Why Readers Struggle to Quit Books They Don’t Like

I used to have a huge problem. If I started a book, I had to finish it. Even if it took me months. The entire year. Even at the cost of getting to books I’m really excited about.

And there are plenty of reasons you may not want to keep reading, like the writing isn’t the right style for you, the story doesn’t hold your interest, or it’s not a genre for you. I can’t express how many books I read just because they were popular and I thought I had to read them even though I knew I didn’t like the genre (i.e. steampunk, historical YA, a few others).

These days, I don’t feel so obligated to read everything I start. If I start a book and it doesn’t feel right or doesn’t hold my interest, I set it aside and pick up something else. I even once cycled through five books, reading the first few pages of each, before I settled on my next book.

But why is this? Why do we struggle so much to quit reading a book we aren’t enjoying?

Here are my theories.

  1. Sense of completion. This tends to be a big one for me. I want to feel as if I accomplished something, and sometimes, getting through that rough book is the thing I feel like I have to do.
  2. Clearing space. I talked about this before, but my TBR is kind of out of control. While my physical shelf is a little better off now, my ereader is way overloaded. Sometimes, I don’t want to put that book back on the shelf. I want to clear it somewhere else, whether that’s a spot on my other shelves (unlikely if I really hated it) or to another reader.
  3. I don’t want to start it over later. I know if I put a book down halfway through, I’ll have to start over next time I pick it up to remember what’s happening. And if I didn’t like it the first time, why would I want to repeat all that work next time?
  4. It’s required reading. This doesn’t happen to me now that I’m a full-fledged adult with a career (two careers, actually) and no homework, but in school I had to read plenty of things I hated. And I had to power through those. This is probably the only reason you really have to finish a book you aren’t enjoying. For more on this, you can see a previous post I did on how to power through a book.

Other than point 4, all the reasons are blocks I put myself into. I create my own misery by forcing myself to read a book I don’t like.

If you have other reasons why you struggle to put down books you don’t like, please share them in the comments! But if you want to keep reading about how to quit these books (or the tricks I tell myself to get past my mental blocks), check out my previous post on how to quit a book you aren’t enjoying.

Until next week, let’s chat in the comments all about the struggle of finishing (and not finishing) our books and TBR piles!