Remember when you were a kid and your parents instilled in you the importance of following through on things? Didn’t like the ballet lessons you begged to sign up for? Too bad, you’re at least making it to the spring recital. Can’t stomach the taste of the candy corn milkshake you campaigned to get? Keep sipping, babe.
But now you’re an adult, and I’m giving you full permission to quit—books you don’t like, that is.
We’ve all been there: You buy a book everyone—your friends, the New York Times charts, PureWow—has been raving about. Your expectations are sky high, but once you start reading, it just kind of…falls flat. Now, you might be tempted to soldier through. Everyone loves it, maybe I’m just missing something, you might think. A real reader actually finishes the books they start. But the thing is, willingly turning what should be an enjoyable activity into a total slough isn’t a point of pride. In fact, it’s basically the antithesis of self-care. (You wouldn’t keep eating a food that made you sick, right?)
And more to the point, there are so many other things to read. In fact, depending on which statistics you’re looking at, there are between 600,000 and 1 million books published every year in the United States alone, and there’s no reason to waste your time on tomes you don’t like.
Back in 2018, everyone and their mother (and my mother) was raving about Where the Crawdads Sing. Eager to lose myself in the book reviewers were calling "astonishing" and "painfully beautiful," I ordered my copy and dove in. Cut to about 100 pages later and I had little to no interested in continuing. It wasn't the book, it was me; something just wasn't clicking. Had this happened a few years earlier, I might've sucked it up and forced myself to stay until the end. Instead, I respectfully declined to keep reading and instead made time for other of the year's new releases I adored, namely Florida by Lauren Groff and An American Marriage by Tayari Jones.
All this said, I’m still advocating for you (and me!) to read books that expand your horizons (and even books by people you don’t agree with). Tend to favor fiction over nonfiction? Try not to be enthralled by Patrick Radden Keefe's Empire of Pain. Never explored the exciting world of poetry? May I suggest Kate Baer's What Kind of Woman? But if you’re 80 pages in and really feel like it’s a chore, throw in the towel.
Just be sure to donate the books you don’t finish to your local library, Goodwill or high school. After all, one woman’s “snooze” is another woman’s treasure.