When Do I Stop Reading?

When Do I Stop Reading?

Read Along With Emilie Richards has turned out to be even more fun than I expected.

When I decided it would be fun to create a new Facebook Group for readers who want to share and discuss what they’re reading, I expected we’d start small and grow slowly. To my surprise we’re now well over two-hundred members and growing quickly, despite little publicity.

Although my original intention was to discuss our individual reading challenges, we’ve moved well beyond that. Now anything “reading” goes. I’ve been privy to so many enticing book recommendations that I can’t begin to keep up with them. Which doesn’t mean I’m not trying. If I can shoehorn one into the Better World Books Challenge in which I’m participating, then I do so with pleasure.

When I opened the newspaper yesterday and saw the comic strip Crankshaft (above) I was reminded of a recent discussion we had. I had chosen a well known, well received novel published some years ago for the category: A Romance that Takes Place During Travel. I was delighted to have an excuse to read a book I’d long had on my reading list.

The library came through and I began.

When do you stop reading? 

That was the question I asked our group, because by then I was ready to quit. Sadly this wasn’t the first no-go for my reading challenge. No titles are suggested for the separate challenge categories, but this was the second time I’d personally chosen something I knew I would have to struggle to finish.

Were the books that bad? No. Was I just a quitter? Nope. Were my expectations different from other readers? Higher, lower? This I couldn’t determine. And since both books I rejected were probably classified as literary fiction, were my tastes too commercial and I needed to just plow on whether I disliked a book of not?

As I considered this and we discussed it in the group, I came across this article in the New York Times. Why You Should Read Books that You Hate by Pamela Paul had a uniquely interesting perspective. A quote:

Here’s a reading challenge: Pick up a book you’re pretty sure you won’t like — the style is wrong, the taste not your own, the author bio unappealing. You might even take it one step further. Pick up a book you think you will hate, of a genre you’ve dismissed since high school, written by an author you’re inclined to avoid. Now read it to the last bitter page.

Sound like hell? You’re off to a good start.

Neither of the books I’d jettisoned exactly fit that criteria. I’d been “pretty sure” I’d like them both. But since I didn’t, I read on. Paul points out that since books are so much longer and more involving for the reader than a movie or a Facebook post, we have to wrestle with the ideas and decide why we are so uncomfortable with them. By the time we’ve finished, we understand ourselves better.

She goes on to say:

Defensiveness makes you a better reader, a closer, more skeptical reader: a critic. Arguing with the author in your head forces you to gather opposing evidence. You may find yourself turning to other texts with determination, stowing away facts, fighting against the book at hand. You may find yourself developing a point of view.

Okay, this all makes sense to me, but right now the political landscape worldwide has a lock on my natural indignation. The last thing I want to do in the evenings when I pick up a book is have a knockdown, drag out fight with the author, who isn’t listening anyway.

So here’s what I decided. Whether this be good or bad, I don’t read to hone my opinions about life, love, the pursuit of happiness, or who should run the world. In the long run I read to learn more about the human condition, and to confirm my deep belief that the world, with all its massive problems, is really a good place populated by imperfect people, most of whom have decent intentions and kind hearts.

And most of all, I read to enjoy myself.

I put my dilemma (whether to make myself continue reading the book in question, or move on to something I liked better) to our group. I was relieved to find that many of them, like me, had picked up the same book and put it down. One group member said she’d probably only put down three books in her life and that was one of them. More than one said outright: “You have my permission to stop.”

And you know, I needed that permission. So I did. (But not before I peeked at the ending.) Now I’m in the market for another book that fits the “Romance that Takes Place During Travel.” I bet there are thousands. If you suggest one, stay away from time travel, okay?

When do you stop reading? Or do you? Do you, like Pamela Paul, find value in reading all the way to the bitter end? We’d love to know.


  1. Nancy Lepri on April 26, 2017 at 12:15 pm

    I’ve picked up books before that I haven’t liked from the beginning, but I’m just stubborn enough to keep reading, not only to see if it gets better, but to see how it ends.

