Should You Finish Reading Books You Don’t Like?
When I first started reading, I took pride in finishing every book I started. In elementary school, I finished Harold and the Purple Crayon, even though Harold was getting out of control. In middle school, I finished The Winds of War and War and Remembrance, even though I was being mocked for carrying big books around the school (they were WAR books, I explained… luckily, I had a copy of Massage Parlor II that kept me from getting beat up). In high school, I finished Noble House, despite having to read a bunch of Willa Cather books in my English class. In college, I finished reading The Mists of Avalon, even after my girlfriend broke up with me for calling it a “woman’s book.”
But somewhere along the way, I lost my passion for finishing books. I became more critical of books I read and I began noticing how much time it took to read some of them. I finished Sarum by Richard Rutherford, but I gave up on Russka. I stopped reading a Colleen McCullough Rome book within the first hundred pages (I almost got kicked out of my family’s Thanksgiving dinner for that) because I already knew what was going to happen (and it was waaaaayyyy too long).
It’s an internal debate that many book readers have. If you don’t like a book, should you finish reading it? I try to be unbiased when I answer the tough questions.
3 REASONS TO FINISH A BOOK YOU DON’T LIKE
1. You get a Sense of Accomplishment.
I like to brag that I finished Moby Dick (even though I didn’t) and Crime and Punishment. I even brag that I finished War and Peace, Atlas Shrugged, and The Brothers Karamazov, but I’m lying when I brag about them. Still, it feels way better to brag and tell the truth than to brag and lie.
2. You can actually judge a book if you finish it.
You don’t really know if an entire book sucks until you’ve read the whole thing. A couple years ago, I gave up on The Passage by Justin Cronin about halfway. I heard later that the ending was pretty good and that I had missed out on a good ending simply because I was too eager to give up on the book. Maybe I should have finished it, but I’m glad that somebody else finished it for me.
Maybe I would have appreciated Moby Dick if I had finished it. I’m open to that possibility, but not open enough to finish it and find out.
3. You finish what you start!!!!!!
I grew up in a household where we were taught to finish what we started. I learned that you don’t leave a job unfinished or halfass…errr… halfhearted. You give 100%, or you give nothing. You eat all the food on your plate. You stay awake during church. You complete all your homework. And you finish every book you start. Once that’s ingrained, it doesn’t go away… until your parents aren’t looking.
To this day, I eat all the food on my plate (but I get to choose the food now), I stay awake in church (when I go), I make sure all my work gets completed (so I get paid). But finish every book I start? Not anymore.
3 REASONS TO NOT FINISH A BOOK YOU DON’T LIKE
1. There are always other books to read.
Every moment you waste reading a book you don’t like is a moment you’re not reading a book you might enjoy. Reading isn’t supposed to be an endurance test, unless it’s for academic purposes. Think of all the enjoyment you’re missing out on just so you can “endure” a book you don’t like.
2. You save a lot of time.
I hate it when I spend money on a book and then don’t finish it. To me, that’s wasted money. Yeah, wasted money ticks me off, but wasted time is even worse. I’m at an age where I’m much more aware of how much time I have left (even in the best case scenarios). I don’t mean that to be grim, but I’m not wasting my time reading an unenjoyable book if I don’t have to. Me reading a book I don’t like is similar to former President Bush (the first one) eating broccoli. He doesn’t have to eat broccoli anymore, and I don’t have to finish books I don’t like.
3. You don’t HAVE to read an entire book to judge it.
Once you read a few chapters of almost any book, you know what the rest of the book will be like. That’s true at least 90% of the time. I’m not sure where I pulled that 90% number, but it’s probably true. If enough people agree with me and keep repeating it, then it will be true whether it’s true or not. So I’m sticking with 90%.
This is pretty simple. It all depends on your purpose for reading the book that you don’t enjoy.
* If you’re reading for the challenge, finish the book.
* If you’re reading for the experience, finish the book.
* If you’re reading for enjoyment, don’t finish the book.
* If you want to make your decision on a book-by-book basis, then make your decision on a book-by-book basis.
Me? The only reason I read books anymore is for enjoyment, so my decision is always easy now. And it’s made life a lot less complicated.
What do you think? Do you finish every book you read? If not, how do you decide whether or not to finish a book you don’t like?
If you start reading this e-book, there’s a 90% chance you’ll finish it. I’m not sure where I got that number, but 90% sounds right.