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How to Finish a Book You Stopped Reading Halfway Through

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Vivienne Woodward


Vivienne Woodward lives in Philly and works as the events coordinator for an indie bookstore. She can often be found drinking too much coffee in the sunny spot on her couch and over-identifying with fictional characters. She enjoys collecting hobbies, dancing to radio pop, and rearranging the book stacks on her side tables.

We have all been there. We have all gotten halfway through a book, felt our time wasted on the first half, and started to wonder whether our desire to find how it ends is greater than our desire to stop reading immediately. Or, maybe we didn’t feel our time was wasted. Maybe we felt that this book was SO GOOD. SO GOOD I need to read it first thing in the morning with my coffee to soak in every detail. SO GOOD I need every molecule of my brain firing (#science) to get through a few sentences, SO GOOD I’m just not up for reading it right now because I’m a little tired, SO GOOD I don’t want to only give it half my attention, SO GOOD I just need to set it aside for a while and come back to it when I’m ready to give it my all.



This article is going to whip you into freaking-finishing-that-book shape.

You’ve heard of GRIT. It’s time to channel every tiny shred of it you have to power through the book you stopped reading halfway through.

Why, you might ask. There is no shame in not finishing a book when there are so many incredible books to read, and why finish a stinker and/or one that you are not enjoying because you are not smart enough to enjoy it? Well, because! Because…duh! Because…well, you gotta. That’s why. Because sometimes you have to just say you did. Do you want to offer an opinion on the bad book of the week™? Well, first you have to finish it. Imagine how foolish you would look if you said a book stinks, but it turns out the second half reveals that the bad first half was an intentional literary device and the book was, in fact, BRILLIANT. Alternatively, do you want to be able to brag to your friends that you loved Ulysses? Well, first you have to freakin’ finish it. Your friends, like your high school English teacher, can definitely tell when you Sparks-noted it.




Do you know who is super great at making it to the end? People who run marathons. It may not always be pretty, but they are focused on one singular goal: finishing.

I texted a few friends who are good at running marathons to get their advice on finishing a marathon that is definitely going to be applicable here. So applicable, I am going to brazenly say these are the RULES of how to finish a book you stopped reading halfway through.

[Pause for 30 minutes as I wait for them to reply. Anyone have any good book recs?]

Okay, here we go.

Rule #1: Don’t try to beat the time you trained for.

This is a great rule. Don’t set unrealistic expectations for yourself! Remember when you learned how to read, and then eventually you got pretty good at reading, but maybe you couldn’t read as fast as your friend who was always bragging about how many books they finished over the weekend? Don’t sweat it!!!!!! If you already aren’t enjoying a book, you definitely won’t enjoy a book when you consciously try to scan your little peepers faster over the words than they are comfortable scanning!!!! Let yourself fall into your safe pace, aka what you have been training for since you were in whatever grade you were in when you learned to read.

Rule #2: Nipple Chafing Cream

This is…definitely applicable…if you are reading…while…running a marathon.

Rule #3: Keep up with feeding/hydration.

Oh my gosh! Another plum tip. Do you feel yourself growing irritable with the fictional characters in your book? You probably don’t hate the book, you’re probably just hungry! Take regular breaks to rehydrate and refuel — this is key to withstanding both interactions in the real world and fictional alike. Never try to complete a (reading) marathon on an empty stomach.

Rule #4: Find a way to remind yourself why you started before you start so you can easily remind yourself why you feel like death at 23 miles, ahem, 230 pages in.

Wow. Wow. This is so wise and truly the best tip I (my fast friend) can offer you when you find yourself struggling halfway through a book. Why do you even read? For wisdom, for entertainment, to avoid talking to your annoying housemates? Whatever your reason, think back on that when you feel like death 230 pages in and want to do anything but keep turning pages. This is bigger than this one book, this one page that has absolutely no paragraph breaks. This is about you, as a reader, as a person who reads, as a person who fashions herself a literary icon. Do it for her.