How do you push through a book you aren't enjoying?

submitted by Avatar danielholt edited

I ask because I tend to jump off a book if It's not grabbing me, which at times limits me with regards to what I'm reading.

Does it matter? Is it something I should try to push past or am I overthinking this and should just enjoy what I enjoy?

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Huge fan of Do Not Finish. There are too many good books out there to waste time with mediocre ones. I've noped out of books by my favorite authors. Finishing a book you started because you started it is the perfect example of the sunk cost fallacy.


Why would you read a book you don't want to?


Personally, because I’ve spent long enough reading it and I want to just finish it if I’m like two thirds of the way through.

In reality, I spend a week thinking “I need to finish that” and then forget about it completely.

tiramichu , edited

If I'm in that situation where I really hate the book but also really want to finish, then it's usually because there's that nagging mental thread of something left undone.

But I don't want to read it. I just want to be done with it.

What I need is closure, which means knowing how the key points wrap up and what happens at the end.

And so knowing that, I commit a crime against literature - I skim.

Normally I'd never skim, but it's far preferable to never finishing at all, and it ties off that unpleasant dangling thread, letting me be free and move on to something I might actually enjoy.


Whenever I've pushed through and attempted to finish a book that I do not enjoy, I end up shelving reading as a hobby for a long period of time.

So I decided to just stop trying and if I don't enjoy them, I stop. There are too many good books to read out there for me to try to force feed one to myself.


Exactly. Life is too short to read a boring book. I paid for an audiobook on the Celts, thinking I would learn something about them. I got about a third of the way through and realized I was barely absorbing anything because the author had a boring as fuck style. Don't give in to the sunk cost fallacy of having spent time and perhaps money on a book.

Avatar Sterile_Technique

Sunk Cost Fallacy. Shelve that sum'bitch and don't look back.

Moghul , edited

The only time I read books I don't like is when I dislike them so much that I want to be able bitch about em on the internet without someone telling me my opinion is invalid because I didn't finish em.

Other than that, I just drop 'em.

Avatar a1studmuffin 🇦🇺

Spite reading, love it.

Avatar ThenThreeMore

Don't. Life's too short.

If you're enjoying it but it's a hard read take a break and try again. If you're just not enjoying it sack it.


You don't. Just pick something else. Reading should be pleasant, not a torture.

Avatar BoBTFish

Not exclusively, I have occasionally finished things that were challenging more than enjoyable. But I'm thinking about the content, not that they were just poorly written. Eg books on fgm, holocaust, etc.


Life is too short to keep up hobbies that don't bring you joy. If that book ain't doing it for you, shelve it for now and try a different one.


I say don’t force yourself. Why force yourself to do a leisure time activity you aren’t enjoying? Sometimes stuff we learn from is boring, sure, but there are endless things to learn. You’ll also learn more if you’re enjoying the topic.

Avatar banazir , edited

I don't. When I'm clearly not enjoying a book and don't feel like finishing it, I stop and move on. Unless I have a pressing reason, I see no point in pushing myself to do something I hate. Reading is for me is fun and interesting, it is not something I do to torture myself. Sometimes it's hard to "give up" on a book, but in the end life is too short.

Do what you enjoy the way that works for you, there are no rules.


Often, I don't. If I think there is a good chance of a payoff, though... I start skimming the crap. I've learned to skim through stuff until something of import comes up, and then I step back a couple paragraphs and start reading again.

I don't know how you'd learn this, but I learned it back in high school when I needed to find information in the textbook quickly, but couldn't afford to actually read every page on the way. It was massively successful back then, and now both.

If after skimming like 1/4 of a book I haven't found anything interesting again, I almost always quit, though. It's really unlikely that a book with that much content that I don't care about will have anything that I value later.

That said... I have skimmed entire books on re-read. Some of the middle Wheel of Time books, for example. And some were so bad that I just read a summary, instead of skimming. But I like the first books enough that it was worth it for the ending, which was decent, but not mind-blowing like I'd hoped. (I "re-read" them when the later books finally came out and I wanted a refresher.)


I used to do this but I forgot I did it.


