Friday, June 14, 2019

Reading Time is Limited. It's Fine to Give Up on a Book.

Photo by Petras Gagilas, found on Flickr, licensed under Creative Commons

I’ve been in my current book club for years now, and I appreciate how it’s gotten me to read some wonderful books I would never have found on my own. But there have also been books that just don’t appeal to me. Some I know about right away. For example, I don’t like magical realism so I’m not even going to try to read One Hundred Years of Solitude, no matter how well-respected it is.

But others I begin and then give up on. In one case, the book centered around two people, the author and her best friend, and I didn’t like either of them. In another case I intensely disliked the author’s writing style. (As I wrote to a friend, “He seems to be a fan of very long sentences.”) While everyone else in the book club keeps going, even when they aren’t enjoying the book, I have no hesitation in just setting the book aside.

Reporter Mike Isaac captured (in a now-deleted tweet) the reason most people give up on books:
i also used to do this thing where id power through books that i wasnt enjoying because i felt bad quitting 
then in my twenties someone said to me “life is too short to spend your time reading shitty books” and i feel guilt-free ditching stuff i dont enjoy
Want more encouragement? I recently read a piece where author Nick Hornby goes over what he’s been reading lately, and the list starts like this:
✭ [Unnameable Novel 1] (abandoned)
✭ [Unnameable Novel 2] (abandoned)
Little—Edward Carey
Hornby goes on to explain those first two entries, making an argument I haven’t seen before:
Why give books up? Why not plough on until the bitter end? Because, young friends, we want to do everything we can to break the link between literature and grim duty. You wouldn’t stick with a long Spotify playlist consisting of music that displeases you; you wouldn’t wade through a Netflix series you were hating. Do reading a favor and treat it as if it were just like everything else you enjoy. You’re doing it in your leisure time. You don’t have enough of that.
So feel free to join Mike, Nick and me in abandoning books that you aren’t enjoying!

Related Posts:
Book Lovers: Stop Reading Books You Don't Like
It's OK to Give Up on a Book
Not Every Book is Worth Finishing
Don't Spend Time on Books You Don't Enjoy


Unknown said...

This advice applies to audiobooks as well. Audible allows listeners to abandon an audiobook, although; it would be wise not to abuse this feature.

AS said...

Love this Jeri! I especially appreciate Nick's perspective on abandonment because it is one I adopted a number of years ago. There are enough things that I need to read for work that are less than engaging. My free time is too valuable to continue to read or listen to books that I am not connecting with fully. I end up abandoning some books after just a couple of chapters. I've abandoned others at the half way point or even further on if I feel I've gotten all I'm going to get out of it. There is ALWAYS something else out there to read, so I no longer feel guilty if I opt out of a library book or a book that I've borrowed. Since the advent of Overdrive I don't buy many books, but when I do, I notice I'm generally willing to push myself a little harder to finish ones I've paid for.

JustGail said...

What do you do with the book club when they keep slogging on? Tell them to let you know when they've finished (or given up on it as well) ? Keep going just for the discussion and reason to get out?

JustGail said...

I forgot to ask - has the Unclutterer site been abandoned? There's been no updates since March 1. Since you are (were?) a contributor, I thought maybe you'd know what's up. Or not up.

Jeri Dansky said...

JustGail, my book club always sets a date for discussing the next book we've chosen. Most members really try to finish by that date. But we're fine with people attending even if they haven't quite finished — or even (like me) they've just chosen to give up on the book. Other book clubs will have their own rules about that.

Jeri Dansky said...

JustGail, Unclutterer stopped using its writers (me and two others) over a year ago. It seems the editor, who was making some updates, has now stopped working on the site, too. I have no idea what the owner of the site plans to do with it.