Stop Reading Books You Don't Actually Enjoy

Some people know how to quit a book as soon as they stop liking it. But many of us feel some sort of completist pressure to stick with every book we start, even when reading for pleasure. We struggle through stuff we don't actually like, and so we're less likely to pick up the book and more likely to pick up our phone. We start reading less.

Photo by Jason Kempin/Getty Images

If you wish you could read more books, try quitting the one you're on. If it's not calling to you every minute that you're away, maybe you should drop it and find a book that does. In fact, whenever a book bores you for two (or five, or ten) pages in a row, quit it. Move on. If you end up wondering what happened next, you can always come back.

The catch is, the moment you quit a book, you have to start reading another book. Ideally that very minute. You have to keep reading, but you can read whatever you want.

If the second book's boring, you can quit it too. There's no limit on how many you can quit in a row. You will never run out of books. Your local library alone holds more free books than you could read in your lifetime.

I recently read the collected short stories of Kafka — well, most of them. The stories are ordered chronologically, so at first I was wading through minor stories that even lit majors aren't asked to read. When a friend asked me what I was reading, I went off on a litany of anxiety about not feeling "smart enough" for Kafka. He gently asked the obvious question: Why not just skip to the good stuff?

So I did, and it was fantastic, and my reading pace picked up as I only read the stories that engaged me. I didn't read every Kafka story, but I read all the ones that matter, and I got to move onto A Wizard of Earthsea that much sooner. Good book!


Comments

    I did the same with Sherrilyn Kenyon, and Max Gladstone.

    Don’t believe the hype, Kenyon is not a good writer.
    And Gladstone’s ‘Craft Sequence’ books are boring. I barely got through two of them.

    This means I got to Brent Weeks earlier that I would have otherwise.
    His ‘Night Angel’ trilogy is excellent. I’m now reading the ‘Black Prism’ series, and enjoying it.

    Obviously, this is my personal opinion.

    Seems like a decent idea, provided you can get everything you're interested in reading free via the library. I'd be spending far more on books than I'd like if I followed this.

    I think books deserve more than two dull pages of consideration though.

    My Grandma said "100 pages minus your age" is the amount of pages you need to read before you can give up. That is pretty good advice!

    The only author I've had serious problems with was Stephen Donaldson for The Chronicles of Thomas Covenant. I had never before him ever had to stop reading to look up obscure words that weren't solvable by context, like he'd rather try to seem cleverer than actually communicate. It was extremely annoying, but I persisted for three whole books. When it turned out there was a second trilogy I just cracked it. I would never ever attempt to read anything else by him.

    By contrast I would read anything by Douglas Adams, Robert Silverberg, Steven King, Peter Ustinov, and many others who can be relied on just to tell the story.

    PS. I also loved Wizard of Earthsea books. The trick for the author is to have the reader so involved in the story they don't have to stop to consider the language, unless because it is so beautifully mesmerising it needs to be contemplated for joy. Donaldson's was not that.

    Further edit: All I really remember of SD's chronicles is that "littoral" is "beach" (handy knowledge for cryptic crosswords perhaps twice), "percipient" is "perceptive" and "chrysoprase" is "green". I remember nothing of the story, unlike books I read when I was nine, 50-odd years ago, by Alan Garner or Johanna Spyri that I remember all of.

    Last edited 18/02/18 11:29 pm

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