Question of the Day: When do you abandon a book?

Question of the Day: When do you abandon a book?

When do you abandon a book?

In theory, I am a proponent of putting a book down if you don’t like it. In practice, it’s not something I do very often, but there have been a few I’ve abandoned over the years for various reasons—mostly poor writing (fiction) or dry, repetitive topics (nonfiction).

However, for the last two weeks, my reading progress has pretty much stalled. At first I attributed this to busyness and exhaustion, but last night I started to wonder if it was the books—Echoes and The Sacred Year—I was reading instead.

Here’s the thing…there is nothing wrong with these books. There’s nothing I particularly dislike. While The Sacred Year hasn’t lived up to my expectations so far, I still love the concept, and I want to read it, and Echoes is intriguing, if a bit slow moving and loooooong.

But how long do I keep trudging away on books that don’t capture my attention before I discard those along with the ones I genuinely dislike?

I tested this theory last night by buying myself Call the Midwife (perhaps not the wisest choice for someone who is pregnant if my dreams last night were any indication), and sure enough, I read and read and read, the reading drought forgotten.

Which leaves me wondering whether I should pick the other two books back up at some point or just consider them busts.

Today I’d love to know what this looks like for you!

Does reading the “wrong” book slow down or halt your reading progress?

What are your criteria for abandoning books?

Do you abandon those that are just “meh” or only the ones that are truly bad?

When do you feel the pressure to keep reading a book?

This Post Has 19 Comments

  1. Here’s what works for me: I read 50 pages, then I set it down. If the next day I really want to get back to the book, it’s a keeper. If I don’t desire any more than that, it gets abandoned.

  2. I met a lady at Barnes and Noble who passed on this suggestion: read as many pages as you are years old. Then decide if you’d like to keep going. I’ve always been a chronic book finisher, but last year when I made my reading goal, I gave myself permission to not finish books. I only applied it twice last year, both with non fiction books. Lake Woebegon Days. Oh my GOSH. I’m a Minnesotan and a Norwegian and even with those things on my side, it was sooo boring. I also put down The Omnivore’s Dilemma, but that wasn’t a case of a bad book, just bad timing. This is a timely post though, because I just started Me Before You and I am stumbling over the wordiness and am seriously considering dropping it before my 28 pg test is complete. I know you loved it and Anne at MMD loved it and I’ve seen it on many “best” lists, yet, is it worth it if I’m going to have to force myself to continue? I’m in a season that doesn’t allow unlimited reading time and I don’t want to waste it on books I don’t love.

  3. 50 pages or 3 chapters, whatever comes first. If I’m struggling and can’t get into a book (which happens a lot when you read as much as I do), I read the first 50 pages or so and if it still hasn’t turned around, I put it down and walk away.

    I used to feel really guilty about this and would have books languishing on my bedside table for weeks because I would eventually force myself to pick it back up again and power through. But I’ve learned that that is not necessary and if I’m not enjoying it, I DON’T have to read it. No one is forcing me to read it and I can mark it DNF in my list and move on. Just because a lot of people liked a book or it’s something I “should” like for whatever reason doesn’t mean I have to like it. I read a lot of really dry, bland stuff for work so my pleasure reading must be entertaining. If I don’t like it, I move on. And I don’t feel guilty about it. 🙂

  4. I just recently struggled through a Binchy book! (Firefly Summer) It was never bad enough to put it down, but unlike the book I flew through immediately afterward and the one I’m reading now that I can’t wait to pick up any time I have a chance, this one just dragged for me. I kind of wish I could have picked it up in the middle where she finally stopped “setting the stage” and actually started telling the story. My personal rule is that if I dislike the book at any point, I close it permanently. Also, if I book hasn’t made me at least want to see what happens next within the first 30-ish pages or if I find I’m doing anything but wanting to pick up my current read, then it needs to be a discard. Life is too short and my Goodreads “to read” shelf is too full to waste time on books I’m not enjoying.

    For the record, I only have two that I have actually abandoned, and six that I nearly did (and were rated with one star).

  5. I can tell in the first 5 pages if a book grabs me enough to want to finish it. I’m 46 and life is too short to waste any of it forcing myself through books I don’t like.

    I like Maeve Binchy. Maybe “Echoes” is not my favorite of her works. Try “Light a Penny Candle” if you can find it. I read it when I was a teenager and I could *not* put it down.

  6. Binchy’s “Light a Penny Candle” was sooo good! Try it instead.

  7. I have found that there are certain books that I just have to be in the right frame of mind for. If I start a book and it drags, I can’t focus, or I am not anxious to get back to it, then it’s not the right time. I put the book aside and move on to something else. Eat, Pray, Love was like this for me. I started it several times but it wasn’t until about the third time that I actually became immersed and couldn’t put it down. Don’t look at it as “abandoning”, look at it as “putting it aside”.

  8. I totally agree! Life is too short and time is too precious. If I haven’t gotten into a book after about a half hour, I move on.

