I know, book-lovers can sometimes see it as a crime, but giving up on a book is sometimes totally acceptable. While giving up on a book, or giving up on anything we set out to do, isn't always the best answer, it happens every now and again. There are certain times when it's OK to give up, learn from it, and move on. Not every book is going to be utterly fantastic. Not every book is going to speak to your heart. Not every book is perfect for you.
Think about it like this: would you spend three to 10 hours (depending on your reading speed and book size) on a horrible date? No, you'd spend the exact amount of time it takes to get your food and leave. You wouldn't waste your time forcing awkward conversation and attraction to someone you clearly don't get along with. It's the same with books. You will be spending multiple hours with a book and its characters. It's a commitment. If it starts to become completely boring or is just so bad it feels like pulling teeth, it's time to put it down.
Walking away from a book is never easy, especially for major readers. It feels as if you've let yourself down, and I can even make myself feel guilty for it. The fact is, we shouldn't spend our valuable reading time choking down a book that just doesn't work for us. The more you know your reading habits and yourself, the easier it will be to tell if it's time to just give up on a book or power through. Know the signs and be easy on yourself, because it's OK to let go of a book sometimes. Reading is fun, don't let a bad book ruin it for you!
1. If You Start Day Dreaming Or Dozing Off Frequently
This obviously doesn't count if you start reading a book late at night after a long day or during your morning commute where you slept for a mere few hours the night before. However, if you're awake and attentive, yet still finding yourself reading an entire page and not knowing what happened or wanting to sleep every time you pick the book up, it's probably a sign it isn't the book for you. In other words, if this book bores you and you can't get attached to a character or plot line within the first 100 pages, it's OK to move on to a different book.
2. If It Starts To Feel Like A Requirement Rather Than Fun
Maybe you picked up a classic book that everyone says is a "must read," but as you read it, it begins to feel less like enjoyment and more like a homework assignment. Some classic books have a reputation for only being read in school, so this one can be tricky to determine. Does your book feel like this because it sparks an English class flashback, or because you honestly have no desire to read this other than to appease the world? If it's the second, don't waste your time. Yes, it's great to give every book a chance, but if it's only for the sake of being well read and yet you can't get through another page of it, put it down and plan to pick it up later in life if you must. For now, read something you know you'll have fun with.
3. If You Stop Thinking About The Book And Its Characters
For me, one of the best parts about reading is getting to spend moments of my day thinking about the characters, where the plot will go next, and reminiscing over a beautifully written scene. It's not always a bad sign if you're not constantly thinking about the book, but it could be a sign you've stopped caring about it in general. This is different for everyone, and for the readers who finish a book in one sitting, this won't be relevant. Trust your gut on this one — you could just be busy with life and not have time to think about this book, but if you've started thinking about reading another book rather than thinking about the book you're currently on, it's time to move on.
4. If It's Taking An Exceptionally Long Time To Finish
This, like every sign, depends on you as a reader. If your average read takes about a week to finish, yet this book has been with you for a month or two and you're still not finished, it's a definite sign you won't ever finish it. At this point, it's better to just put it back on the shelf and pick up something new.
5. If It Offends You Or Your Beliefs To The Extreme
Here's the thing: Books should offend you once in a while. They're giant stories made up of diverse characters, some of which will probably be sexist, mean, racist, toxic, homophobic, evil, and many more qualities that are offensive. If a character or sub-plot is making you angry, it's probably the intention of the author. Eliciting emotion is a good sign, and it might even point at bigger things in your life (after all, it was J.K. Rowling who said books are like mirrors), but there is a fine line to this. If a book is filled with horribly offensive characters, or if it's starting to offend you on a level that you can't get past, put the book down and figure out why it offends you. And if it's too much, it's OK to give up on the book.
6. If It Doesn't Get Better Or Pick Up Speed Mid-Way Through
I'm a manuscript reader for a literary agent, which means I'm solely focused on getting hooked quickly on a story. If I don't, the story isn't ready to be published. I have an issue with published books that have yet to dive into a scene before page 100 (which somehow happens quite often) and ones that take too long on building up a world or character to get to the point. This isn't always a reason to completely stop reading a book, but if it has yet to spark your interest and you've given it your best shot, it's probably not going to get any better.
7. If It Starts To Ruin The Act Of Reading For You
Here's the deal breaker: When a book has disinterested you so much to the point that you have no desire to read anything, stop reading it immediately. This is pretty rare, especially for book-lovers, but it can happen. Don't ever let a book stop you from loving to read. Not every book is the book for you, and it's important to remember that. It isn't a crime to stop reading a book, so don't feel bad if you feel the need to move on. Life it too short to read bad books, so trust your gut and read on.
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