“How long are you going to keep reading that book?”
“Markets” was one of my Marine buddies. He noticed that I had been working my way through a thick book for a long time. I told him I wasn’t sure, but I needed to finish the book. Then, Markets asked me a question that changed my life. “Why?”
The “why” was that my mother told me I should finish any book I started. It was like finishing everything on your plate at dinner. It was a rule, a standard, a value to live by.
I don’t remember now what book I was reading, but I remember that I was struggling to get through it. I was pushing myself because I was following my mother’s advice. When I stopped to examine that advice, I realized that it wasn’t right for me. It may not be right for you, either.
I’ve met many people who got the same advice. It might have been from their parents or a teacher, or someone else they respected. Somewhere along the way, someone told them they needed to finish every book they started. You don’t have to. There are several good reasons you can stop reading a book way before you finish it.
Close that Book If Reading It Is A Slog
Good writing should be easy to read. If the author writes like the most boring of academics, or if he or she seems to be trying to set the record for longest sentence in English, give it up. There are plenty of high-value books out there that aren’t hard to read.
Close that Book If It’s Not the Right Topic
Over the years, I’ve developed the way I pick books. I pick almost all my books based on recommendations from friends and other people I respect. Amazon reviews and the ability to look inside the book help me check a book out, but sometimes I get it wrong.
It rarely takes long for me to realize that a book is not what I thought it was. When that happens to you, you can close the book up. Check the chapter headings or skim the rest of the book to make sure you’re right, but if you are, close the book. There are boatloads of books out there about any topic you’re interested in.
Close that Book If the Author Gets the Facts Wrong
This happens more than it should. It’s more common since many people are self-publishing without the aid of a good editor. Authors get stuff wrong, sometimes outrageously so.
When I think an author is wrong about something I know, I do two things. First, I check my understanding. Sometimes I’m the one who has the facts wrong. And, sometimes what I think is “wrong” is a matter of opinion. If either of those things are true, I keep reading the book. I love it when savvy authors challenge my thinking.
If the author gets the fact wrong, I close the book. Rightly or wrongly, I think if an author gets things wrong about subjects I know, he’s doing the same thing with subjects I don’t.
The Idea Is to Get Value
You should get value from the time and energy you spend reading. If you’re reading nonfiction, learning is part of the value. For all kinds of books, reading is a recreation. But if you’re not learning something and enjoying the process, give it up.
If you don’t get value from the content or the reading experience, close the book and move on. Every minute you spend reading something awful or wrong is a minute you could spend on a good and readable book. Remember: life is too short for crappy books.