  9. I have 4 books that I have never been able to finish. Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee and The Zookeeper’s Wife are just too difficult to read. Not their level, but their raw expression of man’s inhumanity to man. Catch 22 is easily the most confusing book ever written. I’ve tried a few times to read it, but I get frustrated and give up. The last one I don’t remember the name of, but it was part of the Ranger’s Apprentice series. My son had to read it for school, and I tried to read everything he did so we could have those special moments of discussion and bonding that are all too fleeting. But there was something about it that just could not hold my interest. Which is really weird, because I love fantasy.

  10. I have have a book right now by Robert Tannenbaum that I don’t know if I’ll finish I think the story in & of itself is probably good but there is so much extra words its hard to get into it There are books I’ve taken back to the library unread I just pick another book I love mysteries that’s what I read mostly but I have been reading Debbie Macomber’s Blossom Street books I love the characters in the books their lives the support they give each other

  11. This is a tricky one because like you, I’m not given to abandoning books. Still, I think it depends on the time and place as much as it does the actual book. There’s no hard and fast rule, but if the book isn’t capturing my interest, I put it aside. Sometimes I come back to you, sometimes not, but I leave that decision for a later date and move onto something that captures my interest. I’m on the 2nd book of the “Call the Midwives” series now. There are some emotional and intense sections, but a fascinating look into a time of history rarely discussed.

  12. I used to be a die-hard read-it-or-die kind of girl, but over the last
    couple of years I’ve learned to give myself a bit of grace with that. In
    addition to setting aside books that are truly awful, I’ve also become
    partial to putting down those that are boring or inspire “meh” in my
    heart. If it’s taking me a long time to finish a book, or if it feels
    like “work” in any way, then I know my heart is not truly in it – and
    it’s just not worth my time anymore. Now that I’ve turned 40, I’m just
    not willing to waste any more of my days on things that don’t matter to

  13. I have been reading Randy Alcorn’s “Heaven” for over a year now. For some reason, it’s been a really slow read for me, even though it’s an excellent book that I highly recommend! I think because he spends so much time on each point, and tries to drive it home by repetition exegetical detail, that even though what he says is of great value, it doesn’t have very much momentum. So, I tend to stick with a book more if it’s recommended to me by someone whose opinion I highly value.

    I also give a book a chance more if it is considered a classic. I read all the way through Wuthering Heights even though I didn’t really enjoy it or the ending, but because it’s considered a classic, I figure at least I can walk away with a deeper understanding of writing style, the culture of the time period, and hopefully a greater appreciation for the beginnings of a genre.

    If I’ve started to read a book and I find that the tone is negative or I can fairly well assume how it’s going to play out (like Niel Postman’s Amusing Ourselves to Death, or any of his books for that matter) I put it down. I know the downward spiral of humanity well enough not to immerse myself into hours of thinking and reading about it, even if everyone else raves about the book or author.

    My husband and I have completely different reading habits. He loves non-fic/history and I love fic literature. What’s funny is that we both point to the same worldview for our passion for reading what we do, but it’s really a stretch for either of us to pick up what the other person is reading! Just the other day, he asked for a recommendation for lit because he “knows” it’s important, so I recommended Jane Eyre. He didn’t get beyond 5 pages, and a quick internet search of the book synopsis completely turned him off to reading further, despite my exhortations to keep going. 🙂 As for me, I read about 5 pages of Peter Ackroyd’s Tudors, and you couldn’t twist my arm enough to make me read more.

    I think a lot of it comes down to personality and how we make sense of the world, so at the end of the day, try to go outside your comfort zone if it’s a book that’s come to to you highly recommended, but if it leaves you with nothing to meditate on, doesn’t inspire, you forget about the book for days, doesn’t edify your soul, then grant yourself the permission to move on. 🙂

  14. Ugh, sorry for the long comment!

  15. 50 pages…if I’m not enjoying it by 50 pages in, back to the library it goes. Two thoughts….it’s entertainment, MY entertainment! If I’m not being entertained, it’s gone. Second, since I rarely buy books anymore, I rarely have a financial commitment to the book, which definitely makes it easier to put it aside.

  16. I think it depends on the book…I struggled through 50ish pages of Homefront and 100 pages of Code Name Verity before deciding I was bored and probably won’t try them again (because seriously…I did read 100 pages. It’s not like I gave up after 10 pages). But if a friend has very similar taste and we generally always love the same books, I will abandon it and try it again later because that probably means it just wasn’t the right time. I also just forever abandon books if they are too gory, depressing or overwhelming me with the sex and bad language (Pillars of the Earth and Gillian Flynn’s Dark Objects fell into these categories for me).

  17. I will give a book two chapters or about 20 pages. If it doesn’t capture my attention or if it is not the self-help I thought it would be, I will get rid of it or delete it off my kindle.

  18. I totally agree! I’m 52. I always said “Life is too short to waste on bad books”. And by bad books, I mean ones that don’t interest me. I can tell right away. On the other hand, I don’t spend money on books. I use the library,, e-books and borrow books from friends and family. if I spent money on a book, I might be more inclined to try to read more of it. Right now, I have about 300 books that were free on Amazon (again, see Freebooksy) on my Kindle. If it don’t like, delete!

  19. I am all about dropping it if I am not sucked in… I give them all the 5 chapter test. If the author has not grabbed my attention within 5 chapters, I’m done. In a busy mom. I do not have time for books I don’t like 😉

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