    When will I stop reading? NEVER, and I hope when I’m gone that there’s a big library in Heaven!

  2. Kate on April 26, 2017 at 12:29 pm

    I read a book for my book group last year, that I expected to like. It was a best seller. Everybody was reading it.
    I plowed my way through said book, and at the meeting I discovered that about half the group felt like I did. One of them managed to voice my dislike. I could not find a single character in the story that I liked. Every one of them were not nice people.
    If one character had a redeeming quality, I might not feel so strongly. The book has been made into a movie. I don’t ever want to see it!

  3. Janga on April 26, 2017 at 1:55 pm

    With three degrees in English, I have read many books that I did not like and some that I hated. One of the privileges of growing old is that I value my time more and thus I waste it less. If a book fails to bring me some degree of joy or wisdom–or both, I consider it not worth my time. I no longer feel guilty when I record DNF (Did Not Finish) by a title in my book journal.

  4. Donalene Poduska on April 26, 2017 at 2:01 pm

    If it is a book that my book club is discussing, I push to the end — sometimes skipping sections! I just stopped reading a book after over 100 pages, but then went to last chapter to see how it ended. It was not well written but I wanted to know what happened to the people. Somewhere this past year I read a columnist who said to subtract your age from 100, and , it you haven’t gotten into the book by then, you can stop! I only have to read 20 pages using that idea. I have also found that I don’t always like books that have won prizes; I wonder what the judges saw that I don’t.

    • Emilie Richards on April 26, 2017 at 2:04 pm

      I like this idea. I generally get further ahead than that, but maybe I’ll think of that as a test. And yes, if a book club is discussing, I push through unless I just, absolutely cannot.

  5. Cheryl R on April 26, 2017 at 3:08 pm

    At an early age, I was told if the book doesn’t get you by page 50. I then read the last chapter to see how it ends.

    That said, there are a lot of genres that I do not like. My reading is foe pleasure and fun. I don’t want to be bogged down with heavy stuff

  6. Kathryn Trask on April 26, 2017 at 3:37 pm

    One book back I DNF a book, it is something I might only do once every year or so. I read for enjoyment and also to read about others experiences etc. This book got to me because it just was pages of dialogue and I will only read the f word so many times before I think, ‘can’t go any further’. A blogger friend emailed me to find out the ending to a book she gave up on that I didn’t. She offered to tell me the ending of mine. I said to her ‘you know I still don’t care about mine”! And I have no interest at all of knowing. Although I did tell her how the book ended that she wanted to know.

  7. Kate Vale on April 26, 2017 at 4:15 pm

    There are few books I would not finish, if only to honor the author. After all, sh/e wrote the entire story; as a reader, I should give her/his effort a full read. That isn’t to say I wouldn’t write that person (privately) and say why I ALMOST didn’t finish it. After all, I would want the same service/honor from a reader who disliked my work.

    Call it tit for tat or maybe it’s just being polite.

  8. Diana Brown on April 26, 2017 at 4:16 pm

    I don’t have enough days, months, or years left on the planet to go past page fifty on a book I am not enjoying. I was taught that, “You have to finish reading a book that you start.” So I always did. It’s only been in the last three years I have given myself permission to permanently close the covers. I’m guessing the book “Kate’s” book club was reading, currently being made into a movie, is the same one I put down. What’s that old saying? Too many good books, not enough time.

  9. Betty Horton on April 26, 2017 at 6:17 pm

    I have put down several books, I read the first 3 chapters and if it doesn’t capture me or at least give me some inspiration to read on…… I flip to the last chapter, skimp it and dump the book.

