The Sunday Salon: How Abandoning a Book Can Add Years Onto Your Life!

The Sunday SalonYou’ve heard all the reasons (and read all the posts) about why some bibliophiles either are – or are not – compelled to finish every book they start. 

Here’s yet another perspective on this issue, one that always seems to serve up perpetual fascination and eternal debate among serious readers.

If you absolutely must finish every book, you’re viewed as a glutton for punishment and as someone who has the inability to take control of your time. If you have no qualms about calling it quits, perhaps the thinking is that you haven’t given the book enough of a chance. Either way, premature read-jaculation (I just made that up) is a serious issue in our literary world.

Two more books landed on my Did Not Finish (DNF) list this week – both memoirs, both getting reviewed well by others on Goodreads, one a former NYT bestseller. For me, the issue came down to the writing. Both stories were too hyper-focused on the narrator, when in fact it was really the story of others (the mother’s son in the first book, a group of orphans in the second) that deserved and needed more attention.

So as I was adding them to my DNF category on Goodreads, I noticed something interesting. They were, respectively, my 65th and 66th DNF books since I started keeping serious track of my reading about four or five years ago.

There’s nothing overly significant about those numbers … until you take into consideration that right now, I’m at 63 books read for 2013.  My goal is still 75, but unless there are some short books in my very near future (and there could be) a dozen more books are looking elusive in the time remaining for 2013. Unless I’m pleasantly surprised (and focused), I’ll probably top out in the mid-60s or slightly higher.

Which … equals the same number of books I abandoned, since I started tracking such things.

Which … is the equivalent of a year of books.

Let’s think about that for a second. So, if I had stuck with those books out of some false sense of obligation to an author who (most likely) doesn’t know I’m alive, or because of some pact with myself that I must finish what I start, then the price would be a year of my life.

A YEAR.

365 DAYS.

Granted, I wouldn’t have been reading during every minute of every day of that hypothetical year, but those would be the books that would have made up a reading year, yes?

One of the arguments for abandoning a book midstream that isn’t working is that life is too short to read books that we aren’t enjoying.

In my case, now I know exactly how long that is.

4 thoughts on “The Sunday Salon: How Abandoning a Book Can Add Years Onto Your Life!

  1. Joy Weese Moll (@joyweesemoll)

    I follow Nancy Pearl’s 50 page rule. Nancy Pearl is the librarian’s librarian — you can hear her on NPR sometimes giving book recommendations.

    Anyway, her rule is to give a book 50 pages and if it doesn’t grab you then move on, because life is too short and there are too many books. For every year that you are over age 50, you get to subtract a page. I turned 51 this year, so I can stop at 49 pages. This is because life is even shorter and there are still too many books. When you get to be age 100, you can judge a book by its cover!

  2. Melissa W.

    I tend to disagree, in that you really should try to finish the books that you read, no matter how much you dislike them. And if you have that many DNFs, maybe you need to be a little more choosy as to what you do pick up and read.

  3. Kim (Sophisticated Dorkiness)

    Good post! One of the things I wish I kept track of is abandoned books. I feel like I’ve grown more likely to abandon books this year, but I’ve never counted so I don’t know for sure.

    One of my worries about abandoning books is mood. What if I miss a great read because I’m just not patient enough for it? That said, I can always try reading it again later. Anyway, many thoughts on a fun post 🙂

  4. nordie

    Over the last 10 years or so I’ve come to several realizations:

    1) the only person I’m in competition with is myself. If I dont meet my reading target for a year, who cares but me? (and I have the power to reduce my target to the number of books I really read, so in the end, I still win, right?!)

    2) every time I look at my bookshelf i realise just how many books I have still left to read. If I’m not enjoying the book I’m currently attempting – i give myself permission to abandon the book mid flow. I’ve not had many DNFs this year, but have been reading a lot of ARCs so am trying to not abandon a one of those – but did recently with a “you know what, the formatting was so bad, that by the time I worked out there were 4 1st person narrators (their “voices” wernt distinct enough), it was too late to try and catch up

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