With the millions of books being published a year and even the best readers only able to complete a few thousand over the course of a lifetime, reading can become overwhelming. However motivating it may be to keep track of the number of books you read, reading should be a delight, not a burden. Therefore, sometimes it’s not about what books you finish, but which ones you put down.
Leaving tasks undone is contrary to the teaching and ethics that were instilled into each of us from a young age. So to leave a book unfinished is unnatural. However, there are several reasons in which it is more worthwhile to lay the book aside instead of continuing it. Consider the following affirmations of a decision to leave a book behind:
- Does Not Meet Your Needs or Goals: When reading, there are two factors that determine what books make it on to our shelves. The first is our reading purpose (something I previously wrote about here if you have no idea what your purpose in reading is, I would urge you to take a look at the article). The second is our personal desire. Sometimes we read based on a desire to relax, while other times it may be to learn about something very specific. Regardless of why a book finds itself part of the elect, it is there to fulfill a specific role in your life. However, despite the best screening processes, we cannot sufficiently know a book until we start reading it and only then may it become clear that the book is not really what you intended it to be. It’s OK to leave it behind. If there is no end value, there is no need to invest more time into it.
- Does Not Meet Your Standards: Not all books are created equal. I know that’s a shocking truth to be hit with, but it’s something we need to acknowledge. Whether reading for simple enjoyment, reading to grow, or reading to know, we expect the books we read to have a certain level of quality. That quality is reflected in the truthful way in which they present life circumstances (regardless of whether the work is fiction or non-fiction). That quality is also exposed through the writing style, flow, and content. And finally, quality is tested through thorough and factual research. If a book lacks in areas such as these, it causes us to question the justification for progressing through the pages. If you find it lacking, your life won’t lack if you set the book down.
- Does Not Meet Your Level of Enjoyment: Finally, we read books for pleasure. Even the books that are directed towards growth and learning should be enjoyable. However, sometimes books may not please. In this case, they become a burden and can slow us down in our journey of reading by not allowing us to complete other more worthwhile books. If a book lacks pleasure, placing it aside can be beneficial.
With these three things in mind, we learn one thing: It’s OK to not finish a book.
In today’s technologically connected world, we have at our fingertips reviews, synopses, and ratings that allow us to be dutiful in screening which books we read. We can quickly filter through thousands of books, selecting only a few that meet our criteria based on the information we have available without even reading the book. However, as much as we try to screen the books we read, it’s not possible to know everything about a book before reading (hence, the need to read it) and so sometimes we get books that actually make little sense in our personal reading program. We should be comfortable in relinquishing a book when we find it not advantageous. After all, we exercise control over books; books do not exercise control over us (unless it’s Scripture, which has the ability to penetrate the soul. See Hebrews 4.12).