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3 Reasons to NOT Finish Books That You Don’t Like

October 7, 2019

(image via wikimedia)

It’s easy to finish reading a book if you like it.  When you don’t enjoy a book, however, sometimes even the most devoted reader thinks about quitting.  Some readers are proud to finish every book they’ve started, but sometimes it’s just not worth it.

According to a study from a few years ago,  the most unfinished book is A Brief History of Time by Stephen Hawkings.  Even though the title had the word brief , the book wasn’t brief enough for most readers to finish it.  A lot of classic literature gets unfinished too.  People quit reading novels like Moby Dick or Great Expectations because literature can be too difficult or too boring.

When I quit reading a book, I don’t want to admit that it was too difficult or too boring for me.  I was raised to accept challenges, so quitting because a book was too hard is a weak move.  Quitters are weak, and readers are not weak (at least I’m not), so we need legitimate reasons to stop reading books that we don’t like.

With that in mind, here are three good reasons to NOT finish reading books that you don’t like:

  1. There are other, better 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.

If you quit reading one book so that you can start reading another book, you’re still reading.  You don’t have to justify yourself as a reader as long you’re reading.  It’s not like you’re quitting a book so that you can play video games or watch porn or go to work.

Finishing a lousy book is almost rewarding bad behavior.  If an author writes a crappy book and everybody reads it to the bitter end, the writer is encouraged to keep writing crappy books.  I don’t believe in rewarding bad behavior.  Therefore, there’s no shame in giving up on a book so that you can read another better book and encourage writers to improve.

  1. 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.

It doesn’t even matter what a reader uses that extra time for.  If you decide to use that extra time to read another better book, that’s great.  Reading time is better spent with a good book than a book that you dread.  If you use that time to do something with your family or fix something around the house, that’s great too.  As long as you’re not using the saved time to… like I’ve already said… play video games or watch porn, it’s okay to quit a book to do something that isn’t reading.

  1. 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%.

You can get a feel for the writer’s style in the first few chapters of a book.  You can tell if the writer can describe scenery, set up interesting situations, and write realistic dialogue.  If you don’t like the writing at the beginning of the book, you probably won’t like it as the book continues either.  Books might have surprises and twists, and some books take a few chapters to get moving, but the writing style usually doesn’t change that much.

Because of that, you can usually judge a book somewhat accurately without having to read the whole thing.


Despite what I’ve written, it’s easy for me to decide whether or not to finish reading a book that I don’t like:

* If I’m reading for the challenge, I finish the book.

* If I’m reading for the experience, I finish the book.

* If I’m reading for enjoyment, I don’t finish the book.

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?


  1. I finish most of the books I start to read. I’m in a reading group so that introduces me to a lot of books I’d never have picked for myself. But if I really can’t stand some book I don’t finish it. It’s not as if I’m studying it for an exam. Some books I don’t finish because I know I won’t have time to read them before they are due back to the library – eg if I am going on holiday. I don’t feel guilty about not finishing a book. I have only a limited number of days to live – I don’t mean I am terminally ill or anything like that! But no-one lives for ever and there are other things I want to do in the time remaining to me.

    • “I don’t feel guilty about not finishing a book. I have only a limited number of days to live – I don’t mean I am terminally ill or anything like that! “-

      Ha ha! I know what you mean. Every time I say something like that (I only have a limited time…), people think I’m being morbid.

  2. Most people reading MOBY DICK make the mistake of not reading a full-sized book.(Hard Bound is good). Read for the straight story, and it is there: MADMAN Ahab, Captain, takes over the ship and sends the ship to its doom. If it sounds like current events, it is. Melville describes the processes.
    Some of the other stuff may be counter punctual, but not without lots of analyses.However, there is a lot of nineteenth century our description, allegory and references to everything under the sun. There are passages which are humorous, near the beginning.

  3. Completely agree with you on points 1 and 2 though I didn’t always feel that way. In my younger days I tended to plough on even if I wasn’t enjoying a book. But with more mature years I realise I’m just being stupid forcing myself to read something I don’t care for when I have hundreds of other books that could be more enjoyable.

  4. 100% agree. If it’s not drawing me in at the end of chapter two, I send it on to Goodwill. I’ve wasted too many good baths on poorly written crap. You think, “Surely this will get better. Surely this author doesn’t really have zero percent sense of humor and everything is stark and awful.” Or it sounds like a fourth grader wrote it with generic descriptions, so that I can’t even envision this main character 50 pages into it. You wonder how they ever got published and you throw the book on the floor and shave your legs instead. Buy used books, and you never feel guilty.

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