When I was younger, I used to pride myself on getting to the end of every book that I read. I remember one time in particular.
Back in 2001, the first of three Lord of The Rings films was released. Like most children my age, I was enthralled by the films and became a huge fan, which I still am to this day.
Once I realised that the films were first written as novels, I had to read them. I didn’t care if reading the final two books would spoil the films, I just wanted to read them! Surely, they would be as entertaining as the films, right?
Well, for this reader they weren’t. I found J.R.R. Tolkein’s prose hard to read and the constant referral to characters as the son of so and so became tedious after the first hundred pages.
It was at this point into the first book that I realised I didn’t want to carry on reading. As an 11-year-old who didn’t have much income and had begged his parents to buy the books, I felt obliged to finish them.
That’s exactly what I did. Despite the struggle, I managed to read all three books. I felt proud of myself for preserving in spite of the lack of enjoyment I was getting out of them.
Looking back, I realise this was the wrong course of action. Yes, it may seem like you should finish every book you start, but if you’re not enjoying the book why continue?
Your time is precious. If you feel you’re wasting it, then you probably are. It’s better to focus your attention on something that brings you enjoyment and is fulfilling.
I love reading and always will do, but you don’t have to finish every book you start.
Cover to Cover
My attitudes towards finishing changed last year. Before then I had finished virtually every book I had started, but reading one book made me change my mind.
It was a book about Mo Salah, a footballer who plays for my team Liverpool FC. It was a gift from my brother for my brother and I was looking forward to reading it.
However, once I got into the book, the first few pages didn’t inspire me. They read as if someone had googled Salah and shoehorned everything they could find into a book with the sole purpose of making money.
There was no insight into his character, the prose was sloppy and I was bored after a few pages which is never a good sign.
As this was a gift from my brother I didn’t want to give up on it. I felt I owed it to him to at least finish the book even if I didn’t like it. I soldiered on, but after about 50 pages I couldn’t take anymore.
I decided enough was enough and put the book down. I was not getting any value from the book, I was wasting my time reading it. There were plenty of other books I could be reading that would be of more value.
When I told my brother he laughed. He had seen the book and thought I might like it and didn’t look into it any further. If he had been in my shoes he would have done the same thing he told me.
I bought this book a couple of months ago but never got around to reading it. I’ve heard from numerous sources that it’s supposed to be a seminal piece on self-development and becoming rich.
After all, it had sold over 15 million copies, so it had to be good right? Well, it didn’t turn out that way.
The first few chapters were interesting. Hill tells how he met the famous businessman Andrew Carnegie when he was a boy, who instructed him to interview various successful men to ascertain the secret to wealth.
From then on the book started to talk about the method behind achieving this, while throughout the book, Hill would refer to a secret. This secret was not explicitly mentioned but would leap out at you at some point while reading.
This triggered a few alarm bells in my head, but I kept reading anyway. At one point the other day, my curiosity got the better of me and I googled napoleon Hill to find out more about him.
I came across this fascinating article detailing how he was not who he said he was. The author of the piece alleges that Hill was a fraudster and that there was no evidence he ever met Carnegie at all, throwing into doubt the whole premise of the book.
The more I read, the more convinced I became that the book was not worth reading as the man behind it had questionable morals. I decided to stop reading it immediately. This may seem extreme, but after reading the article, I knew I would get no value from the book.
It was clear that Hill had bullshitted the whole thing and that the concept of the book amounted to no more than three words, believe, conceive, achieve.
These two books taught me a valuable lesson about reading and valuing your time. If a book is not providing value, there’s no disgrace in putting it down and not finishing it. I just wish I had realised this sooner.
I’m a firm believer that everyone should read more books. There is so much to learn from them. From classics to lesser-known books, there is a wealth of information to be gleaned to be them.
However, nit every book has the same value. There are good books and there are bad books. The good ones pay you back tenfold, while the bad ones waste your time.
I spent £10 on Think and Grow Rich. Do I regret buying the book? Not at all. At the time I thought it would be a worthwhile investment. It was only when I started reading it and did some research on the author that I realised it wasn't worth my time reading it.
You could argue that I should have done my research beforehand, but no one is infallible. Far from being a mistake, I chalk it down as a lesson to be pickier in the books that I decide to read.
Time is the only commodity that I can’t get more of. I have a wide range of books to choose from. I have no difficulty in finding new books to read. I do have a problem with finding time to read them.
This is the way you should approach reading. It is a pursuit that can benefit you in the long run, but only if you read the right books. If you’re not enjoying a book, cut your losses and put it down.
Life is too short to read every book, don’t worry about bailing on a book that you don’t enjoy, it’s for the best. After all, it’s the books you haven't read which are the most important.