Do you feel obligated to finish all books you start reading?

I was asked this recently whilst at work, and I think I surprised my colegue with my answer that no, I don’t finish every book I begin. I explained that it’s partly a matter of training- if all students finished every book they began, they would likely spend a great deal of time on unnecessary materials. Another aspect is, of course, natural inclination. If I’m not enjoying a novel, or get irritated by the book I’m reading, I’m unlikely to dedicate much time to it unless it’s necessary for my studies. If it’s a novel, I may scan the last few pages to find out how it all ends (regardless of whether I can understand the ending or not, having skipped a large portion of the text), but these days I no feel I must finish every book I start.

I’d become accustomed to this being a commonly accepted notion in academia, but my non-academic colleague was reasonably shocked that I didn’t feel the need to finish every single book. He felt that as a literature student, I should read an entire text, if only on principle. We discussed the idea that, as he reads mainly for pleasure, he has the ability to be more particular about which books he chooses to begin and therefore is more likely to be inclined to finish the book.

I don’t think reading speed has anything to do with this either, as I read quite quickly, and so it’s rarely a case of not getting far enough into the novel quickly as one friend theorised. I used to feel a vague feeling of guilt if I stopped reading a book due to disinterest, but I’ve cured this by creating a “Not Reading” pile of books that I give away to interested friends. This rids me of the book and of any lingering sense of obligation to finish it.

Do others feel this obligation? I presume so- I’ve found one or two references to it in various articles and blogs- but wonder if academia can help “cure” one of the feeling…


About livesinliminalspaces

I am a PhD candidate in the School of English, whose research focuses on the effect the urban environment and the cityscape has on the behaviour of marginalised characters in the novels from the Twentieth Century.
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One Response to Do you feel obligated to finish all books you start reading?

  1. Hey, interesting post. I definitely used to feel the guilt if I stopped reading before finishing. But I’ve come to teh conclusion that not all books are meant to be read by me. If it doesn’t fit I let it go :)

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