“Grown-Ups Shouldn’t Finish Books They’re Not Enjoying”

Last week my assigned writing course reading was a John Irving interview from 1986. (1986! His work-in-progress was A Prayer for Owen Meany. It was like a time machine.)

I shared one of my favorite quotes from the interview on the MMD facebook page and asked you to share your thoughts.

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“Grown-ups shouldn’t finish books they’re not enjoying.” – John Irving

Abandoners and Finishers

The answers fell into two categories:

  1. Those who abandon books they’re not enjoying.
  2. Those who wish they could.

The Abandoners said things like this:

Rachel: “I give it 60 pages. I call it The Giver Rule, since the book The Giver was super boring until around page 60. If I’m not enjoying a book after 60 pages, I’m done!”

Krystal: “I used to think I “had” to finish a book once I started. This limited the books I chose to read. Not so anymore. Because I know I don’t have to finish it if I don’t like it, I try a wide variety of books. Books that before I would have felt were too difficult or not my style. Now I’ll try anything!! Almost.”

Walking Through the Valley: “I started doing that a few years ago, and it changed my whole reading style. About 30-60 pages in, if I’m not hooked, it’s gone.”

Celeste: I implemented the 100-minus current age rule and read that many pages. Sometimes I continued, other timesI have given it a good effort.”

The Finishers said things like this:

Amy: “I can’t not finish a book.”

Carrie: “I can’t! Do you know how many books I have “in progress” because I can’t bring myself to give up on them??? Darn fake-OCD.

I’m a Finisher who would like to be an Abandoner. I know when it’s time to quit a book: it’s that point when I consciously decide to switch to lightning-fast reading mode so I can get the thing over with as soon as possible. I occasionally abandon books altogether, but I don’t do it enough.

My new anti-reading goal

It’s just March; it’s not too late to make new resolutions. I’m belatedly resolving to quit bad (or less-than-stellar) books. Next time I catch myself switching to speed-reading mode, I’m just going to put it down.

I’ve already read plenty of not-so-great books in 2013. I should have abandoned First Light and Looking for Alaska. I strongly suspected Gathering Blue and Messenger wouldn’t be to my taste. These books were all by good authors, but I knew by page 60 I didn’t want to finish them. I did anyway. I shouldn’t have.

My new goal for 2013 is to have a nice long list of books I abandoned to share with you at the end of the year. I’m gunning for a dozen or more.

Wish me luck.

Abandoner or finisher? Share your thoughts in comments. 

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I loved the interview with John Irving, and not just because he prompted an anti-reading goal. Read the whole thing here.

"Grown ups shouldn't finish reading books they're not enjoying." - John Irving

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  1. Jeannie says:

    Abandoner, for sure. For me, life’s too short to read books you’re not enjoying, when there are a million others out there that you will. Ironically enough, I vividly remember starting John Irving’s book “Until I Find You” and giving up after about 40 pages because it was SO AWFUL! So I feel now like he’s finally forgiven me. 🙂

    • Beth says:

      I’m an abandoner. I love reading so why would I want to make it unenjoyable by reading things that I don’t like? Also there are so many good books our there why waste my time with something that I don’t think is great? My only exception to this is if a book is highly recommended by someone who’s opinion on books I value I might give it a little more time if they tell me to keep reading cause it us really worth it in the end.

  2. Jessica S says:

    I’m definitely a finisher, but there have been a handful of books that I have abandoned. They’re fairly small in number though: “Crime and Punishment” and “Great Expectations” were two that I do remember abandoning because I just really didn’t like any of the characters. Now I’m regretting that, because my older sister just finished “Crime and Punishment (and told me it was amazing), and I’ve heard good things about “Great Expectations” as well.
    The one thing that keeps me reading: I don’t pick up a ton of books, I usually make sure I trust the source before I read the book; and when my little sister was younger, she tried to read Anne of Green Gables and stopped because the first chapter was boring. (She got through it eventually). So most of the books that I start, I make sure I finish.

  3. I use to have a policy of always finishing a book. Whether I enjoyed it or not. Now, with three young kids {ages 5 and under}, I frankly don’t have time to read, let alone read a book I don’t enjoy. So, if I get 50-60 pages into a book and still don’t enjoy it, I stop. I can always come back to it when I feel I have more time. I’d say, for every 10 books I start, I finish about 7.

  4. I’ve become an abandoner in the past few years, but I still have trouble deciding a rule. If I really am not into it by 50 pages I generally put it down, but this week for example I’m reading “The Book Thief” and I don’t hate it, I just don’t love it. But it’s supposed to be brilliant and so many people loved it, that I sort of feel I should press on. I’m on page 83 and it’s just all right. Maybe I’ll get into it soon.