Oh Wheel of Time. I love them for the most part, but I just couldn't care less about a whole book of Elaine playing politics for the Lion Throne. Then there was the book that was mostly just devoted to taking care of a drought. I get the latter is the Dark One's shadow falling on the world and all, but the boredom it invoked felt like the Dark One's shadow on my mind.


I’ve been stuck in Winter’s Heart for months, maybe even approaching a year now. I might finish it by the time i have grandkids.


That is certainly the worst of "the slog". I would just get an audiobook version and listen to it while you exercise, eat, or do other such tasks.

Avatar EntropicalVacation

Enjoy what you enjoy—life’s too short and there are too many other books out there to waste time on what you don’t enjoy! I have no qualms about not finishing a book, no matter how far along I’ve gotten. I’ve been known to skip to the last chapter or last few pages just to see how it ends, then move on.

On the other hand, for books that you have to read (for school, e.g.) set a goal of X pages per day, and reward yourself when you make the goal. I also find it helps to read more interactively: take notes, argue with the author, think about what you read and whether it’s total b.s. or whether there was anything, however small, of value in it.


I don't.

I've even read philosophical works that go against what I think and feel and spend the entire time arguing with someone who has probably been dead for hundreds of years.

But I enjoy that from time to time to keep my mind sharp.

No point in reading something that doesn't grab you and resonate with you. Life is too short to put myself through that.

Chainweasel , edited

If it isn't for a test or essay for school, why would you push through a book you didn't like?
If the phrase "time you enjoyed waisting wasn't time wasted" is true, then spending time doing things you don't want do is wasting time. Life is too short to waste time on a book you're not enjoying


Not every book will be enjoyed by every reader. I DNF once I realize the book is just not my cup of tea. I just checked and of the 15 books I started this year, I dropped 4 at some point. Sometimes I hate-read a book. That happens when I find the book annoying, but it still has something to keep me going on. I am enjoying it to some degree, while also being angry at it.

In any case, if reading the book feels like a drag, close it and open another book. Maybe you abandon the book forever, maybe you pick it up a year from now and plow through it. Both are fine.

Avatar InfiniteGlitch

I don’t. There way to many books that I want to read and oh so little time.

If it doesn’t grab you and you are truly not enjoying it, just DNF the book and move on.

If that doesn’t work for you, you could try to make a “goal”. Like “read 60-70 pages before DNF”.


I alternate between books that are important to read but more work, and books I just enjoy. Soemtimes the important works are just as enjoyable. Sometimes they are not, but rather than joy, they bring knowledge, or understanding or broaden the mind in some way. Sometimes it’s the classics and the story and themes are great, but the language is dated and just takes more mental effort.

I only read one at a time. I used to keep two on the go, but I found I always went for the easy, joy bringing book. I still enjoyed it, but I felt I’d get more by not always reading easy and fun. However, if a book is such a slog that I dread it or it makes me read less, then I drop it.

Avatar jordanlund

It depends. There have been books that I have HAD to read and I survived by making notes in the margins about how everything they are saying is wrong. :)

For stuff I didn't HAVE to read? Fuck that, life is too short. I might consider going back some day, but in most cases, never have.

I got 100 pages into Dune and walked away, that was probably 40 years ago now.


I don't. There are so many books, if I'm not into it I drop it. If I know it should be good I am more likely to stick with it or pick it back up later. Neal Stephenson's Quicksilver took me two false starts over five years to finally reach a place where I could see it through.


I have a hard time making time for reading, so I want that time to count. I don't let myself get caught up in a sunk cost fallacy and will just move onto another book.

Avatar Capitao_Duarte

I usually just stop reading it. My problem is with books I'm liking, but not vibing with at the moment. I used to keep going, but realized that by doing this I'd give it "bad review" because I wasn't feeling it at the time. Now I just put it aside and come back later. Even if many months or years later


Okay real answer here, not just "don't."

You can read it with the goal of having a solid understanding of why you think it's bad, in a way that can be communicated to other people. Having that kind of understanding is better than not, and it'll make it so that you have a better perspective on what you do like, and why you like it.

