When to Quit a Book

I used to always finish a book I started until I realized several things would happen when I tried to force myself through to the end. First, if my interest is waning or no longer in the book at hand, my overall interest in reading wanes to the point where I might fall into a dry spell where nothing seems to catch my interest. Two, like my interest, my time invested in reading dries up and I may take forever to finish the book I’m struggling to complete. These likely go hand-in-hand. To simplify, forcing myself through a book I am not enjoying reduces my interest in reading and it becomes a chore. Perhaps this is the very reason many people exit school with no desire to read, because they had to read books they did not enjoy.

So, I’ve quit the practice of forcing myself to finish. This has made reading much more enjoyable and my reading pace no longer stalls as it once did. There have been books I simply didn’t enjoy and will not attempt again, and there are books that I did enjoy, but they failed to capture or hold my interest at the time and I will read them at a later time. There is a third category that has caused me not to finish a book, but it is rare and infrequent. It happens when life events take over and I don’t read for a long period of time. I have a hard time returning to a story at the half-way point without feeling a need to start over because I’ve either forgotten much of what had happened or I feel I am missing needed details. Luckily, this third occurrence never really happens anymore.

A few examples:

I was reading Blindness by Jose Saramago and thought it was an interesting story. I was more than halfway through when I read a disturbing rape scene. I couldn’t return to the book, and I will probably never pick it up again. That may be the worst thing to happen in the novel, but I couldn’t move past it. It was the first time a scene made me quit a book.

I tried reading Catch-22 by Joseph Heller and was about 70 pages in when I realized I wasn’t into the story (it was slow and not fun at the time). So I quit reading it. I may give it another go at some point, but it might just not be for me. The same thing happened when reading The Stand by Stephen King. I was about 70 pages in or more and the story was still getting set up and new characters being introduced. I was just not willing to track all the characters, locations, and events I guess. This is another one I may try again.

What prompted this post is actually my indecision to quit my current read. I’m almost halfway through Spring Snow by Yukio Mishima, which is the first book of four in his Sea of Fertility series. The writing is good, the story is a bit slower paced, and I know I will like the overall story once I get through it, but I’ve stalled on my reading and I think I may just need to shelve this series for now and return to it later. I think it being a four-novel story is part of my decision to stop for now since I am still really early on in the story.

Something similar happened to my reading of The Gormenghast Trilogy by Mervyn Peake. I was 200 pages in (halfway through the first book) when I lost interest due to the slow pace. The writing was good and interesting, it built a great atmosphere, but not much was happening after 200 pages. This is another one I may try again, but for now I’m moving on to things I can dive into and enjoy thoroughly.

I think this is actually a great follow-up to my TBR post considering there are so many books out there I want to read. I shouldn’t waste time slogging through a book I’m not enjoying (even if it is something I will end up enjoying later). I recommend you do the same. Move on to something more fun or interesting or will broaden your thinking. You can always return to the book in question if you want, or not. There is plenty to choose from. If you are in a rut and need a recommendation, check out my ever-growing list of book recommendations in the menu above.

Happy Reading.

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