    • I encourage you to stick with “The Book Thief.” I started it three times, and I just couldn’t get in the rhythm of the narrator. However, my closest friends kept insisting it was amazing. And it is. Just some encouragement from a fellow struggler.

      • I finished it today and decided that the theme is unusual and worthwhile, and the story was good, but I ultimately was so disappointed in the way the author chose to frame it with the narrator because it kept me from fully engaging with the characters. The characters should have been excellent, I should really have been able to get into their heads and feel their stories deeply, but I couldn’t because of the distance imposed by the narrative voice. It could have been a much, much better book had the author not tried to turn flips with the narrator. But that’s just my opinion–I know lots of people totally adored the book as it was.

        • Oh, I totally get where you are coming from, and I COMPLETELY understand why you felt disappointed. I struggled with the narrator throughout the novel. Eventually, the beautiful writing won me over, and I was able to love the characters.

    • Georgi says:

      Oh my gosh. I thought I was the ONLY one in all of humanity who did NOT love Thd Book Thief!! I not only didn’t love it, I didn’t even like it. I finished it. But I confess it was only because of self imposed guilt.

  5. I’m an abandoner, but it’s not necessarily direct. I’ll abandon a book by piling other books on it, so I don’t “see” it anymore, or putting it somewhere and forgetting it, which I can only do with books I’m not enjoying. Another one of my tactics is to put off reading it until it’s due back at the library.
    I would like to be more forthright in my abandonment, I think. I’m going to give the 60-page rule a try and see if that helps.

    • Anne says:

      Haha! I get this. I also tend to trail off on some books and never pick them up again. Here’s to more forthright abandonment for both of us in the future!

  6. Oh. Sorry you didn’t like Gathering Blue. I read it 13yrs. ago! The memory was vague. I’ll try to be more careful what I recommend to you next time. The Giver was hard for LL to match.

    Your ideal novel may be different than mine, but I LOVED To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty Smith, and The Good Earth by Pearl S. Buck. Each of these books has enriched my life.

    Finisher or Abandoner? Both. It depends on what I’m reading and WHY I’m reading it at the moment. I wanted to abandon Confessions of Augustine, but I didn’t and now I plan to read it again. I’ve tried to read Cutting for Stone by Abraham Vergese twice and The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society also twice and for some reason I couldn’t hang. Maybe I’ll revisit them in the future and love them. Who knows? I’ve also been known to toss books over my shoulder without looking back. 🙂

    • Anne says:

      Adriana, I didn’t even remember that you had recommended Gathering Blue. I won’t hold it against you. 🙂 It’s just my nature (the one that I’m fighting, probably) to finish the quartet if I loved the first book in the series (The Giver, in this case). Oh well. Live and learn–hopefully!

      I’ve never read A Tree Grows in Brooklyn but I think it’s one of my mom’s favorites. Haven’t read The Good Earth either. I did love To Kill a Mockingbird.

      I’ve checked Guernsey out of the library twice, stared at it for 3 weeks, and then returned it unopened. Maybe someday? Or maybe that’s a sign I should just leave well enough alone…

      • Debi Morton says:

        I’ve read “A Tree Grows,in Brooklyn” twice, once as a tween and again just last year with my Book Club. Loved it both times and highly recommend it. Book Club also read Guernsey and most of us thought it was wonderful. It just takes a little getting used to the writing technique she uses of emails and letters, but you quickly get drawn into the story.
        I became an abandoner just a few years ago, realizing like others here, that there are just too many good books to waste my time when th something I’m not enjoying. I do think reading on the Kindle makes it easier to abandon books.

    • Jeannie says:

      Oh, I loved, loved, loved, loved “The Guernsey Literary and PPP Society”! For several reasons:
      – It is very brave & creative to try to write a novel entirely made of letters. There are certainly many things a novel of letters can’t do, so for sure there is something lost — but it gains in being so interesting and immediate.
      – The backstory of the writing of this book is fascinating — how the original writer, Mary Anne Shaffer, passed away before the book could be completed, and her niece Annie Barrows finished it.
      – I love how it deals with a little-known part of history: what it was like for these tiny Guernsey Islands to be occupied by the Nazis. The novel’s letter format makes this background detail so interesting and personal.
      It’s a funny, uplifting, sad, happy book; don’t abandon it! 🙂 Oh, and I hear they’re making it into a movie. I am so there.

    • Casey says:

      3 of your favorites are also my favorites. I am an evangelical when it comes to To Kill A Mockingbird, The Good Earth, and A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. I enjoyed to found Harper Lee novel, and the other by A Tree Grows author. I have tried other Pearl S. Buck books with no success.

  7. Corrie Anne says:

    I definitely abandon books. No set rule, just i I find them boring – I don’t pick them up again. And then they’re overdue at the library. The Giver Rule!?!??!?! Haha.

    • Anne says:

      ” No set rule, just i I find them boring – I don’t pick them up again. And then they’re overdue at the library.”

