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Books You’re Not Enjoying And Wasting Time

A photograph of an old reading list

This post was inspired by Simon’s list on what he’s learnt about reading.

To finish or not finish a book that isn’t working for you: that is the hopefully not-too-frequent question.

As you may know, I have a hard time giving up on a book, most especially if I’m a fair way through it. I’ll stop reading a book after 10 or so pages if it doesn’t grab me but I consider this more in line with sampling – not so much a DNF because it most cases I’ll return to it at some point in the future if for no other reason than I own it and feel I should.

On a personal level I’m at odds with the thought that to continue with a book that’s not working is to waste time. I do understand it – if you’re reading a book you dislike you’re spending time on that instead of one you’d like. I also understand (and experience) that slumps can be brought on by bad books. My issue in not finishing a book is that I like to review most books I read and feel it does a disservice to review it unfinished. In other words I respect those who can write DNF reviews, but they’re not things I would be able to write myself. I’d be uncomfortable reviewing with only so much knowledge, even if stated. The book may have improved and I might have liked it.

My main reason for trying to finish, however, is that I’d feel I was wasting the time I’d already invested. To not finish would be to not gain anything ‘solid’. And I wouldn’t be able to ‘do’ much with it beyond saying I didn’t like what I’d read. (I think here I’m wary of being in the position of panning things others in a conversation have liked and not having suffice evidence to back it up. I guess I’d be uncomfortable not knowing the whole, not matter how valid not knowing the whole is.

I know my thoughts differ greatly from the norm so I’d like to hear your take on it.


Jenny @ Reading the End

May 6, 2015, 2:14 am

I don’t think your views differ from the norm that much! I have heard a lot of bloggers say they don’t like to ever not finish books. For me, I’m fine not finishing a book if I’m not getting along with it, and I rarely review a DNF book (can’t remember the last time I did). If I still want to review it, I’ll just about always make myself finish it.

With other books, though, I’m in the “life’s short” boat. There are so many amazing books, and I’d rather be reading them. And I’d rather be reading a book I can be a generous reader to, not a grudging one.

Margaret @ BooksPlease

May 6, 2015, 4:57 pm

It depends on how much of the book I’ve read before I decide I don’t like it. If it’s a few pages I have no qualms, but if I’ve read a chunk then I’ll carry on, because there must have been a reason I read so far – and like you I think it may improve. I don’t review books I don’t finish – I don’t think it’s fair.

My view on not finishing library books is different, because I’ll often borrow a book to see if I like it, whereas if I buy a book it’s because I think I will like it. So I take back quite a lot of library books that I haven’t finished.


May 6, 2015, 5:17 pm

Fortunately I rarely have to give up on a book but I am teaching myself not to force myself to read a book I’m not enjoying. If I don’t finish a book I mention it in my monthly wrap up post but I don’t write a full post.

Literary Feline

May 6, 2015, 7:07 pm

You raise some valid points, Charlie. I don’t like to not finish a book I have started reading, but I do. Probably with more frequency in recent years than in past years. I think a lot of that has to do with how little time I actually have to read. I would rather spend it reading something I am enjoying than something I have to force myself through.

I rarely review a DNF book–I may mention it, and why I couldn’t finish it, but I wouldn’t feel comfortable writing a full out review.

As to feeling like a book was a waste of my time that I finished despite my not caring for it – – yes, that’s happened. It’s also happened the other way where I didn’t care for a book but am glad I read it just because now I know what everyone’s talking about when the book comes up.


May 8, 2015, 1:19 pm

I think you shouldn’t have to read a book you don’t enjoy, but sometimes certain books can give you something satisfactory afterwards even if you don’t like them.

There are books I’ve tried to read over and over, and I’m not sorry I didn’t read them. Life is too short to read things you just don’t enjoy.

vicki (skiourophile)

May 16, 2015, 9:38 am

I can so relate to this, having had my April reading totally bogged down by a book I felt I should finish but which made me really resentful of how much time it was taking to do so. I need to learn to give up, but I agree so much with your point about reading time as an investment – it’s hard to let go!



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