Is it Okay to Abandon Books You're Not Enjoying?

By Friday, April 08, 2016 ,


“Grown-ups shouldn’t finish books they’re not enjoying.” –John Irving 

I came across this quote on Modern Mrs. Darcy, a favorite blog that I mention frequently here. At first, I was struck by it and wondered if I agreed. Years of required school reading are likely so ingrained into me that it made me pause. Is it okay to abandon a book I’m not enjoying? Is that giving it a fair chance? As I’ve thought more about it, I’m definitely becoming more okay with the idea than I used to be. 

By nature, I’ll stick to something I’ve started. Whether it’s a task, a friendship, or a book, I’m not the type who easily decides to leave in the middle. So purposely abandoning a book I’ve started can be difficult or make me feel guilty. As mentioned, to me, it can feel like I’m not giving it enough of a chance. How do I know I truly won’t like it if I don’t see how it ends or hear the author out, so to speak? Don’t get me wrong; I have abandoned books before, but it’s usually more gradual than deliberate. In recent years, it hasn’t been uncommon for me to just let partly finished books pile up as I tell myself that I’m “in the process” of reading them all, even though I’m really not. Then, eventually, they’ll make their way back to the shelf. Or, on the other hand, sometimes I’ll switch into skimming mode to get the book over with faster if I’m not enjoying it. 

As I’ve considered all this, I’ve recently come to agree with Irving’s words. Why waste the energy telling myself I’ll finish a book if I know I don’t want to? And perhaps more importantly, why force myself to read something I’m not enjoying when there are so many other books I’d love to be reading instead? There are just too many good books out there to read something I don’t like, so I’m relaxing more about willingly abandoning books. Besides, just because I didn’t like it now doesn’t mean I can’t revisit it later. Just jot down the title for safekeeping. I’ve started this system and it’s working well for me. And I gave the most recent one that I abandoned about 50 to 60 pages before I stopped, which I feel like is a fair enough chance for most books

What do you think? Do you agree with Irving’s assessment? Do you readily abandon books you don’t like or is it difficult for you? How long do you read before stopping? Let me know what you think! I’d love to hear more thoughts!

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4 comments

  1. I rarely DNF (do not finish) just because I'm so determined to see if it gets better. Usually I'm still disappointed, but I do love a good hate read. The most recent one I DNF'd, it just wasn't the right time for me to get into the story. It might be one I'll try again in a couple of months

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    1. That's another thing I struggle with! I often want to hold out because WHAT IF it gets better?! It can be difficult and I'm sure I've abandoned some that I would have ended up liking. But I recently got a journal that has a space to record abandoned books as well as finished ones, so I can return to them easily in the future!

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  2. My rule of thumb for me is to read at least, at the very least, half before deciding if I want to continue or give it away. There are exceptions of course but half and then a peek at the end is usually what I do if I can't get into a book

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    1. That seems fair, haha! I'll peek ahead too sometimes just to try to get a hint of whether I'll like it any better!

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