      Hahaha! EXACTLY.

  8. Sheila says:

    Finisher who is trying to become an Abandoner, and getting better at it with practice. Last week I returned two to the library unfinished, and made that decision when I realized that I was skimming as quickly as possible just to be done with them. Which sounds awfully like what you said about switching to speed reading mode. 🙂

    It’s still absurdly hard for me to abandon books at times – I can think of several already this year I wish I had, but I hoped they’d get better, or I seemed to forget that I’m not in school, and don’t *have* to finish books.

    • Anne says:

      “I seemed to forget that I’m not in school, and don’t *have* to finish books.”

      Sheila, this sounds so much like what John Irving said in his interview!

    • Jessica S says:

      “I seemed to forget that I’m not in school, and don’t *have* to finish books.”
      That’s probably the main reason I’m a finisher! So many years of reading for school has gotten me in the habit of finishing what I start, so it’s a good reminder that I can throw a book out when it really just isn’t very good. Since I was homeschooled, I subsisted on my curriculum reading and was forced to suffer through a handful of insufferable books. I forget that I don’t have to finish them any more because there isn’t a paper due at the end!

      • Sheila says:

        Yes, I think it’s a disadvantage of having been a responsible student who always read the assigned books. I got in the habit of reading things I didn’t want to read and wasn’t enjoying because I had to, and then getting out of that habit has been surprisingly hard!

  9. Katherine says:

    Forget books- I need to learn how to abandon blogs I don’t enjoy anymore! I sometimes have to force myself to hit “unsubscribe”, even when I have only read the blog out of compulsion (not enjoyment) for several weeks.

    I have four books next to my bed that are all semi-abandoned in favor of other books that I’ve enjoyed more and plowed through. I have the distant thought that I’ll pick them back up…but…

  10. Leslie H says:

    After turning 50, and realizing that I had accumlated a library that I might not live long enough to read, I became an Abandoner. It was so freeing! I don’t have a 60 page rule, but I think I will implement one. My mantra has been: “I’m too old to spend time reading stupid stuff.”

    BTW, I’m still buying books…good books…for the next generation…That’s responsible, right?

    • Jennifer says:

      I’m only in my 20s and I feel like I’ve accumulated a library I won’t live long enough to read either! I need to be an abandoner…I have at least 15 books on my shelves with bookmarks about 60 pages in because I can’t bring myself to pull the bookmark out and give it up OR finish the dang thing. I dont know if I have the strength to do either…

      • Anne says:

        I tell myself that buying books for the next generation is responsible. 🙂

        Jennifer, I know what you mean about not being able to finish a book or firmly commit to abandoning it. I need to find the resolve if I’m going to follow through on my goal of abandoning some books this year!

  11. I’m a finisher, even if it’s better late than never. An example would be the Steve Jobs biography. I got it right when it came out, but only got about 1/4 through it. Then I put it away, and didn’t pull it back out. I kept hearing people say they loved it, but I had other things I was more interested in.

    But there is a part of me that will never let me just let that book sit on the shelf unless I have finished it, and know it’s a good book, or get rid of it for never wanting to read it again.

    It’s kind of like an experience my wife and I had watching a recent movie we had wanted to see for a while: We got 5-10 minutes in, and it wasn’t what we thought, turned us off a few times, and yet, we HAD to know how it ended before we could draw a proper conclusion. This isn’t always the case, but it happened this time, and I was glad I finished it, even if I wouldn’t fully endorse the movie.

  12. Tiffany says:

    I’m an abandoner and not just for myself either. There have been times when we’ve been slogging through a read-aloud in our homeschool and none of us is liking it and/or all of us are hating it. At that point, I abandon it. Otto of the Silver Hand was our most notable abandon. Some people love that book, but we all just kept wishing he would die in his cold, castle prison and end the story. There are too many books in the world (and on our shelves) that we will love to waste time on those we don’t.

    • Anne says:

      Tiffany, it strikes me as a good thing that you’re modeling setting so-so books aside for your kids.

      Also, I’ve never heard of Otto of the Silver Hand. But now I’m curious….

    • Jessica S says:

      Otto of the Silver Hand was terrible, so bad that I don’t even remember the plot. But somehow I made it through… Our least favorite was some book about William Wilberforce, it was so incredibly dull, but a history read-aloud, so of course my sister and I had no say. I have no idea how my mom made it through.

      • Tiffany says:

        Oh yes, I remember that William Wilberforce book (from one of the Sonlight cores). We abandoned that one too. To be fair, Sonlight did have many of our all time favorite books. But I have no bones about abandoning those that aren’t working for us, even when it was a history read, like Wilberforce.

  13. Heather says:

    Generally I’m an abandoner. I guess my only rule is if it makes me roll my eyes too many times.

