As readers, we have all experienced this at some point or another. You are reading something that, frankly, has lost you. Maybe the plot is going in a different direction than you were led to believe. Perhaps you don’t connect with the characters or, being honest, the book is boring you to tears. You feel as if you should power through and try to rationalise it with phrases like “I’m already X way through it”, “Maybe it will get better”, or “I should finish it, if only for hitting my reading goal”.
That is the worst thing you can do.
Forcing yourself to continue to read? You are, on some level, going to start seeing reading as a chore, it will kill your enthusiasm for reading and possibly lead you into a reading slump, and we all know how much those suck. Which, by the way, I have a few remedies for that I shared a while back.
So, what are the signs that a book simply isn’t for you?
This sign is kind of a two in one.
Either one, you find yourself page skimming. Your eyes are just wandering over the words on the page, not properly getting your full attention. You are going through the motions of reading, but that’s it. It’s like when you have a show or video on yet you aren’t focused on it, your mind is elsewhere. Perhaps you can even look at a page for too long before your eyes go blurry, struggling to keep what little focus you have left.
Or two, you catch yourself staring at other books. For some reason, other books on yourself look much more promising than the one in your hands. That old comfort read is calling out to you like a siren. Walking past your local book shop display takes a bit longer than normal as you stare almost lustfully at the new releases.
This warning is the big one for me.
You have no motivation to read, at all. Even picking up the book drains you. Reading feels more akin to an obligation rather than an enjoyable way to spend your time. So you put it off. Spending more time on other hobbies than reading. Then you realise you still have to finish that book. The more you try to push yourself, the harder it gets.
Instead of concentrating on the plot, you are more interested in the little numbers on the page, counting how many are left. If you like to log your daily reading, you might find yourself enjoying the logging more than the actual reading. Seeing the progress bar go up is more engaging than the book. The book leaves you feeling apathetic, the only enjoyment is getting to the end merely so you can tick it off a list or add another tally mark to your reading goal.
Why do we continue to read sub-par books? I can’t speak for all readers, but in my experience, guilt has been the main reason.
Possibly the book was a recommendation or gift from a good friend, but it doesn’t vibe with me. Or I bought it, so the sunk cost fallacy has kicked in. No matter the cause, guilt tends to be the factor that kept me reading, even when I wanted to throw it at the wall or out the window. The outcome is often the same, my reading momentum either slows down or grinds down to a complete halt.
I have been working on getting better at marking a book as DNF. It does sometimes feel like you failed something, but you haven’t. There are countless books out there, there are going to be ones you simply can’t get into.
Power through or power off?
If this is essential reading, like for a class, course or book club then you probably should finish it. Other than that? Say goodbye and move on to a book you will actually enjoy.
Sometimes books have a slow start, looking at you, Fantasy novels! So I do suggest that you try to finish the first three chapters, if by that point you notice any of the above-mentioned signs, it might be time to kick that book to the curb.