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When is it okay to stop reading a book?

There are many good reasons to stop reading a book, it's just that we're often a bit too reluctant to actually do it.

Iain Broome
Iain Broome
3 min read
When is it okay to stop reading a book?

It’s always okay to stop reading a book. For some reason, we often feel obliged to carry on, even when we’re not enjoying it, but there really is no obligation. I’ve abandoned three books already this year and I’m about to do so again. Here’s when I think it’s okay to jump ship.

The book is a bit rubbish

Pretty much a good reason to stop doing anything. Give a book a chance, of course. But don’t mess about if it’s not doing anything for you.

I know with limited time (see below) and so many unread books on my shelves, I want to love almost every book that I read.

That’s unrealistic, but for crying out loud, don’t be reading something that’s either not very good or not tinkling your ivories.

You haven’t got time

This is a big reason for me abandoning books.

With nine-month old twins in the house, a full-time job, and a second novel of my own to write, reading is currently not – sadly – on my list of things I absolutely must do every day.

Changing nappies and tackling Scrivener is. Reading isn’t.

So when I do read, I want to cherish the moment. I want to spend that time with an extraordinary book, and if that means abandoning one that’s not so hot, then so be it.

You’ve got what you wanted

This may seem a bit harsh, but sometimes I’ll read a book just to see what the fuss is all about. I remember doing this a few years ago with Me, Cheeta by James Lever.

It wasn’t a bad book but half way through I had the urge to move on. I’d got what I needed from it and could understand why some people loved it, but it wasn’t my cup of tea particularly. So I stopped reading.

I don’t do that often, I should add. But once you’ve got the drift of a book, if it’s not tickling your fancy, I say feel free to try something different.

You made the wrong choice

Sometimes, when you’re faced with many reading options, it’s easy to choose the wrong one. I know I’ve started reading books before and spent the entire time wishing I was reading something else.

While I guess there’s something to be said for the  anticipation and excitement of waiting to read what you really wanted to read, why torture yourself?

Don’t mess about. Your current choice will be there for you when you’re done and you’ll be able to give it your full attention.

Unless it’s rubbish, of course. Then move on again. But be sensitive about it. Poor twice-abandoned thing.

It’s really hard work

I’m generally not one for working hard with my reading.

That’s not to say I’m not literary. Truth is I read literary fiction almost exclusively, and I love reading writers who are brilliant stylists.

But I don’t like reading books that make me work hard for the sake of it. That’s not fun.

I like reading books that get to the point. There is beauty in economy and great writing is about so, so much more than fancy language and showing off.

If I’m reading sentences over and over to work out what they mean or what’s going on, I’m probably going to abandon that book.

What about you?

Do you happily abandon books or are you the sort that struggles on to the end no matter what? Let me know in the comments below.

And if you want to know what I’m reading right now, you can find me on Goodreads (though I don’t mark which books I’ve abandoned!).


Iain Broome Twitter

I'm the author of the novel, A is for Angelica. Every week, I send Draft Mode, a newsletter full of tips and tools that help you improve your craft and promote your writing.

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