    The exception to this is “medicine books,” where I know that for one reason or another, the book will be good for me and I just need to force it down. Sometimes I really don’t feel like finishing the latest pop book, but I do because I’m introverted and it makes a good general conversation starter. Other times it’s a major classic that I’m having trouble appreciating, but I persevere because it will round out my classics reading. I had this with Northanger Abbey. I’m glad I stuck with it and got to see Austen’s unhampered wit, but it did have some qualities that made me wimper, “Just end already!”

  14. HopefulLeigh says:

    I’m a finisher. This sentence perfectly describes it: “I know when it’s time to quit a book: it’s that point when I consciously decide to switch to lightning-fast reading mode so I can get the thing over with as soon as possible.” Except lightning-fast reading mode also involves skipping pages and even chapters, if it’s particularly painful. I’ve set aside less than a handful of books in the last decade. I’m OK with that. I’m fairly good at discerning what I’ll like and what I won’t so it’s usually not an issue.

    I read that John Irving interview the other day (maybe you tweeted it? I don’t remember how I came across it.) but didn’t realize it was an old interview until about halfway through. I was a bit confused until that point! But I loved the behind the scenes info on his approach to Owen Meany.

    • Anne says:

      I had the same experience! It said right at the beginning that he was 44, and I knew he wasn’t 44 anymore. But that only narrowed it down to a twenty-year range for me. It was so fun to get to the part where he talked about his current WIP 🙂

  15. Linda says:

    I will abandon a book when necessary. Sometimes I need to temporarily abandon a book. It isn’t that the book is worthless, it’s often that it’s not the right time or I’m crazy busy. I’m allowing myself the freedom to return a book to the library and check it out again at a later date…without feeling like I’m a failure somehow.

  16. I’m like you. I wish that I abandoned more books. Instead they sit on my shelf with bookmarks in them waiting to be read.

    Just a few weeks ago, I finally went through my collection and donated all of those books I knew I would never get to. They are taking up room for books that I would rather be reading.

    The hard part is that I am so picky with what I read!

  17. I’m a “Learned Abandoner” as well. I have to fight for reading time as it is. I don’t want to dread sitting down to a book. I spent much of my college career reading things I didn’t want to read, so finding the freedom to say, “Life’s too short,” feels naughty and fun all at the same time – like I’m sticking it to the man or something.

  18. Amy says:

    I used to be a Finisher, but lately I’ve come to realize that life is too short for books that don’t work for me, so I’m becoming a little more of an Abandoner. I quit on Fireflies in December, and for the first time, I didn’t feel guilty.

  19. Mary says:

    I turned in to an abandoner when I started reading most books as library checkouts on my kindle. They go automatically back to the library after two weeks and I’ve almost never been tempted to re-check out a book that expired. Plus, now I”m willing to try a ton of books I never would have read before and had great finds.

    • Anne says:

      Oh, that’s a great point about the borrowed ebooks. Maybe those could be training wheels for wanna-be abandoners like myself?

  20. As a wannabe published author, I try to keep reading. I always think, “What if someone was reading my book and quit mid-sentence because they hated it? What if they quit before the ‘good stuff?!'” Blood, sweat, and tears are poured into an authored title and I try to remember that when I’m reading, I try to remember someone put their heart and soul on the line to get published and they deserve a shot.

    Still, some books really don’t deserve a reader’s perseverance. I read http://www.amazon.com/Heart-Freedom-Remarkable-Dissident-Daughters/dp/1414362471 this book recently and honestly, it was generous of me to continue. It was poorly written and while her story was compelling, it needed heavy editing and probably even a ghost writer or a co-author. The poor quality of the book took away from the fascinating events.

    Just my two cents…

    • Anne says:

      “The poor quality of the book took away from the fascinating events.”
      Ugh, I’ve read too many books like that.
      I like your perspective about what the author put into the book. That’s not going to help my resolve to become an abandoner!

    • Ellen says:

      Hi Colleen,

      As a writing-lover, I hear you about wanting to be read! On the other hand, when I speak publicly, I don’t expect that everyone will love what I said. Some will be inspired, others will feel like I didn’t connect with them at all. Everyone is different.

      I think that if someone puts 30 minutes of reading (i.e. as much time as your average speech – giving the author enough time to make a ‘pitch’ toward connection) into a book and it isn’t connecting with them, it is fine to leave it… it will likely connect beautifully with someone else.

    • I used to be a finisher, then I worked on becoming a mover on, and then after I wrote MY book, I’m much more tolerant of books so I really mostly go all the way because I keep thinking, “it’s got to get better, right?”

