When Do You Stop Reading a Book?

We’ve all been there. You’re in the middle of a book, or even close to the beginning or end, and you see it sitting over on the counter, but you have no desire to pick it up. The story has slacked off, or the characters stopped being interesting 50 pages ago.

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You don’t want to finish reading the book.

The problem is, you’ve already invested time in the book. Hours, days, possibly weeks have already been spent in the effort to get through it.

You say to yourself, “I’ve gotten this far, I should just finish it.” You start thinking of yourself as a quitter for even entertaining the idea that you might give up on the book.

So, when do you give up the ghost and just put the book back on the shelf without reading another page? And what do you with the book once it’s back there? Do you try again a few months later? Does your inability to finish the book haunt you?

My Own Thoughts on the Subject

With this article, I’d really like to solicit your comments and thoughts on the subject of not finishing a book, but here are a couple of my own thoughts.

  • Give it your best. There are slow parts in every book. Sometimes if you battle through the slow parts, the reward is finding that the slow parts set up some incredibly dramatic outcomes. Don’t give up too early or you could miss those things.
  • Check with your friends. Often, I find myself reading a book because of a friend’s recommendation. If one of those books turns out to be one I’m fighting to finish, I’ll chat with the person who recommended it and see if they had the same problem. Sometimes you’ll find encouragement, such as, “Oh yeah, there’s a slow part there, but stick with it. It gets REALLY good after that.”
  • Always keep the book for a second try. There have been two occasions for me where coming back to a book turned out to be the best idea. The first was with Stephen King’s Gunslinger series. The first book of this series is very difficult to get through, but once you do the other books are incredibly entertaining. The second instance was with The Pillars of the Earth. I false started two or three times on this book, barely getting past the first chapter before picking up something else. This book is now one of my favorites of all time.
  • If the second (or third) try doesn’t work, let it go. There is a time when it’s just not worth it to keep going with a book. There’s also plenty of books out there to read, and your time is precious. Don’t feel guilty about closing the book and walking away. Even your favorite authors might have written the book you can’t get through. I’ve tried three times now to get through Neal Stephenson’s Quicksilver, and I just can’t do it. He’s one of my favorite authors, and I closed the book and walked away.

That’s my two cents, for what it’s worth. I’d really like to hear your thoughts on the subject. What book did you finally give up on? Were there books that you came back to later? Leave a comment.

9 thoughts on “When Do You Stop Reading a Book?

  1. I am one of those people who just has to keep going to the very end. VERY occasionally I will put up a book down with no intention of picking it up again but I hate doing that, and I will often keep thinking about picking it up again just in case it got good 10 pages after I put it down!

  2. Marg – So what books have you put away and not picked up again? What books did you put down, but pick up that turned out to be worth picking up again? Were there any that were not? I have the same feelings of guilt that you have when I put a book back on the shelf.

  3. First, I love your blog! Second, I usually read them so quickly boredom doesn’t have time to settle in. However, there is always that one book to break all the rules. It was a book I just finished. About a third of the way through, it stopped being interesting. That’s when I started skimming. I’m glad I did. Two-thirds through and it picked up again. Had a powerful ending and was well worth the time.

  4. J. Kaye – Thanks very much for the kudos. I discovered yours after I started this one about two months ago, and I’ve really enjoyed reading it.

    Glad to hear that the book you were reading picked up again. It’s always nice when they get over that “hump”.

  5. Usually if I start a book I finish the book. I mostly read books that my friends loved so I keep reading to get to the good stuff. Sandra Brown is an author that I read often and almost always have a hard time getting started on her books. For whatever reason I have to force myself to read the first 5 or 6 chapters, and then after that I find myself so wrapped up in them I can hardly stand to put the book down.

  6. Mindy – I do my best to finish any book I start reading, too, but there are exceptions. You also bring up another interesting topic, which is when do you stop reading any author or a series? There are a couple sets of series that I’ve gotten into that started out strong and then really became almost unreadable. When do you give up on that? Or do you?

  7. Honestly, that is one of the reasons I am hesitant on starting a book that is a part of a “series”. I recently read a series that was three books…the first two were so good I couldn’t wait to read the third and then the disappointment! The third was okay but not great and felt I had to finish it to find out what happens. I think if your satisfied with what you have read of the series so far and don’t feel a longing to know how it ended then put it down and don’t give it another thought. If you are left feeling like you would really like to know the end then in that case I say finish it. Hard question…

  8. Pingback: What Makes You Stop Reading a Book? | The Critical Condition

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