On Finishing Books

Are you ever reading a book that just drags on? Your mind wanders away every paragraph and you get little to nothing from the text. This happens to me a lot. It makes me feel guilty sometimes, but it’s really nothing to feel guilty about at all. Sometimes it’s hard to concentrate while reading.

What's your reading style?

What’s your reading style?

Some may say that if the reader is not captivated, the author has not done his job. Reading shouldn’t be a task. It’s a form of entertainment.

On the other hand, some art takes a lot of thought. If you’re going to read something, you should immerse yourself. Give the artist your full attention.

I see the value in both of these sentiments. I am also really guilty when it comes to stopping reading a book halfway through. I just figure, why waste my time if I’m not getting anything out of it? Other times I think I should have a little more self-discipline than that.

I bet a lot of books that are a drag to read have gems of enlightenment hidden in the pages. A book like this that comes to mind is “Ulysses” by James Joyce. Other books may be ridiculously hard to follow with no substance at all. This would be the slew of books that tried to copy Joyce. Then there are books that are just easy to read and are entertaining, like every book Stephen King has ever written. It all depends on the type of reader you are that determines what types of books you want to spend your time on.

So, my question for “Two Way Hump Day” is:


How long do you push through a book before you say enough is enough and set it down? Are you more into the entertaining, quick reads, or do you find value in having some self-discipline to find some magical things hidden in books?


As always, answer below in the comments, write your own post and tag it “Two Way Hump Day,” or tweet @oshitbritt.


photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/jalex_photo/2102264370/”>Joel Bedford</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;


9 thoughts on “On Finishing Books

  1. A helpful tool to avoid these situations is literature map: http://www.literature-map.com/ Using this, you can find other books in styles similar to authors you already love!

    My rule is generally not to waste time, and I think bullheaded persistence is more detrimental than helpful in most cases.

  2. Great post. For me the two biggest killers are bad writing and characters that are flat. I used to give a book 100 pages. Now I’m even pickier. If I’m a few chapters in and I feel no emotional investment in the characters and what happens to them, I usually set a book aside.

    I feel like there are so many good books in this world — more than I’ll ever have time to read in my life. I don’t want to waste time on the bad ones.

    • Thanks for your response! I’m glad to see there’s people out there who don’t feel guilty not finishing books. It makes me feel less guilty. You’re right about there being so many great books out there. There’s no time to waste!

  3. I’ll admit, that sometimes I read books just to say that I have read them. This is partially for myself and my own enrichment in the sense that I want to experience certain classics or revolutionary art forms even if I don’t love them the most. A the same time, I do admit that it’s also partially for me ego or for the persona I strive to develop. Oops.

  4. Right now for instance, I’m reading Naked Lunch, which sounds a lot like James Joyce’s style mentioned above. It is said to have revolutionized the contemporary novel and to be one of the most important works of literature in the 21st century. I can see why these attributions are given to it, and think that if I were reading it for a class or had someone to discuss it with it might motivate me to dig more deeply into the text. I think maybe I should join a book club.

  5. Before several deaths in my circle and some serious life/death health problems of my own, I felt honor-bound to finish every book I started. No more. if I can’t get into it at all, I just return it (I mostly get fiction from the library; can’t afford to buy much!) If I kind of like it, or it’s part of a series I usually like, or from an author I have liked before, I read a bit at first, then skip to the end and read enough to know “what happens.” Just in case I want to pick up that author/series later. Life is too short to waste of uninteresting/bad books, IMHO!

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