I vividly remember the first book I never finished. It was Charlie and the Great Glass Elevator, and I hated it. Up until that point I read everything veraciously and this was the first book that I struggled through, that gave me reader’s block and made me struggle with whether it was okay to give up on a book.
And my answer is yes.
I’ve rarely found anyone who has given up on a book did so without good reason, even if that reason is that they didn’t like it; there’s often reasons why they didn’t. It’s why the book club I run has a rule that you don’t have to finish the book. Rarely do I find that people didn’t finish a book because they ran out of time, and if they did it’s usually because something was preventing them from picking up the book in the first place. But if someone doesn’t finish a book, there’s usually just as much to talk about as those who mercifully struggled to the end. Hated the plot, the characters or the writing style? Great, lets discuss why! Books people don’t finish often make better book club books anyway.
Thankfully it’s not just me who thinks it’s okay to give up on a book, even as a self-described reader / bookworm. Gretchen Rubin of The Happiness Project (which is a great book) talks about the relief of giving up on a book and letting go of the sense of obligation. And Adele Parks advised a teacher not to force young people to finish a book if they hated it at a World Book Night event I went to. So if authors are advising people to give up on books they hate it seems reasonable to do so.
But when do you give up on books? Writer Jen Doll suggests preserving with 100 pages. I tend to go for 100 pages or 10% of the book before making a judgement, but some times the first five pages are enough. This way I avoid the guilt that comes with leaving a book unfinished; I’ve given myself a point where it’s okay to just admit it’s not for me.
What do you think, am I admitting defeat too early, should I struggle on and finish what I started? Or is life just too short to read books you don’t like?