in the world. They surrender to the idea that there’s always a chance for things to get better. Bless them. The more realistic people in the world know that most books don’t magically redeem themselves. There comes a time when you know it’s a dud, so when do you make it official and walk away?
Whether or not you finish a book is purely a personal choice, but I’m here to convince you that you’re wasting time with that book you hate! No more fence-straddling on the issue. It’s time to take a stand.
Should you finish a book you don’t like?
The short answer is no. But the long answer includes book guilt.
In fact, when I polled in my Instagram stories (the epitome of accurate data, I know) it was a 50/50 split as to whether you should drop a bad book like it’s hot.
Whether it’s an internal moral ambiguity or a mild case of compulsivity, the thought of abandoning a book can send many readers into a spiral. It actually wasn’t until recently that I could take my own advice and walk away.
Hear me out, though. The most persuasive factor in deciding if you should abandon a book is time, and not for the reason you would think. I recently became aware of the fact that books will continue to be published after I die. That completely derailed me for about a week.
Once I recovered, all this thinking made me realize how many amazing books exist now, and how there’s no way I could finish the ones already out there. I literally did the math. It’s not possible. Doing the math actively wasted time I needed to continue reading.
But what this means is that when I’m reading a book I hate, I’m wasting time that I could spend reading something worthwhile, and there’s not enough life to do both. There’s no point in reading a bad book when I could be enjoying something mind-blowing and then literally never run out of incredible things to listen to.
So, the real challenge is not whether or not to finish it, but when to give up and move on.
3 Tips on When You Should Give Up on a Book
Everyone has a unique threshold for when to call it quits. I envy those who can get a genuine feel for whether or not they’ll enjoy a book in the first few paragraphs, standing in the book store. But for most of us, it isn’t that simple. Even a pretty spine can send me flying to the counter with cash in hand.
1. Set a time or percentage limit. Make an agreement with yourself that every book has an equal chance of thrilling you, but only in the first hour or 15%. Beyond that, it’s fair game.
2. Put the book down and hit pause for an hour. If you walk away from the book for an hour and don’t feel too anxious to get back to it, it may be a sign you should be packing your metaphorical bags.
3. Compare it against how you felt reading a book you loved. If you don’t get those jittery butterflies (or at least a vague yearning to curl up with that book), it’s time to go, honey.
How to Start Choosing Books You’ll Want to Finish
Your reading life should not be fueled by guilt. Wouldn’t it be nice if you only read things so well written that you never wanted them to end? This is something that you can have, I swear!
The main means of figuring out when or if to abandon a book is to stop picking up so many books that you’ll want to hit and quit. This comes with understanding your own reading patterns a bit more so you won’t need to ditch books that often. Your credit card and guilty conscience will thank me.
Here are some things to look for before you invest time in that book you’ve been dancing around:
1. For audiobooks, check for emotion in the narrator’s voice. Samples are the underdogs of the audiobook world. If the audio is well-delivered, it will make a book worthy of your precious minutes.
2. See if the plot interests you. If the story doesn’t sound interesting to you, there’s not much that can save it. Sometimes good writing or characters can do the trick, but try to trust your gut.
3. Get a feel for the style. Plot sounds interesting, but the author’s delivery is like nails on a chalkboard? Drop it.
4. Check your mood. Are you feeling a serious book or something more playful? We need to acknowledge that mood reading is a thing.
5. Ask a friend or, better, ask me! This is one of the best ways to find future literary loves. Don’t force it (we don’t all have the same book habits), but your bookish friends would likely be more than happy to shout opinions at you.
Your time is valuable! Taking the time to find the right book is worth it. If you’re not interested in wasting time anymore, you’ve come to the right place. Check out my favorite reads of 2019 or peruse my other recommendations.
How Do You Get Through a Book You Don’t Like?
We can’t end without acknowledging that there are times when you just have to finish a book. Perhaps it’s an assignment for work or school. Maybe your annoying friend, Sharon, won’t stop asking you about that book she recommended but you just can’t get through. You could be honestly trying to give an author a shot and see the whole, dang thing through.
Not all hope is lost.
In fact, audiobooks are a great format for fighting the bookish blues. The soft, skilled utterances of a narrator can add some flair to the experience and make it possible to push through. You can also create small goals and reward yourself for them. Rather than 20 pages, you can structure your reading goals into 20-minute periods. Go for a walk while you’re listening and it will feel like you’re really getting something out of the experience, even if you’re not feeling the book.
Make sure to always ask yourself if you really need to finish that book. There isn’t enough time to waste on bad books, people. Life is precious; Sharon can shut up.