      (I actually wrote a post yesterday on how I’ve now read 2 awful and 1 meh book. I need a good one and I’m going to start Delancey tonight – I think you told me about that one :))


  21. Dawn says:

    Many libraries, including the library in your area, Anne, offer a service from Dear Reader. You can sign up to receive a small snippet from a book in the genre of your choice 5 days a week. They offer categories on business, fiction, non-fiction, pre-published material, and others. I love this service because I can tell if I’m interested enough in a book to check it out from the library or put it on my list after the five days, which usually gets you partway into chapter 2. I send my daily emails to different folders in my Inbox, and when I need a new book, I read the “preview” of one in my queue.

    If you want to lean how to abandon a book, this is a great tool. You must abandon the book by Friday, cause there ain’t any more a-coming unless you go get the manuscript yourself.

    And, it’s free.

    I have found some of the most interesting reads from this little subscription, including A Reliable Wife, which was an amazing book that opens new dialogue for the theme of redemption (not a Christian title) but at the same time has a very dark mood.

  22. I’m an English teacher married to a librarian. We both advocate not finishing books (unless they’re *required* reading). Have you seen Daniel Pennac’s Reader’s Bill of Rights? It’s awesome. Here it is:

    1. The right to not read
    2. The right to skip pages
    3. The right to not finish
    4. The right to reread
    5. The right to read anything
    6. The right to escapism
    7. The right to read anywhere
    8. The right to browse
    9. The right to read out loud
    10. The right to not defend your tastes

    I love the tenth one. Great post!

  23. Tim says:

    I read with abandonment, Anne. No book or article is safe with me, because I’ll leave it stranded on the roadside if it doesn’t hold my attention. I used to feel like I had to finish everything I started. I outgrew that.

    One book I recently dropped like a hot potato was The Eyre Affair. It came highly recommended by people whose taste I trust, but its literary allusions and conceit were all too much for me. It’s like the author was being clever for cleverness’s sake.

    Another I abandoned before that was House of Cards, telling the story of the Bear Stearns crash and the market meltdown in 2008. It’s not that the book isn’t worthwhile. It is. But it all went over my head, and I kept finding myself not understanding what was going on. I am not much for high finance!

  24. Total abandoner. And I feel no shame or guilt in admitting it (well, maybe a little for giving up on War and Peace, but whatever…it’s War and Peace. Hardly anyone actually makes it through it, right? Right??) Books are for enjoyment and for learning and if neither is happening, I am moving on!

  25. Jennifer H says:

    I just renamed my “started-but-didn’t-finish” shelf in goodreads to “abandoned”. I only have 3 books in it, because I don’t always bother to put a book in if I return it to the library without reading it.

  26. Krissa says:

    I used to finish every book, no matter what. There was just something about starting something and not finishing it that I couldn’t stand. But things have changed…maybe because I don’t have endless reading time so I want to make what I’m reading worth it. But I still do have a hard time abandoning books that I “think” I’m supposed to love, because everyone else does.

  27. Jo says:

    Hey Anne!

    Sad to hear that you didn’t like Looking for Alaska….. Would love to hear your thoughts on why you didn’t want to finish it.
    I’m actually currently re-reading it and still enjoying it knowing what is going to happen.

    • Anne says:

      Jo, I thought the storyline was interesting, but I thought the characterization was lacking. The first John Green book I read was The Fault in Our Stars, and I thought he did such a great job making those characters believable. The dialogue especially was spot-on. I thought he got it wrong too often in Looking for Alaska.

      Maybe I would have enjoyed LFA more if I’d started there?

      • Jo says:

        Yeah, that is probably accurate. I think my next favourite after The Fault in Our Stars is Paper Towns (which is his previous book, except for Will Grayson Will Grayson, though that book is not wholly his). I do think that there is an arc of how his characters are throughout his books, so maybe if you did start at Looking For Alaska, you may have not only enjoyed it, but also loved The Fault in Our Stars more!

  28. Ellen says:

    I’m a quasi-abandoner. Which is to say that I can skim veryquickly. If I don’t like a book, I skim the rest. It works out great because then I feel like I finished (and skip the “what if it was just about to get good?” question) and yet don’t waste too much more time on the book.

      • Tim says:

        I eventually stopped trying to hold out for the “what if it was just about to get good” possibility. Now I figure that if the good part comes after they’ve bored me to tears, then it’s their loss and not mine! The way I see it now is they lost a reader, I didn’t lose a book.

  29. Brianna says:

    I abandoned Looking for Alaska! Sometimes a book is good, and enjoyable even…but I just can’t feel connected to the story, or imagine spending more time reading it. I get what you’re saying here and since I had a baby, I have started abandoning books much more often! I find when I read a string of bad books, it gets me out of the reading “groove” too. I love this post because it makes me realize I’m doing the RIGHT thing by not finishing a book that I don’t love.

    • Anne says:

      Well, I wish I had abandoned that one! I have a friend reading An Abundance of Katherines right now (also by John Green) and it has me thinking about picking it up. I’m not sure if that’s a good idea or not. 🙂

      You’re so right about reading a string of bad books getting you out of the reading groove. I’m considering abandoning TWO books I currently have going, and it’s not a good feeling! Do I like to read or not? (I do, but I wish I’d chosen better books recently!)

