When’s the Right Time to Abandon a Book?

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As a Lit major and a lifelong lover of books, it took me a long time to feel okay with abandoning a book. I think I became predisposed to thinking that if a book is deemed IMPORTANT, I didn’t want to miss out on the cultural experience. I always want to enjoy a book and find something redeeming in it; but, ultimately, I’m coming around to the idea that life is too short to read a book I’m not enjoying.

So what’s my test?

I’ve heard (but I can’t seem to find the original source) that one-third of the book is a good gauge of whether you’re enjoying the book enough to continue. In order to consider a book “abandoned,” I have usually read at least one-third of it. But the more I read, the quicker I’ve been in knowing when a book isn’t for me.

I still get in ruts, though, thinking that I need to finish books I think are “okay,” but really I should just put them down. A book I read recently was just that way: it started slow, but I liked some parts of it. Then I started skimming or “speed reading” through the parts that were too slow. I should have just stopped. If I’m not liking a book, why should I waste time on it?

I abandoned two books in 2017:
The Butterfly Garden by Dot Hutchison
A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

I’ve abandoned three books so far in 2018:
The Course of Love by Alain de Botton
Educated by Tara Westover
You by Caroline Kepnes

Maybe I’m making progress?

I do subscribe to the theory that some books are just not right for us at that exact moment. The classic example for me was reading The Scarlet Letter as a junior in high school. I didn’t understand it and I couldn’t even fathom the depth of Dimmesdale’s predicament. I didn’t have the life experience or the maturity to get there at that time in my life. But I had a completely new experience reading the novel as an adult. My heart broke for Hester; I was furious with Dimmesdale; Hawthorne’s gorgeous descriptions captivated me. What a difference thirteen-ish years can make!

As I was researching a bit for this post, I came across a few articles that were interesting that I wanted to share here:


I’d love to hear your thoughts on this topic! Are you okay with abandoning a book, or will you always finish what you’ve started? What’s your threshold for knowing when it’s time to stop?

4 Replies to “When’s the Right Time to Abandon a Book?”

  1. I don’t really finish books I’m not enjoying – the exception being Mockingjay because I wanted to finish the HG series. Normally I get to about 50 pages in and if my eyes are glazing over I don’t continue

    1. I completely agree, especially about Mockingjay. If it hadn’t been the final book in the series I would have abandoned it. Many times those final books aren’t worth finishing, which is so sad!

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