Is it okay to give up on a book?
Although I love reading with a passion, I’ll be the first to admit that I am easily bored. I am that troublesome reader who will very quickly judge whether I like a book or not, and if I do, I have normally read it cover to cover within a matter of days. If I don’t, I really struggle to read the entire thing, painstakingly persevering over weeks and months before deciding it’s not for me. Of course, authors should not have to write with people like me in mind. If authors tried to please everyone, nothing would ever happen in a book for fear of offending or disengaging the readers, which in itself would be even duller. Stories should unfold just how the creator wishes them to, otherwise where is the fun in being a writer? Equally, the reader shouldn’t feel obliged to read and enjoy whatever story is presented to them. In between English GCSE at school and literary snobbery it’s easy to forget that reading can and should be enjoyable.
We all know them, those people whose opinion is supposedly golden and who spend inordinate amounts of time sharing it. The person who turns their nose up at “The Lord of the Rings” films because the books were ‘soooo much better,’ or the person who wouldn’t be seen dead listening to any songs in which the lyrics are not poetic works of art. These are usually the people that snub you for not finishing the million page novel that they managed to sit through. Ignore these people. Everyone is different. You just have the satisfaction of being able to say that you would never be so ignorant as to judge the content of a person’s character based on whether or not they finished “War and Peace” or “Mansfield Park.” Don’t be bullied into reading something that you hate.
Most of us know the feeling of reading something that for whatever reason isn’t speaking to us. The effort it takes to keep turning pages, the frustration when you realise that this is the fourth time you’ve read that paragraph, and the exasperation of knowing that you absorbed it no more on the fourth time than you did on the first. If this is you, you have every right to give up reading the book. You owe nothing to the author, you clearly aren’t getting any enjoyment out of reading it, and just because the reviewers on Amazon said it was enlightening and complex doesn’t mean that you have to find it so.
That said, it’s probably good to give a book a fair chance before discarding it. Sometimes something will take a few chapters to capture your imagination, and if it’s a book that has been personally recommended to you, perseverance can pay off. I do always try to read things that are recommended to me, because it’s nice that someone knows you well enough to be able to associate you with a certain book or story. When you get to the juicy bits you’ll be really satisfied that you stuck through the less captivating sections, so maybe promise yourself to read the next thirty pages before stopping.
Sometimes the book might be right, but the time might be wrong. My Dad is obsessed with J D Salinger’s “The Catcher in the Rye,” claiming reading it to be a rite of passage, and when me and my siblings were old enough, he bought us all a copy. At the age of twelve, I didn’t get it. I thought Holden Caulfield was irritating and stupid and immature, and I didn’t understand why someone would want to spend time getting to know this character and his life. I promptly gave up. It is now one of my favourite books. Reading it in my late teens brought a new perspective and understanding with the way in which I digest stories, which is precisely what I needed to enjoy “The Catcher in the Rye.” If you choose to stop reading a book, it might be worth putting it back on your bookshelf for a rainy day. One day you might learn to love it.
At the end of the day, you should get something out of reading a book. If you are finding it stressful, or annoying, you have every right to give up. However, if you think that there is a chance that the book will have something for you towards the middle or in a couple of years, it’s worth persevering for a little while or saving it for another day.
Let us know what you think about persevering with a difficult book in the comments below!