When to give up on a book (or if giving up on a book should even be considered an option) has been a topic that I have gone back and forth about quite a bit. When you go to college to study Literature, you don’t get much of a choice about what you read. Sure, you pick the classes, but the piles of books that come with each class are, for the most part, up to the professor to select. So I had trained myself to plow through and read anything that came my way.
Then real life hit, and my time suddenly became a commodity. Do I try to push past page 350 out of 800+ in a novel that I am just not that into so I can know deep down that I finished it, or do I move on to the next great read? What benefit is there to sticking with a book that you’re not loving? This year, I tried setting myself a checkpoint with books. Instead of a page count (i.e. I’ll read up to page 150), I decided to try to read through one quarter of whatever the book was. I figure that way I would get a good feel for the structure, character development, and plot to determine whether it is something that I wanted to stick with or when to give up on a book. I found myself choosing to pass on less-than-stellar books so that I could move on to more exciting or interesting novels that had caught my eye. In the beginning, this actually felt strange. But looking back, I dodged a few bullets and am glad I spent my time on books that I actually enjoyed. Because, isn’t that the point of reading anyway?
Goodreads recently released an info graphic called The Psychology of Abandonment, which takes a neat look at the reasons people stop reading books. They also give a brief preview of commonly abandoned books. Of the top 5 abandoned classics, I’ve read 4 out of 5 of them. The one attempt that I bailed out on? Ulysses by James Joyce.
Feel free to share your thoughts on reading and book abandonment in the comments.