Quit or continue: What to do if you don’t like the book you’re reading

so many books

At the beginning of this month, I joined thousands of readers to read Reese Witherspoon’s book club pick of the month. From what I could tell, Reese chooses a lot of fun novels that her reader fans love reading together. I thought it would be fun to turn my passion for reading into one that includes community, so I bought the February pick and started reading. It started out well enough, introducing all the characters and presenting a few issues that would become the theme of the book. But when I reached the middle of the book, I realized it wasn’t going to get any better. The conversations were too cute. The issues all felt fabricated. And it seemed like the author was just throwing things in to give the story diversity, but still lacked originality or depth. I realized I wasn’t the only one who felt this way, since a glance at the comments on Reese’s Instagram revealed a lot of the same issues I was having with this book.

I felt cheated. I really wanted to read a book I could discuss with others who felt the same kind of passion I did. But more than that, I’m on a mission to read 100 books this year. This book had already taken 4 days of my reading time, and I was only 50% of the way through. To read 100 books in a year, my average reading time needs to be 3 days per book (I said “average.” Some books I breeze through—*hello, romance*—so that I have time to savor deeper stories). I was in a conundrum. If I finished this book, I would use up more of my precious reading time on a book I didn’t love. If I put it down and started over, that was 4 reading days wasted on a book I couldn’t count toward my goal.

Side note: I’m not naming the book, even though a quick search will tell you what book it is. My feelings are my own, and I don’t want to include my thoughts on this book to an internet search of the book. I recognize the hard work of any author who writes a book, regardless of whether I liked it or not. Her traditional publisher thought this book was good enough to be published and promoted. I am just the voice of one reader, and there are plenty of readers who felt differently and love the book.

I put this dilemma out there to those who follow me on Facebook and Instagram, and here’s what some people said:

  • I used to always finish every book I started, but there are so many books I want to read and so little time to do it in.
  • Stop reading it for a while, go back, read a chapter. If I can get that far, it is very difficult to stop. Each circumstance or book is unique.
  • Sad to say I quit. It’s tough to continue something that isn’t grasping your attention.
  • I used to keep going. These days I am just too busy to spend my life on something that I don’t find beneficial. I mean, if I don’t have another book at hand, I keep going though, because reading.
  • Life is too short and there are too many books to waste another minute!
  • I very rarely quit. Sometimes it pays off at the end and sometimes I’m just glad it’s over.
  • Far too many GREAT books to struggle through weak ones.
  • I actually POSTPONE. Sometimes, a really great book just needs a particular mindset and I may not have it when I first read it. I’ve had a number of books that I just couldn’t get into when I first attempted and weeks/months/years later have picked up and thoroughly enjoyed. There are, of course, others that I just couldn’t stand so I simply stopped.
  • In the same boat and still I keep going even though I am not remembering or even caring about what I’m reading. It’s all about powering thru.
  • I started skimming it, reading a sentence here and there to get the flavor of the story or topic.

As you can see, most of these commenters think you should quit if a book isn’t grasping you the way you should. In the end, I powered through the book to reach the end. My feelings over my reading investment overruled my desire to give up on the book. I felt slightly better having reached the conclusion, though no less frustrated with the lacking depth of the story.

However, I have come to the realization that if I truly don’t like a book, the best thing I can do is put it down and start another. Like one person wrote, I can always pick it up later when I’m in the space to read it. Like another person wrote, there are too many great books out there to struggle with one I don’t find that great.

My friend Becky, who blogs for The Page Sage and The Bookworm, advises readers to give books to page 100 to decide whether a book is good or not. If it’s not, put it down and start another. “If you’re not enjoying it, don’t force yourself to finish it,” she says. “Reading is a time to unwind in another world for a while, not a time to suffer through something.”

How about you? What do you do if you don’t enjoy the book you’re reading? And what book would you absolutely recommend everyone read?

8 thoughts on “Quit or continue: What to do if you don’t like the book you’re reading

  1. I have just completed a similar challenge. Let me first tell you this; read to live and don’t live to read. To read 100 books a year will put all kind of strains upon your personal life that are unwanted. Especially when you want to write and discuss about them. And if there is a book that everyone should read; Don Quixote de la Mancha by Cervantes.

    1. I’ve heard several people love that book! I’ll have to check it out. And I’m not too concerned about reading too much. It’s what I do, lol. I read pretty fast, so it’s not an issue. My main goal is to improve my writing by studying reading, so there’s a method to my madness.

  2. Great analogy ma’am. For me as a young upcoming writer though I must read everything I can get my hands on. If it’s very good then I can learn from it to improve my writing, if it’s bad then i can learn how ‘Not to write a passage’
    I’ll be pasting this as a not on my fridge now, “Like one person wrote, I can always pick it up later when I’m in the space to read it.”
    Great analogy once again.

    1. That’s my take, too, and why it’s so hard to give up on a book. Honestly, it’s rare that I do. Just like you, I learn so much about writing from reading, even the bad ones! Good luck on your writing!

  3. I don’t finish books I don’t like. I agree with your friend – I usually give it about a 100 pages, although that more to do with how far I get then an exact number. Why did you pick 100 as your reading goal? Is it taking away your joy of reading for pleasure? Just curious.

    1. Last year I created a summer reading list of 11 books to read once my school semester ended. I’d just finished a literature class and it ignited my love of reading even more, so I was excited to read a ton over the summer once I had more time. Well, I ended up exceeding my reading list, reading about 20 books. When summer ended and school started again, I continued reading. I ended up reading 53 books last year, and I had so much fun doing it. Plus, my writing improved a lot as I paid attention to what other authors are doing to catch people’s attention, draw them in, and develop characters and storylines that stick with you. So this year I upped the ante and am going for 100. If I don’t make it, I’ll still consider the year a success because I’ll have read a ton of books and learn even more about writing.

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