  30. Brianna says:

    So far I’ve read When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead..I liked it and was surprised by the ending (I feel almost embarrassed to admit that!) I tried When Alice Forgot but I got bored….I was about 200 pages in and I just felt like I needed a bit more action! 🙂

  31. I’m not an abandoner, but sometimes I’m a slow starter. For example, I have The Luminaries on my Kindle right now. I started it in November and didn’t immediately get hooked. I’ve read at least 30 books since I bought The Luminaries, but I’m pretty sure I will eventually read it. Thanks for presenting this issue — I love the commenter’s list!

  32. Jen Webb says:

    I’m definitely an abandoner. I decided a few years back, that there is a finite # of books that I can read in my lifetime, and I’m not wasting any of that # on books that don’t catch me in some way.
    Now, I do try to give it the old college try before abandoning. I’d say more an amount of time than a # of pages.
    (I’m just finding your blog and loving it! Thanks for creating space for us bookies!)

  33. Molly says:

    I don’t like the term “abandoner” though I have heard it before. I prefer to think of myself as a “mover”. If a book’s not working for me, I move on. I generally give a book 100 pages to hook me, but there is flexibility in that. Some books have been discarded after fewer than 50 pages; others have been given more time to get moving because they were highly recommended, they are considered classics, or because there was something about it that really intrigued me. Of these I’d say I’m glad I finished about half of them. Truly though, life is too short (and there are far too many books to experience) to spend time reading unenjoyable books.

  34. Audrey says:

    This post was enlightening. Glad to know I’m not alone in abandoning books I’m not enjoying. I used to just beat myself up and feel like a quitter. So glad to find out I’m sort of normal!

  35. Kristi says:

    I liked seeing this post and the comments because it has given me more insight into what other readers experience in this area, and permission to ditch books I’m not enjoying! I am not consistently a finisher or an abandoner, but have sometimes languished in the Bermuda Triangle between them … I usually tend toward at least the desire to finish a book I’ve started, in the interest of closure. I find the desire especially happens with books I have purchased, rather than library loans. I’ve gotten to a certain point in a book and then just put it down and forgotten about it because I never got hooked in … but my bookmark sits there indefinitely!

    I also have a sort of loose rule that has challenged me to give books that initially seem “boring” more of a chance (at least the “classics” or widely recommended literary titles). When I had read “Jane Eyre” in high school, at the time I found it boring until around page 100. Then it was absolutely fascinating until the end. I know some people have the 50-60-page rule, but after that book, I’ve realized that sometimes certain classics take longer to get into (for me). I had a similar experience with “Catch-22,” and was glad I stuck with it!

  36. Rose says:

    This is a GREAT quote! I love books and I love reading but I realized sometimes I force myself to finish even if I am not getting any enjoyment out of it. I’m a “finisher” lol I think I just want to give the author a chance to catch my attention so I keep going. Thank you for the gentle reminder that I don’t need to finish the book if I am not enjoying it.

  37. Samantha says:

    I think one of the reasons I find it so difficult to totally abandon a book is because most of my books are bought. They’re usually obtained as birthday or Christmas gifts and my local library is unfortunately fairly sparse. My husband and I aren’t destitute but we don’t exactly have cash to spare, so if we’ve gone through the trouble to save the funds and purchased a book I was interested in I feel like I owe it to myself and him to finish it at least once. Then if I don’t like it I can donate it or give it to a friend that was interested.

  38. Courtney says:

    This totally hit home today as I’m currently reading “the Hypnotist Love Story” and about 75 pages in and it just isn’t that interesting. While I’ve loved Moriarty other works I’m just not feeling this one. So I’m putting it down for now and may pick it back up at a later date cause I always think “what if”. I’m going to move on to “Still Life”..I’ve been holding these and the “Outlander” series for my fall/winter reading.

  39. Donna Baker says:

    I have been an abandoner for my whole life and dont feel guilty or bad about it. Sometimes it is because it is not interesting enough or I didn’t give myself ample breathing room in between books. I also have other hobbies like sewing, quilting, watching movies and tv, crocheting and knitting, I suppose I have creative ADD since I have multiple unfinished projects so I feel life is too short to invest time in a less than enjoyable task! Really enjoying your podcast and posts. Have told so many friends about you

  40. Kari Ann says:

    I’ve tried to read the same book twice. And tried the audiobook. Now it a Book Club pick and I just can’t do it. I told my MIL “I’m a grown ass woman and I can choose not to read it”

  41. Susie S. says:

    I’m an abandoner and can’t force myself to read something I’m not interested in. Maybe it harks back to grade school? Sometimes it’s not the right time for that particular book. Let the Great World Spin, The Kite Runner, The Corrections are 3 examples that I ended up loving. I carried Let the Great World Spin in my car and would read at stoplights and that’s how I finally got to the chapters I enjoyed. There are too many books to be stuck on a bad one.

