Don’t Read Books You Hate

I love to read, but that doesn’t mean I love to read everything. In my lifetime I’ve read more books than I can count, but there are many that I’ve started and not finished. When I was younger I used to think it was a cardinal sin to being reading a novel and not finish it, but as an adult I see it a bit differently.

Reading is my job, but it’s also my hobby, my solace, my happy place. When required, I will read something I don’t enjoy for the sake of work, but in my spare time I refuse to subject myself to reading books I hate. I experienced such a dilemma when on holidays at the beginning of the year. I decided to start 2016 off with a man vs sea theme, choosing to read both The Old Man and The Sea by Ernest Hemmingway and Moby Dick by Herman Melville. Now, The Old Man and the Sea is only 90-odd pages in length, so regardless of whether or not I enjoyed it I knew I would finish the novel (in fact, I did enjoy it very much and am excited to read some more Hemmingway in the future), Moby Dick, however, is almost 620 pages long, and I have to say I struggled to get through the first 20.My general approach to situations like this is to give the book three chapters. If by the end of the third chapter I find I can’t go on, I stop. Sometimes I’ll start a new book, and once I’m finished I’ll restart the one I’d been struggling with before, a literature palate cleanse of sorts. Other times I’m so traumatised I have to give it a few weeks, months or years before I give it another go.

There was a twinge of shame when I realised I would not be finishing Moby Dick. The copy I was reading was one my Grandmother had given me when I was younger and held enormous sentimental value. That, and Moby Dick is a true classic, and not finishing it felt like I may be defying my English degree roots.  There’s definitely a certain stigma around not finishing classics, as if you can’t truly call yourself a ‘book lover’ until you’ve read all the basics. I definitely agree with this to an extent. Classics are classics for a reason, and it’s worth giving a few of them a try to get a scope of the genres and themes that you enjoy most in your reading. However, just because ‘everyone’ loves a book does not mean you have to. We are all unique and our reading habits should merely be a reflection of who we are as people!

If you hate a book if you’re struggling to read it and have to force yourself to turn the page, then what’s the point? There are so many books out there, more every single day, so why waste your time battling with something you hate when you could be reading something that makes you happy.


“Life is too short to read bad books”

James Joyce


  1. 1

    Gretchen Rubin muses along the same lines in her book The Happiness Project, where she also comes out of the closet about her life-long love for children’s literature. One of her many Secrets of Adulthood is to be yourself and if that means liking books written for kids or disliking Moby Dick, then so be it. Life is indeed too short to read books you don’t like and to drink bad wine, as it happens.

  2. 2

    Hi Anna,

    Nice blog. In general, I agree with your sentiment about reading interests, but found it ironic for you to have quoted James Joyce in support of your position because consumer tastes have evolved to the point that few would pick up one of his works. Further, it would be difficult for me to list the books that I’ve struggled with for one reason or another only to achieve appreciation for them as content was subsequently digested. I suppose that’s the primary distinction between literary and genre fiction — immediate vs. more delayed gratification.

    Do you accept review requests: adult literary science fiction?