Abandoning Books with No Remorse

Jodi Chromey

Staff Writer

Jodi Chromey is a freakishly tall writer who edits MN Reads and has been blogging at I Will Dare since 2000. Follow her on Twitter: @jodiwilldare

I’m a loud and proud book abandoner. That’s right, I will stop reading a book if I’m not enjoying it. I like to say, “life is too short for bad books” because that’s catchier than saying “life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy and/or are not the right fit for you.” I’m a copywriter, I always go with pithy even if it’s slightly inaccurate.

Becoming an abandoner was a long, slow process. For most of my life I believed that if I started a book I had to finish it. It didn’t matter how much I loathed every page *cough* American Psycho *cough*. If I read page one, I was all in.

Most people I know are finishers. It’s as though there’s this weird, unspoken commandment. Thou shalt finish all books. Why is this? Where did it come from? Really, I’m curious. If you know, please do share.

I wish I could remember the book, the chapter, the moment I became an abandoner because if I did, I would thank that book every day. Once I made the decision to be an abandoner, I did make up some ground rules. For instance, most books are given what I like to call “The Old John Irving Try.” Now, as you may know, I love me some John Irving, but dude takes a while to get going. It’s why the first time I read A Prayer for Owen Meany I had to pay an overdue fine.

The thought that I may have missed out on the majesty of Owen Meany because I’m a fickle abandoner just about breaks my damn heart. This is why I give about 95% of the books I start 100 pages to woo me. If I’m not wooed, I stop. My nightstand is not littered with books to-be-read, but rather books that have been abandoned. They sit there, growing a thick coat of dust, often opened to the page I where I gave up. I have no remorse.

Now, I have to admit some books I will hate-read and finish out of spite. It’s as though I don’t want the book to get the best of me *cough* Then We Came to the End *cough*. There are other books that I have to finish because they are so widely praised I have to see if I can solve the mystery as to why *cough*The Road*cough*. And yet even more books that I know within in a chapter are not meant for me, whether it be awful writing (whither all the copyeditors?) or tone or, well, whatever it is that trips my trigger (lately it seems to be memoirs by privileged white women who whine about everything without recognizing their own privilege).

I probably start twice as many books a year as I finish, and I never feel guilty about it. Reading is my very favorite hobby and I’m not about to let a shitty book take away that joy. I wonder if more people would read if they realized they could just quit a book once they stopped enjoying it? Really, the idea is a revelation to some and an abomination to others, practically heresy.

And I’m okay being a heretic in this instance. Also, between the getting rid of books and now this, I’m waiting for someone to come and take away my library card (that is, if I had one).