  42. Brandyn says:

    I think of myself as an abandoner. My rule is 50 pages or 10% (whichever is longer). The only caveat is that there are books where I care about how they end, but I’m no longer enjoying reading them – those I start skimming at some point just to find out what happens.

  43. Abby Brown says:

    I’m most definitely a finisher. What’s worse is that if I start a series, I feel compelled to finish the WHOLE series. Everyone loves the Throne of Glass series, but I’m not a huge fan, but I’m already 4 books in so now I have to see how it ends. For standalone books, I don’t really mind if I’m not in love with it because there’s only one, but for series, I might just have to stop after the first or second book and google how it all plays out haha.

  44. I find this amusing as I love Irving and Owen Meany was a book I had a very hard time getting into. It ended up being my 2nd favorite Irving.

    I had a 30 page rule for about a quarter century. It took me a year to finish ‘Sister Carrie’, 2 years to finish ‘Uncle Tom’s Cabin’, but I did it, right? And then last year when I was reading a book recommended by a friend and she kept asking me ‘did you start it yet?’ ‘are you loving it?’ ‘have you still not finished that book?’. I didn’t love it. A funny memoir that started out as humorous as reported and then ran more toward the realm of ‘you’ve been talking about yourself for 200 pages now’ and I left it at about 2/3 finished. And lied to my friend. ‘Oh, yes. Great recommendation. Very nice.’ UGH.

    So now I have no problem putting a book down. I have put down 2 books this year- both the last book in a series. And you know what? I do not care what happened in the end.

  45. debbi says:

    interestingly, I had a similar experience and it was with doris lessing. she said ‘There is only one way to read, which is to browse in libraries and bookshops, picking up books that attract you, reading only those, dropping them when they bore you, skipping the parts that drag-and never, never reading anything because you feel you ought, or because it is part of a trend or a movement. Remember that the book which bores you when you are twenty or thirty will open doors for you when you are forty or fifty-and vise versa. Don’t read a book out of its right time for you.’ this was in the introduction to the golden notebook – a book I started three times before I was able to get into it. interestingly, she also said ‘I am sure everyone has had the experience of reading a book and finding it vibrating with aliveness, with colour and immediacy. And then, perhaps some weeks later, reading it again and finding it flat and empty. Well, the book hasn’t changed: you have.’ this makes me want to re-read the golden notebook and see what resonates with me – if I could get into it again like I had before.

    however, I still struggle with putting down books. even with the sage advice of a writer I greatly respect

  46. Pam says:

    I am a finisher but I would like to learn how to be an abandoner. Teach me how! I have abandoned books in the past, but with much, much reluctance. The latest book I have tried to get through with no success, but have not officially abandoned is…Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy by John Le Carre. Have you read it? Worth soldiering on or should I truly give up on it now?

  47. Sabrina says:

    I kind of abandon books all the time — but since I always read a chapter or two and then read the ending to see if I want to read the whole thing, I don’t know if it counts as abandoning. But then again, as one of that minority of folks who read endings at the beginning, I’m probably not the best one to ask about it.

    I have an aunt who was so excited when she realized (at retirement!) that she could put a book down and not finish it. One of her golfing partners asked about what she was reading and she complained about the book she was trying to finish and her friend asked her why she was still reading a book she clearly didn’t like. She was initially shocked at the concept of not finishing and then thrilled as she realized it really was okay to stop mid way through a book.

    • Marla says:

      I read a chapter or two. Then I read the last chapter. If I can figure out what happened without chapters of description, I am done. If I decide I don’t care what happened, I am done. If I find myself thinking how on earth did they get here, I go back to where I skipped forward and start looking for clues. I often find a book I really like by this method. I also save a lot of time by eliminating books I really don’t care for.

  48. Aimee says:

    Anne, I just want to thank you for your repeated reminders to become a quitter. I am definitely a finisher, as I hate to think I’ve wasted my time beginning something that I won’t finish. But I started a memoir the other day that made me cringe every time I picked it up. Each distasteful portion I slogged through was immediately followed by a new cringe-inducing passage. I looked for something–anything–that would redeem all the angst, but I was unable to find any hope in the story. This book is a 2016 bestseller that I spent several months waiting for at the library, so at first I assumed I just needed to power through. But I happened to search for it on your site and saw that when it had a been a Kindle Deal, you admitted to abandoning it. And suddenly I knew I could too. I’m on to much more uplifting, enjoyable reads now. Thank you for the encouragement and for always being honest with us about your thoughts on what you read!

