The other night I decided to abandon a book I recently started reading, but it wasn’t as simple as placing it back on the shelf and walking away. I agonized over it for a couple of days, wondering why I hesitated so much over a seemingly simple decision. Here’s what went through my mind.
Arguments for reading
It’s only been three days, I should give it more time
I’ve read another book by the author and liked it well enough. Why is this one different?
This book has won the Pulitzer Prize!
I should finish what I started
I might miss something insightful
Arguments against reading
With so little time to read, I should enjoy every minute
Just because it won a Pulitzer Prize doesn’t mean I have to read it, or like it
Just because I’ve read another book by the author doesn’t mean I have to read, or like, this one
To borrow the phrase from Marie Kondo since we’re all obsessed with her new Netflix show, life’s too short to read books that don’t spark joy
I don’t look forward to my nightly reading ritual
Ultimately, I realized this book wasn’t the right choice for the season I’m in, not because of the subject matter—which I was truly interested in—but because of how life is unfolding right now. I get most of my reading done in the evenings. Sometimes it’s eight minutes, sometimes it’s thirty, but it’s almost always after I’ve washed my face and crawled into bed for the night.
With limited reading resources, every minute counts. Why should I spend them on books that don’t make me happy? The version of myself in her early twenties would have pushed through, read it for a class, and moved on. But the mid-thirties version of myself needs a different barometer for book reading.
When it comes to deciding whether or not you should abandon a book, here’s the only question you need to ask: Is this a book I look forward to reading?
The previous week I tore through a memoir that I couldn’t put down. This new book didn’t elicit the same reaction, and I missed the rush of anticipation while brushing my teeth and folding down the comforter. Instead of feeling excited to snuggle up and read, I felt like I was doing it because I had to. Because I started. Because I set a certain number of books as my GoodReads reading goal and wanted to make progress. But as soon as I gave myself permission to start something new, I felt liberated. It’s so small, so simple.
If anyone reading has guilt for giving up on books, let’s resolve to let it go together. Read what you love, leave what you don’t.