We’ve all been there.
You make yourself a cup of tea, grab a blanket, plop down in your favorite spot and pick up your book … only to realize you want to put it right back down again.
But, if you are anything like me, you soldier on anyway, compelled by some masochistic internal force to just finish the thing.
So many times, I have struggled to get through something I wasn’t enjoying because I believed I had to complete it. I didn’t want to feel like I had failed. It took me way longer than it should have to learn a simple truth. It is 100% okay to not finish a book.
Now, I know some people will have a strong, visceral reaction to the idea of not finishing a book. As I said, I was one of them. The idea that I could put down a book-in-progress and move on, just felt wrong. I even had, what felt like at least, solid logic to back myself up on that. But ever since I decided to change this mindset, I have become a better and happier reader.
So, in the interest of helping others shake themselves from this all-or-nothing mentality, I have laid out my rogue, anti-completest rationale. And if this isn’t the article for you, that’s cool too. You don’t have to finish reading it (see what I did there?!)
Reading isn’t homework
From an early age, we are taught that finishing our assignments is crucial to success. And it is … in school. But reading isn’t homework (unless it is, in which case, I am sorry, but you really do have to finish). Call me crazy, but if you are reading something for fun, then shouldn’t it actually be fun?
Free time is precious and I prefer to use it to escape into an engrossing new world. A book I love gives me the chance to leave my frustrations behind for a few hundred pages, but a book I dislike, just seems to add to them. Where is the fun in that?
I am not saying that the books I don’t finish are bad, they’re just not for me. We all have foods we don’t prefer, or colors we don’t like to wear, or TV shows that make us uncomfortable (mine is ‘Shark Tank‘ … it’s stressful and I hate watching people have their dreams crushed). It can be the same for books.
So you’re not finishing that book? It’s totally okay if it isn’t the right fit.
I’ve got a pretty good sense of what books I will enjoy, but sometimes a friend will suggest something and I’ll feel like I have finish it or I’ll be disappointing them.
Well first, a good friend will understand if your reading preferences don’t exactly line up. Second, an honest conversation will save you from having to pretend you loved the book when they ask you about it later.
That being said, it can be good to push your literary comfort zone. If one book really doesn’t work for you, maybe ask your friend for a few more recommendations so you have options to choose from. Or you could try to find something in between your two tastes.
Just remember, struggling to get through a book has the potential to turn you off from a whole style or genre. Even worse, it might cost you a reading buddy. Ultimately, it’s better to be honest and find something you can geek-out over together.
But I can’t not finish the book, it’s a series
This is a tricky one, and I go two ways on it.
If you loved the author’s first book but are frustrated by the second, maybe it is better to give them the benefit of the doubt and stick with it. Traditionally, the second book tends to be darker and a bit more serious (especially in trilogies). The characters are brought to their lowest point, to make their success in book three that much better. You wouldn’t want to miss out on that.
However, if you read the first book at a different time in your life and are only now making it to the next one, it’s okay to realize that the series is not doing it for you anymore. Not finishing that book shouldn’t be an issue.
Books have this incredible ability to capture moments, and there is real magic to reading the right thing at the right time. Don’t stress over the need to complete if the moment has passed.
I bought the book
It has been said (and tweeted) by many, but buying books and reading books really are two separate hobbies. There are so many books I have purchased, but have yet to read. I have no regrets though, because that day, at the book store, was fun all on its own.
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However, I do understand that when you spend money on a book, you really want to finish, simply to prove to yourself you made a responsible purchase. One idea is to set up a book swap with your friends. You trade the books you didn’t like for ones you might like better. You might even be helping others escape their reading frustrations as well. Everyone wins!
You could always consider donating your books (something I do every few years simply to help make space for new ones on my book shelf) or giving them away as gifts. You might not have gotten the reading experience you were hoping for, but you can still make someone else’s day.
I am also a BIG supporter of libraries and this is a major reason why. I find it easier to justify not finishing a book if I am able to return it. I especially like when I know that someone else is waiting for it. I don’t need to hold on to something when it could make someone else so much happier.
What are you missing out on?
Ultimately, there are only so many reading hours in the day, and if you spend those slogging through something you don’t enjoy, you might be missing out on your next favorite book. Not to meant the fact that there are, quite simply, way too many books.
You are never going to get to them all. All you can do is maximize the time you have to read by picking something that makes you feel good. So next time you just don’t want to finish that book, remind yourself it’s okay.
Put that one down and pick up another.