Kevin Bell

You Don’t Need To Finish The Book You Started Reading

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Kevin Bell

The OCD in me is upset for even writing that title out.

But I have good reason.

And to be completely honest, I’m right there with you, this sounds like blasphemy.

But hear me out.

I’ll let you make the final judgment…. And please do let me know if you agree or disagree.

Books are life. Seriously.

There are few things more enjoyable than a new book that just arrived from my good pal Mr. Bezos.

I like to imagine that Jeff himself is searching the shelfs at Amazon HQ and pulling out a copy of the book I ordered and popping it in an envelope, then handing it to the driver whose ONE mission is to deliver that book to my front porch… but I doubt that’s the process.

— Few things are better than receiving that brand new book and having some quiet time to dive in.

I love all kinds of books, but truth be told, I really only read non-fiction.

I LOVE fiction, don’t get me wrong, two of my ALL TIME favorite books regardless of the category are The Name Of The Wind and The Wise Mans Fear (Rothfuss, if you’re reading this, please, I beg you release the third book to the series).

— Like I said, I love all kinds, but MAINLY read non-fiction.

This is because I read for TWO reasons ONLY and each book I read needs to hit both of those.

It’s cut throat, but I work all day, have kids, side projects, etc. If I could just read all day, I’d think about this differently… BUT I don’t have that luxury yet, so here we are.

Reason 1:

I want to enjoy the book.

Reason 2:

I want to learn something from each book

If the book doesn’t meet both of these reasons, I don’t read it.

My vetting process is rigorous and 9 times out of 10 when I start a book, I know it’ll meet those two reasons. So it’s a no brainer.

Let’s breakdown these reasons real quick before we talk about what happens with that 1 time out of 10 that a book slips through the cracks.

“I Want To Enjoy The Book”

The way I see it, when you are reading, you are giving the book your undivided attention.

You stop all that you are doing, nothing else in your hands, very little extra movement, your focus is on each and every word in that book. Page after page, you’re soaking the thoughts, ideas, experiences the book has to provide. It’s a really personal relationship actually.

It’s easy to get lost in the words, for time to fly by and for the world to happen around you while you’re completely immersed between those two covers.

If you think about it, it’s a lot like a relationship with a significant other. Nothing else matters in that moment when you’re with them… or in this case, reading that book.

And with that kind of attention and investment from the reader, the book needs to hold up its end of the bargain.

If I’m giving away that time and focus, I want to read something that I can’t put down. For the tone of the book to sync with my mind, the ideas to grab me and pull me in, for the sentences to flow as if I’m listening to the author read them out loud, etc.

I realize it’s a lot to ask for, but these dynamics are important.

Next reason…

“I Want To Learn Something From The Book”

It’s more of a practical thing for me, but each book I read I seek to become better from. Books are the window into a lifetime worth of knowledge and experience from each author and I genuinely want to soak up as much of that as I can.

Sometimes, I’ll admit, I can fall in the category of OVER consuming knowledge, but the rule of thumb for me is that there needs to be one takeaway/actionable item from each book that I actually do, otherwise its just consumption for consumption’s sake.

The important thing to note with this reason is that a book needs to make good on its promise to deliver the knowledge that it said it would.

For example, if the title is “9–5 Grind to Millionaire; How I broke free from my daily Grind and became a millionaire” …. There better be actionable items, specific stories and clearly laid out steps on how that was done.

Prior to reading anything, I sincerely try and make sure the book I’m about to read fits these two reasons. But 1 time out of 10, a book slips through the cracks.

It all happened so quick. The book arrived at the door, I rip open the package and place it on my night stand ready to read.

Kids are down for the night and it’s just me and the book.

I blast through the intro and I’m even more excited.

Even the first couple chapters are awesome…

But then, about a quarter of the way through, the same info comes up that they already talked about.

The tone isn’t the same as it was in the beginning.

I find myself re-reading a few paragraphs because the flow doesn’t totally make sense….

“It’s Ok” I tell myself, “I’m tired. I’ll pick it up tomorrow.”

Tomorrow comes and I have fresh eyes. But I still feel it. I’m just not jiving on the book like I thought I would.

I feel that everything I wanted to soak up from the book, I already received in the first few chapters. It’s now a drag to keep it going….


Should I?

Would you?

Why? Just to finish it? Is that the only reason why?

Or should you put it down and pick up another one that really grabs you?

I believe you should.

You invest time, energy, emotions, bandwidth into each and every book, why waste that on something that you’re not interested in.

If you truly believe that you will be able to seek enjoyment and knowledge out of the book, keep reading. Maybe the book will bring it together for a strong finish. I held out plenty of times and was glad that I did.

BUT how long do you hold out?

If I’m starting to feel those negative “feels”, I shut it down for the night and pick it back up the next day fresh and reassess.

If those feelings come up again the next day, I start the “clock” and go chapter by chapter on whether I want to continue.

If I hit 4 chapters in a row where I’m not enjoying it and not learning anything, I throw one last Hail Mary. I skip to the end and read the closing or last chapter to see if things turned around. If they didn’t, I shut it down and move on.

If I’m even a little bit intrigued on what I read in the end, I’ll give it another chance. I really DON’T want to stop reading the book. It’s a bummer to put it down after 100+ pages invested, but I value my time even more and want to be enjoying and learning from each book I read.

Tie goes to the book. It actually takes a lot to actually put a book down, but I make sure when I do, it’s justified.

If you’re here, you're not only a reader, but you’re probably a writer as well. You don’t just consume, you CREATE. Your time is worth EVERYTHING.

You might have other reasons you read. Maybe BECAUSE you write, you’d rather JUST read for enjoyment. And in that case, awesome, then your criteria is simple.

I would still encourage you to set up a system for putting that book down if you don’t enjoy it anymore.

If it is JUST for the checked box that you read that book from start to finish, I don’t believe that is a good enough reason.

We are better than that. We aren’t just reading to tally up the number of books we read. We read to learn, to grow, to change, to evolve, to become better writers, business owners, entrepreneurs, dads, moms, people.

We read to change our lives and to change the lives of others.

If you’ve already given it several chapters, a day to refresh and a Hail Mary sneak peak of the ending and it STILL isn’t lighting the fire under you…then set that book down and move on. It’ll be ok.

I promise you, it wasn’t a loss. Every bit of it was a gain. You live and learn. I believe in you. Be strong and pull the plug when the time is right.

Convinced, or no? I’m open for debate :)