“No one should ever finish a book they’re not enjoying, no matter how popular or well reviewed the book is.” – Nancy Pearl: Best-selling author, librarian, literary critic, and reader
I used to have the hardest time not finishing a book. I could be thoroughly disliking the novel, but still carry on until the last page.
On the one hand was a sense of guilt: Toward the author who poured themselves into writing it, toward the friend who recommended it, or the book club that would be gathering to discuss it. On the other hand was a sense of obligation: “Finish what you started” is a mantra we’ve all had spoken at or to us growing up.
And while certainly we need the strength of character it takes to see unpleasant tasks to the end (otherwise being a responsible adult will prove impossible), reading fiction should not be an unpleasant task.
Unless you’re reading a work of fiction as part of a class assignment or job responsibility, there is no reason whatsoever to finish a book that you don’t care to finish. Life is too short for that and the free time to read is too scarce.
Motherhood changed my perspective on reading and gave me the freedom to put a book I dislike down. Pulled in more directions than ever, with still only 24 hours in a day, I simply refuse to carry on with a book that feels like a chore. I have enough chores. Reading is one of my greatest joys in life and I plan to keep it that way.
Sometimes this even means putting down a good book. Case in point: The Old Drift by Namwali Serpell. This is a good book that I was so excited to read and am about half way through. The writing is incredible and I want to read it, BUT I just don’t seem to have the brain power for the epic length and nature of the novel right now. This just might have something to do with me being 37 weeks pregnant.
No matter how good The Old Drift is, the book has started to feel like a chore. So I’m putting it down. Maybe I’ll tackle it again later – I truly hope so – but now is not the time. And that’s okay.
Have you, or do you still, struggle with putting a book down once you’ve started it? Or have you always been able to move on if a book doesn’t work for you? Let us know in the comments!