If you find it hard to give up on a book without a guilty conscience – a sense that you’ve wasted something, neglected a duty, left a job unfinished and one of the windows of your mind ajar – it’s time to start thinking differently.
Time spent on a bad book is time wasted.
Money spent on bad books is part of the cost of finding and reading good ones.
In the absence of someone else to let you know (“Should I stay or should I go?”) you’ll need to start judging for yourself when to stop reading, and even when to put a book in the bin.
Some categories might help.
Read on when you come across:
- Books that are a pleasure and delight;
- Books that you are confident will be a pleasure and delight;
- Books that contain things (information, stories) that you need or want to acquire, and can only get here.
Stop reading when:
- The book is neither pleasurable, necessary or otherwise beneficial.
- The book is badly written, unclear, boring, needlessly complex, taking too long to get to the point.
- You feel that you’ve got what you need – or are going to get – from the book.
- The book – perhaps clear objective merits and the recommendation of people you respect and love – is not for you. You don’t have to slate it, you don’t have to condemn those who like it: just say, “It’s not for me.”
How long should you give a book the benefit of the doubt for before you decide?
Probably sooner than you think.
Tyler Cowen says “be ruthless.”
My friend’s dad says – with refreshing specificity – Page 37.
More on reading:
Deep Literacy: what it takes
Kevin Kelly on deep literacy
Tyler Cowen on reading fast, reading widely and reading well
Neil Gaiman on reading fiction, empathy and changing the world
Schopenhauer on reading yourself stupid
Books as network opportunities
Folk art and reading as rivals
Misreading the mind: Ezra Klein and Nicholas Carr on transactional reading and contemplation
C.S. Lewis on reading the originals