Do You Finish Every Book You Start?

My husband and I have this ongoing debate about reading. We both read constantly, but he will finish a book to the bitter end, no matter what. I will abandon ship if I am not “into” it fairly quickly.

HE SAYS: If you start something, you should finish it. You’ve already invested the time, and lots of books get better toward the end. How many books have you loved in the end but were just okay in the middle? How many books started out a little rough but ended up being among your favorites? A little stamina goes a long way.

I SAY: There are just too many great books out there that I want to read. I can’t read everything, so I have to be selective. For me, 150 pages is my mark. If I’m not into it within the first 150 pages, it’s done. I am a slower reader, so at 150 pages, I’ve already spent about three hours reading that book. I’ve already wasted too much time on it. For me, the deciding factor of my finishing a book is that I am really enjoying that book. It is NOT the simple fact that I picked up the wrong book for me.


  • Another book I’ve really been wanting to read gets published, gets put on NetGalley or GalleyGrab, gets checked back into the library. I research books daily for my job, and I frequently see book summaries and reviews that sound much better than what I’m currently reading.
  • Life gets in the way. With two small children and a full-time job (that bleeds into home regularly), I have many really, really busy or hectic days at home or work. One or two days like this a week is not the problem. It’s when I have a whole week of crazy days that prevent me from reading. When these days happen, I am so pooped by the end of the day that I fall asleep reading after about 5 minutes. When this causes me to linger on one book for a two or three week stretch, I am ready to simply finish or abandon. If the book isn’t that engaging to begin with, which do you think I will choose?
  • Reading more than one book at a time. Reading two or three books is status quo for me, but sometimes, I really get into one way more than the others. When this happens, everything (including my job and kids) gets put by the wayside until that book is finished. After reading an incredible book, it’s so much harder to pick up a book I’m only so-so about.
  • Distractions. Knowing that I really should be doing something else (cleaning the house, playing with my children, phoning my family, cooking dinner) distracts me more than anything. While I am reading, this little nagging voice keeps reminding me of all the other stuff I should be doing. When I am reading something I’m not so into, that nagging voice sometimes gets the best of me. This prolongs the time it takes me to finish that book, which increases the odds I will abandon it.

WHAT TO DO ABOUT IT: Mark Forster, author of Do It Tomorrow and Other Secrets of Time Management has a fantastic recommendation on his website. He suggests choosing five books as your “active” books and put them in a stack. When you are ready to read, pick the top book in the stack and read as long as you can for a “session.” Once your reading session is over, that book goes to the bottom of the stack. Then, start the second book and do the same thing.

He recommends never promoting a book within the stack and never reading more than the five books in the stack. When one is finished, you can pick something else to add to the rotation.

I LOVE this tip and plan to start it today. Three of my five active books are going to be books that I have struggled to finish lately. All five are interesting enough, but I am not compelled to read them voraciously. I am about halfway through each of them. One is a nonfiction book about freelance writing that has taken a back-burner to my fiction books. The last one is a book I’ve had on my nightstand for months but have not yet started. Here goes…

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