  10. Lorraine Thacker on April 26, 2017 at 6:50 pm

    I have learned to accept that not everyone enjoys the same way so I feel no compulsion to read something that wastes my time. In defense of that attitude, I will say it took me somewhere between 5-10 tries to read Hawaii by James Michener, but when I finally did in my mid-twenties I loved it! It’s hard to get past the volcanic creation of the islands. However, despite the fact that I loved the movie of The Book Thief and many countless recommendations from family and friends I finally gave up trying to read the book. I recommended A Man Called Ove to everyone I know and even purchased it as a gift for an 85 year old auntie. Only two, after reading it said Ehhh. While many enjoyed it as much as I did. Time is too precious to waste it reading something that doesn’t give you joy in some form.

    • Emilie Richards on April 27, 2017 at 7:43 am

      I felt the same way about The Book Thief. And you must have seen something in Hawaii to keep going back, or at least a promise that eventually rocks would give way to people. I think I read Hawaii, but Centennial was the one I read and re-read. And The Source gave me nightmares. Michener could really tell a story, couldn’t he?

  11. Pat on April 26, 2017 at 9:32 pm

    At age 75 I feel I can never read all of the ones on my shelves;therefore, I now read those who have interesting plots and are fun. I taught the classics for 32 years, and now read strictly for enjoyment. If by chapter five I find my mind wandering, I put the book in the giveaway pile. Your books are always in the keeper group.

    • Emilie Richards on April 27, 2017 at 7:41 am

      I am honored to be one of your keepers.

  12. Nancy Wilson on April 26, 2017 at 10:59 pm

    If I chose the book knowing that it would be a challenge, I’m bullheaded enough to push through. I have read several books that I avoided in school just to prove to myself that I didn’t miss anything. However, if I choose a book for pleasure, it had better have me hooked after only a few chapters.

    • Emilie Richards on April 27, 2017 at 7:41 am

      I like the way you make your decision. Good rule of thumb. However a few times books I “thought I ought to read” were so unpleasant, I just moved on by convincing myself that this book, too, should have provided some pleasure. I can fool myself into almost anything when required.

  13. Sharon Forbes on April 27, 2017 at 8:36 am

    There was a book recently that the online book group that I follow that I just couldn’t get into. I’d read probably close to 200 pages of it, and while I normally try very hard not to DNF a book, a lot of the other people in the group had quit reading it, so I gave myself permission to as well.

  14. Yvonne on April 27, 2017 at 8:49 am

    My rule was, if an author wrote a book then it deserved to be read. Reason was that I have always wanted to write stories. They sound good in my head but I can’t translate those ideas into a book, so I respect those who can write.

    About 5 years ago I read a book and hated it, didn’t understand the plot, hated the characters and got to the end and couldn’t understand what had happened.

    It was then I decided if a book didn’t grab my attention, I would spend my valuable time reading those books which interested me.

    I am in a Book Club and have struggled many times and always read them so I could join discussion , but now I have many Club books left unread.

    Thank you for your books Emilie and may you continue writing for many many years to come ?

  15. Fay Hutchings on April 28, 2017 at 2:03 pm

    Nancy Pearl, Seattle, WA Librarian and author of “Book Lust” says “One of my strongest-held beliefs is that no one should ever finish a book that they’re not enjoying, no matter how popular or well reviewed the book……….I live by what I call “the rule of fifty”, which acknowledges that time is short and the world of books is immense. If you’re fifty years old or younger, give every book fifty pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it, or give it up. If you’re over fifty, which is when time gets even shorter, subtract your age from 100–result is number of pages you should read before deciding.” When I heard this about 14 years ago, it made me very happy. I too, grew up thinking if I started a book, I SHOULD finish it. Thanks to Nancy, I no longer think that way! 🙂

  16. Rev. Roger Fritts on May 5, 2017 at 1:15 pm

    You ask “Now I’m in the market for another book that fits the ‘Romance that Takes Place During Travel.’ I bet there are thousands. If you suggest one, stay away from time travel, okay?” I thing of the modern classic “A Sport and a Pastime,” which I think of as a guy’s erotic adventure while traveling in France. I like the minimalist writing.

    • Emilie Richards on May 5, 2017 at 2:28 pm

      I’ll look into it, Roger. Thanks for the suggestion. (I am definitely intrigued.)

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