One of the questions I get asked frequently is “How do you find time to read so much.”
One of my biggest secrets is that I read books I WANT to read.
Which means that the opposite is also true – I DON’T read books I don’t want read.
My best tip if you want to read more books?
QUIT the book you don’t like.
I know that for many readers, leaving a book unfinished feels like heresy. It’s easy to have a sense that “real” readers complete any book they start, whether they like it or not.
But there are no gold stars awarded for finishing a book you didn’t like and didn’t enjoy. (I also subscribe to Gretchen Rubin’s monthly email about what she’s read and she mentions every month that she doesn’t finish books she doesn’t like, which acts as a good monthly reminder to quit when a book isn’t working for you).
Better to just return the book to the library or stick it in your local Little Free Library or pass it on to someone who will enjoy it more.
In my mind, there are two convincing reasons not to finish a book that’s not doing it for you.
First, don’t throw good money (or in this case, time) after bad. That time you’ve already spent on the book is gone. And spending more of it on a book you’re not enjoying? Just a waste of MORE time. My time feels very precious to me and wasting it slogging through a book that’s doing nothing for me? A poor use of my time for sure.
Second, it often makes you choose not to read at all. If you won’t allow yourself to go on to a new book before finishing a book you’re not enjoying, what that usually means is that you don’t read at all. And if your goal is to read more books, then sticking with a book you don’t like is probably directly hindering that goal.
In a post I wrote last summer about 7 tips for fitting in more reading, I mentioned that one of my best tricks for making time to read more books is to ditch a book you aren’t enjoying.
If you’re reading something you’re really loving, you’re FAR more likely to find scraps of time to read, choosing that really gripping book over scrolling on your phone or sitting down for ten minutes after your kids are in bed.
I mentioned on the Extraordinary Podcast a few years ago that we mostly do things that we ENJOY – if you’re in the middle of a book you’re loving? You’ll find an extra 5 minutes here, and an extra 15 minutes there to sneak in a little reading (I’ve seen this over and over again when I recommend To All the Boys I’ve Loved Before and people send me notes saying they haven’t read a book in a decade and then they read the whole trilogy in a weekend).
The opposite holds true too – if you’re reading something you’re NOT into, you’ll almost never choose reading over anything else (much like most of us don’t “have time” to clean the toilet but can squeeze in a Netflix episode every day).
And if this is true for adults, it’s extra true for kids!
Why you should let your child quit a book they aren’t enjoying
Hands DOWN, the one of those I get the most feedback about is the second tip which is about letting your child quit books they don’t like.
I know that it feels really wrong to let your child give up on a book and that it feels like you’re teaching your child to be a quitter.
But what you’re really teaching your child is that it’s VERY risky to even start a book because once they’ve cracked the cover, you’re never going to let them give it up even if it’s not the right book for them.
And I’m pretty sure most parents aren’t trying to teach their kids to be afraid of trying out a new book.
Imagine if, any time you started a new Netflix series, you weren’t allowed to watch anything else until you’d watched the entire thing. Maybe five whole seasons worth!
It would feel extremely risky to start ANY new series because as soon as those opening credits played, you were committed to hours and hours and hours of time with this show that you don’t even know yet is right for you.
Whether it’s for you or for your child, you want a new book to feel like an opportunity to discover something wonderful along with the freedom to walk away if it’s not a good fit.
Even on picture books, if it’s one that’s just really dragging for us, we close it up and move on to something better. I want my children to feel like reading is thrilling and enjoyable, instead of a tedious chore.
On Goodreads (which I use to track all my personal reading), there are – by default – three categories: Want to Read, Currently Reading, or Read.
About ten years ago or so, I created my own fourth category: Unfinished books.
For my fairly Type-A brain, it’s nice to have a place to categorize those books that I don’t want clogging up my “Currently Reading” category indefinitely.
How about you?
Are you fine to give up on a book you aren’t enjoying or do you feel compelled to finish every book you start? And do you let your kids quit books they don’t like?
Photos by Heather Mildenstein