Avatar GeekFTW

I don't. DNF that bitch and move on!

Avatar squiblet

I skip to the last chapter, and if I don't understand it, keep skipping back until I do. Or just put it down for a couple of weeks.


Pushing through a book that is not working is detrimental to every party involved - the author, the book itself, and primarily to yourself and your time. You should never do that.


Why would you want to?

If a book isn’t working out for you, then it’s not working out for you. Don’t get held hostage to the Sunk Cost fallacy - your time is precious, drop that book and pick up something different!

And if you are just unsure about that book, jump ahead by half of the remaining pages and check out an additional 2-20 pages at that point to see if things have improved. If it still doesn’t grab you, dump it and move on.


Audiobooks help me there sometimes. Most of the time I enjoy them for the performance and because I can “read” while driving or working on projects, but it also helps with slow spots in some books that are otherwise worth reading.

That said, I would not suffer through 40 hours of dislike, it’s more for that occasional 2 hour lull that might have caused me to put the paperback down and not pick it up again.


I'm reading the 3rd book in the Mistborn series and I'm about 2/3rds done and am struggling. I just find the characters flat, but my friend keeps telling me to just finish it so the "better books" in the Sanderson universe will make sense. Ugh.


I really enjoyed the first 3 Mistborn, though I'll admit the third was the weakest of them. I'm not sure why you need to have read them for the other stuff, though. I've enjoyed a lot of his works, but the magic systems are quite different between them, despite apparently being in the same universe. (Which I didn't realize until I'd read a *lot* of his books.)


Well that is good to know! Thank you!

Avatar sibachian

well for one thing, one of the big bads in stormlight happens to die in mistborn.

Avatar sibachian

honestly, mistborn isn't very good and there is no reason you can't just immediately jump on stormlight. yes, there are tons of references and characters which does make stormlight awesome because you'll go "omg no way! it's HIM!", but it isn't strictly necessary because stormlight doesn't actually assume you've read the previous cosmere books (few exceptions where brandon just teases too much it takes away from the plot, i.e. the mysterious scarf wearing woman. yes, we get it, it's the princess from warbreaker, and she's looking for one of the gods from warbreaker, that we're also familiar with, and the god in turn is looking for his weapon). but ultimately these characters have their own story arcs and most of them aren't immediately important to the plot and more like easter eggs.

now, i should point out that ... i really don't care for mistborn. and for now, it doesn't matter. but after the next stormlight book, there will be an in-world timeskip, and then another 3-6 mistborn books, and then both the mistborn series and the stormlight series become one joint series.

but there is really no reason to read stormlight before mistborn in its current state because the only real way you'll know for sure one of the hidden characters in stormlight is a particularly well loved character from mistborn is if you read the wiki. there is also a guest appearance of another character in i think the first book but it doesn't make sense in the timeline and it's inconsequential to the plot in every way.


Audiobooks on a long trip? It's been the answer for me on occasion, but some books are impossible to put up with


If it's fiction, you are basically murdering all your head space imaginings of the charactors, carelessly cutting them down mid stride before their time. Only a pure psychopath could do this.

Avatar Codename_goose , edited

When I was young (think middle school) I would read 3-4 books at a time. Not because I like the challenge but because I got bored or the book had larger or more complex words that I was not familiar with. So I would take a break from it and try another.

Nowadays I treat audiobooks the same as I did when I was young. I also read book I really want to read one at a time these days. I have liked savoring the story a bit more or reflecting on what I read a bit more than just trying to read the book, this has allowed me to get through books that when I was younger I would avoided for the slow pace.

Now if I truly detest a book for any number of reasons I will drop it. It doesn’t mean I won’t go back to finish it, but the best example is Wheel of time by Robert Jordan. I got to book 7 and I finally had, had enough. I just could not deal with the amount of groups he would switch between to tell his stories. The books and story aren’t bad, I just go tired of dealing with it.

Edits: for grammar and clarity.


I check out books from the library, which of course jas a due date. If I like the book I finish it before it's due. If I find myself struggling to get into and haven't finished it by the due date, I just return it and never look back.