  49. Charles Hess says:

    I have come around to not finishing a book that I don’t enjoy. I get my books from our library, usually several at a time. Because of this, I choose to give my reading time to those books I enjoy.

    There are some authors, who when they have a new book out, I will move to the front of the line. But generally, I take the book due to be returned first as my ‘next read.’

    I learned to read as a young child, and I sometimes think that it is my greatest accomplishment. It has given me joy throughout my life.

  50. Stephanie says:

    If I don’t care enough to find out how the book ends, I put it down. I didn’t used to do this; I was definitely a Finisher. I realized that life is just too short and there so many good books to get to!

  51. I am an Abandoner. I do give books a good chance, sometimes I read a hundred pages or more, but I stop when the fun stops, as recommended for gambling. I have recently resolved to read shorter books, so that by the time I have read a hundred pages, I am at least half way, if not nearly finished!
    I really enjoyed reading this post, it’s fun and interesting, and a great way to start the day.

  52. Catherine says:

    I’m new to the group but I immediately was attracted to this subject. I’ve learned to be an abandoner. It’s a must if I want to ever finish all the books and ebooks I have waiting. My most
    Recent abandoned book – Fates and Furies. Ugh. But in general my rule is 100 pages at most.

  53. Angie says:

    I give a book about 50 pages and then I don’t abandon it, exactly; it’s more like going out with a guy a few times and then he just doesn’t call again. No drama. If it’s a library book, it’s easier; just return it unfinished. If I own it, I will usually give it another chance. Your post included a photo of Gretchen Rubin’s “Happier at Home” and that reminded me of my experience with her first book of the series, “The Happiness Project.” I bought the book because some cousins were going to have a Facebook book discussion/implementation of the concepts in the book. I started reading it and was underwhelmed. If the book club idea had really caught on, I probably would have soldiered through it, but since it didn’t, I didn’t either. I kept keeping it, though, not giving it away. About a year later, I tried it again. Again, not so much. Several months later, I tried again. Third time’s the charm; I enjoyed it so much, I applied some of the principles to my own situation AND bought the next two books, too! A case of “When the student is ready, the teacher will appear.” I will give “classics” several tries before I just say, “Steinbeck and I are not compatible.” At my age, it just doesn’t matter if I’m not considered literary; I know the truth! I like your blog very much.

  54. Carolyn West says:

    I am a finisher as well but see I need to change. Part of the problem is books are soooo much longer than they used to be. Books used to be 200-250 at the most now they have almost 400 and are part of a trilogy.
    Will try to be a quitter on those books I don’t love ❤️

  55. S says:

    I am super late in commenting on this post, since I just came across it. I used to be a finisher, but after giving birth to twin boys in January 2012, my time for reading became much more limited, and I became an abandoner. It’s been liberating!

    I will give a book 50 pages or so usually, unless I can tell sooner that it is just really poorly written. There have been books I ended up liking that took the first 50 pages or so to get me interested, so I feel that this is a good approach for me.

  56. Rick O'Brien says:

    Usually around page 40/50 I will abandon if it’s not going well. The author has the obligation to make me want to continue. If not I will start something else. It’s rare but it happens, Wolf Hall was the last book I put down. I wanted to like it but the writing style wasn’t working for me.

  57. Barbara says:

    I will abandon a book I am not enjoying or can’t get into, way too many good books out there to waste time with boring ones. On a side note, “A Prayer for Owen Meany” was one of my favorite books, and I’ve reread it many times.

  58. Sally says:

    I’m a very brutal abandoner! If I don’t think a book, at the very least, as potential, after 30 pages, it’s gone!! My most recent example of this was ‘The Snowman’ by Jo Nesbo. I was bored very early on, so despite it being raved about – it was gone!
    I’m also a primary school teacher, and whenever I hear the children read 1-1 with me, one of my first questions is “are you enjoying this book?” and if they say “no” or “not really…” I ask them if they want to change it for another. If I won’t read books I’m not into, it seems even more important that I don’t get kids to do it either – when love of books is even MORE important!

  59. I’m a little OCD, so I feel I HAVE to finish a book or it annoys me, but sometimes I definitely don’t. Its more that, if I get into it, but get distracted, I feel duty bound to go back to it and give it its chance. There have been books I’ve started and knew pretty quickly I wasn’t going to ever get through, but then we change as we age. For example: I tried to read the Silmarillion (JRR Tolkien) when I was about 14, because I’d read the Lord of the Rings series since I was very young and adored it. But I just couldn’t force myself past about the second chapter. It was SO boring. Fast forward ten years, and I’m a full-time author, very inspired by Tolkien’s work, and I pick up the Silmarillion and just devour it, then to read all the appendixes of the Lord of the Rings (which I’d never read as a child). And then there was War and Peace. Couldn’t get past the first chapter. But who knows, maybe I’ll go back in 10 years and love it.

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