Book Abandonment: Knowing When to Quit

Book abandonment. It’s something all readers have an opinion about, and I have just recently changed mine. Readers generally seem to fall into one of two groups when it comes to quitting a book instead of finishing it:

1. “Never quit in the middle of a book! You have to go all the way to the end to be able to say for certain whether or not you liked it.”

2. “If you’re not into it, why force yourself? Go read something else you would enjoy more.”

People in the first group are sometimes there more because of innate stubbornness than anything else. They feel like quitters if they stop before the end and they don’t like the feeling that they ‘failed’ by not completing the book. I can say this with certainty because I used to fall squarely in this category. More recently, however, I find myself gravitating more towards the second group of readers.

Readers who identify with the second group know that their time is finite and valuable, so they don’t want to spend it doing something they don’t enjoy. Sure, sometimes you have to scrub the toilet or go to the doctor, but reading should be something you take pleasure in. If you give a book a fair chance, and you are not enjoying yourself or feel like you are wasting time, you might want to consider setting that book aside in favor of something else.*

Giving a book a fair chance means different things to different people, and it’s something I’m trying to nail down for myself. I think that it would be good for me to have a set rule for when to lay a book down, like if I’m not feeling it after the first three chapters, or maybe after 100 pages. Of course, rules are made to be broken, so you always reserve the right to quit sooner if you just despise it, or to try a little longer if you think its about to take a turn for the better. Also keep in mind that sometimes putting a book down doesn’t mean you are abandoning it forever. Perhaps you might come back to that book one day down the road when your thoughts or circumstances have changed in such a way that you might now appreciate what you didn’t before.

Now that I have a recognized these different tendencies, and though I still identify with the first group to an extent, I have been actively embracing life as a quitter. In fact, I have quit in the middle of four books in the last six months, and I haven’t regretted it for a moment. There are so many books out in the world, and more are being published every day. There is no possible way for anyone to read every book that has ever been published, so I am choosing to read only those books that bring me joy and satisfaction, books that make me feel like I spent my limited time wisely.

What about you, which of these two groups do you fall into? Or do you think there are more categories than what I identified here? Leave me a comment with your thoughts!

*This does not apply to students. Do your assigned reading!

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