Or even most of them, for that matter.

It’s a little odd saying this on a blog dedicated to making people fall in love with books, specifically dusting off classics of literary fiction, but you don’t need to finish every book you pick up. Which, I know, sounds super-simple, but it’s actually a principle I refused to accept when I first really started to become a big reader.

“I have to finish this,” I would say to myself as I forced my eyes to concentrate on a novel that felt like a slog. Moby-Dick took me three weeks to finish last November, and no offense to Herman Melville or his fans, but I could probably statistically show that with my usual reading rate, I could’ve finished three other more enjoyable books in that time period.

Part of my problem–and it could be a problem of yours, as well, if you’re getting into reading–is having an iron-clad annual reading goal. A reading goal is actually a great thing to have–after all, there’s nothing like accountability to motivate a reader–but I gave my reading goal last year so much importance that I felt that putting down a book and moving onto another one would derail my progress. (The all-importance I lent my reading goal also made me go for shorter books over longer tomes, but that’s another story.)

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The solution? I turned my reading goal into more of a reading suggestion. I also put down books I’m not liking after reading just the first few chapters, rather than pretending to “like” it, muddle into the middle of it, and then say, “Well, I’ve gotten this far through this book, so I might as well finish it,” which further prolonged the misery. Funnily enough, putting down boring books made me read more books–counter to my original logic–because those novels, being much more enjoyable, held my attention for far longer in the day, and I was able to soon finish them.

Another thing I changed was my outlook on reading: Before, I found myself viewing some (not all) books as “meant to be finished” rather than “meant to be read.” There’s actually a big difference between a “finish” mentality and a “read” one. The latter one helps me immerse myself in books I enjoy and put down ones that, for whatever reason–uninspired characters, unrealistic dialogues, writing blander than oatmeal (forgive the cliche; I also hate cliches in writing)–are making me want to do almost anything but read.

Hope this helps you on your journey dusting off the classics!


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