Should You Force Yourself to Finish a Book You’re Not Enjoying?

For such a long time, I would force myself finish books that I wasn’t enjoying. It didn’t matter what it was or why I didn’t like it, I was finishing it. Why? I’m not entirely sure…maybe because it seemed like the right thing to do, or maybe because I just felt like I should. Perhaps I didn’t like the idea of being a quitter (actually, I still don’t like the idea of being a quitter, but that’s another story). Then one morning, I woke up and everything had changed. Completely out of the blue, and for no discernible reasons, I decided the enough was enough. I would read 10-15% of a book and if it hadn’t captured my attention by then, I wouldn’t be reading any more of it. That may seem harsh but I was taking no prisoners. I was tired of taking prisoners. The only books that escaped this rule were those chosen to be read for book club (because I have to have something to moan about on the night, right?). I still follow this rule today, and I think you all should too.

Why would you even do that to yourself anyway?

Flagellants.pngIf you’re just the masochistic sort, who likes self-punishment or gets a kick out of pain, there’s not a great deal I can say to you. Good on you for choosing books as your punishment tool. It could be worse, it could be stale bread and sweaty cheese. But you know, whatever floats your boat. If you’re not a masochist though, then what’s going on?

I’ve heard people say that they finish a book because even if they’re not enjoying it, they want to know what happens in the end. Well, I call poppycock to that. If the story is pulling you along and engaging you enough that you want to know what happens, then the book doesn’t fall into this category – it’s not that bad. Whether you like to admit it or not, you are enjoying it – even just a teeny tiny bit. Or, you know, you could also look up a spoiler on the internet. There’ll be a spoiler somewhere, there always is.

The other thing I’ve heard people say that you just never know when it’s going to get better, and they’re right about that at least. It happens, sometimes. A book can be complete pants and then suddenly start glimmering like a stripper’s glitter that’s fallen into her client’s fat and sweaty ass crack. Or maybe not like that, because that’s a bit gross, but you get my point. Sometimes, books get better the more you read. Honestly though, they are few and far between and I honestly can’t see the benefit of forcing yourself to wade through all the pants before finding that one bit of glitter. Besides, you could always pop over to the Bookshop Bistro group and ask for advice on whether you should continue…

Stop this unnecessary torture!

4371644506_17526e9bbb_bDuring an interview in 1986, author John Irving said, “grown-ups shouldn’t finish books they’re not enjoying” and I wholeheartedly agree. It’s torture, plain and simple, and do you know what? Life’s too short. There’s too much to fit into our already crammed lives and certainly too many books to read to waste time on doing something you’re not enjoying. Chances are, you wouldn’t do it with anything else – you’d give up on a TV show you weren’t enjoying, or a meal, or a relationship – so why do it with books? It’s sheer madness!

Besides all that, it doesn’t mean that it’s a bad book so don’t fret about offending people. It’s just not for you, and you’re almost definitely not alone in that. Even the most hyped books have their haters. Even the most hated books have their lovers. And it could be just a matter of time and place. Pick it up at a later date, and you might find you love it. Book love works like that. It’s weird. Whatever you do, don’t force it. Forcing is bad.

So, if you’re a fretting finisher, do yourself a favour and stop. It’ll be okay, I promise. Start enjoying everything you read instead – that’s why you’re doing it in the first place, anyway, right? You can thank me later 😉

This is the FB Live I did on this for Bookshop Bistro. Why not join us and see what everyone else is up to? 



  1. I quit forcing myself to finish books a long time ago now. My time is worth far too much to waste on stories I don’t enjoy. The trend has spread to TV and movies as well.

  2. I used to read them right to the end even if I was pretty bored with them. I even started them from the beginning several times to catch up. Then, I read one quite simple and quite true statement: “So many books, so little time…” And I do agree with it. And I try to stick to it. Now I even have a bookshelf on goodreads named as “couldn’t make it past 10% of it” 🙂 I can tell you, I read more books now. 🙂

    1. Ha ! Great idea having a Goodreads shelf for the ones you couldn’t finish! Reading more books is definitely an added bonus to putting aside those you couldn’t get along with.

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