7 Tips for Quitting a Book
Jul 5, 2009
Posted by: Kelly | Filed under: Reading
I used to finish every book I started. When I wasn’t enjoying a book, I still choked it down like grandma’s dry-as-a-brick meatloaf.
But it dawned on me one day that if I read every book on my (still growing) TBR list, I’d never get through them all.
Here are some things that have helped me stop reading the books I’m not enjoying so I can read more books I will enjoy.
- Make a rule—I have a 50-page rule. If I’m 50 or more pages into a book and it hasn’t grabbed me yet, I give myself permission to stop. The times I’ve kept on trucking anyway thinking maybe it’ll get better, it never has. Never. If 50 pages seems arbitrary, you could read the first chapter of a few books to decide which ones you want to continue. (Great idea, Lenore!)
- State your mission—Spend a couple minutes articulating why you read, then write it down. Because if you discover that you read mainly for fun, why continue with a book that isn’t fun for you?
- Do the math—A math problem for you:
- Suppose you finish about 1 book every other week, which is 26 books a year.
- You have about 50 years of good solid reading left in you.
- A train coming from town A at 45 miles per hour and a train coming from town B at 55 mph are each carting 500 really great titles you’ll want to read.
- How many more books will you be able to read in your lifetime?
(Hint: Forget the train bit. I always hated those stupid train questions in school.)
Answer: You have 1300 books left. If that sounds like a lot, take a look at your TBR list and/or your overflowing bookshelf, then think back to all those times you’ve heard about a book and thought you’d like to read it one day. And what about all the new books that will come out in the next 50 years that you might want to read too? 1300 books is nothing. Do you really want to make that mediocre book one of The Last 1300?
- Take a break—If a book is just okay so far, put it down for a day and read something else, whether it’s a magazine or a book from another genre. I like to switch from fiction to nonfiction or vice versa. After a day, do you want to go back to the first book? If you’d rather stick with your current read, that could be a clue that the first book isn’t worth your time to finish.
- Have a replacement ready—Sometimes I keep going with a mediocre book because I don’t have anything else waiting in the wings. Finishing a book in that situation always leaves me feeling like I do after I polish off the rejected licorice and buttered popcorn Jelly Bellies just because there was nothing else sweet in the house. So keep an extra book handy at all times.
- Keep greatness in view—When I’ve read a string of good-but-not-great books, a subpar book doesn’t seem that bad in comparison while I’m in the middle of it. But if you keep one of your favorite books on your nightstand or coffee table, it can be a visual reminder of why you shouldn’t settle. The time you spend on a bad book is time you could spend reading your next favorite.
- Borrow or buy cheap—Back when I bought most of my books full price, I felt obligated to finish them because I spent good money on them. When I started using the library and buying used books, it got a lot easier to stop the not-so-great books. So check out your library or your local used bookstore, or try a book swapping site.
Your turn: What helps you let go of a book you’re not loving?
Photos by Linda Crook and Ley_photography.