Keeping Up With The Penguins

Reviews For The Would-Be Booklover

How To Finish A Book You Hate

A big part of the Keeping Up With The Penguins is forcing myself to read books I otherwise wouldn’t touch with a ten-foot pole. See, I’m hard-core discerning when it comes to my book selection – I like to be damn sure I’m going to like what I’m getting before I sit down to read the first page. If my selection process fails, I inevitably become so bored or so angry that I abandon the book forever, and it languishes in a long-forgotten corner of the bookshelf. This situation got me to thinking: what tips and tricks can I use to keep carrying on when I feel like I’d rather claw my eyes out? Here’s how to finish a book you hate…

How To Finish A Book You Hate - Black Text Overlaid on Image of a Woman With Eyes Closed Resting Her Chin on Her Hands - Keeping Up With The Penguins

1. Try listening to the audiobook.

The popularity of audiobooks has skyrocketed over the last five years, now that we all have computers in our pockets and air-pods in our ears every minute of the day. You might find that the book you’re having trouble with isn’t so difficult, depressing, or dull when you’re listening to it rather than reading it. For your brain, listening to an audiobook is not all that different from reading, and you have the added benefit of maximising that dead time you spend commuting or washing dishes. Amazon has literally thousands of books available via Audible audiobooks, which you can play on almost any device.

2. Take notes as you go.

This might only work if you’re a massive nerd (like me) but it’s worth a shot! The genesis of the Keeping Up With The Penguins blog was that my husband noticed I take extensive notes as I read (no matter what it is I’m reading); he suggested I put them to use, and here we are! It’s a habit that never quite left me after university. I find that writing down things that occur to me as I’m reading (whether it be direct quotes from the text, or a memory it triggered, or my thought about what’s happening in the plot) doesn’t just help me remember the story, but also understand it. Just keep a small notepad and pen handy when you’re reading, and see if it helps at all.

3. Look up how it ends.

Yes, this is absolutely cheating. You’d probably be shouted down at your book club if you admitted to doing this. But hell, if you really need to finish the book and you’re really hating it, knowing the end point is coming (and what it is) can make a big difference. In fact, it can even add an extra layer of interest: it can become like a game, seeing if you can piece together the plot and work out how the ending comes about as more is revealed.

4. Commit, set goals, and all that boring stuff.

I know this is the least-sexy advice ever, but the reason fitness professionals and corporate coaches recommend committing and setting goals is because it works. How annoying…

Decide how much you want to get read each day, and commit to it. Maybe it’s 10 chapters. Maybe it’s 10 pages. Maybe you think picking up the book at all is a win, because you hate it that much. Whatever it is: put it on your to-do list. Treat reading like any other daily task (answering emails, flossing your teeth, doing the dishes) that Absolutely Must Get Done, lest the problem get exponentially worse. You’ll be surprised how quickly the cumulative efforts over those days add up, and you’ll be done before you know it.

5. Take regular breaks (and don’t read in bed!).

This is particularly important if the book in question is putting you to sleep! Taking a break every 20 minutes or every 20 pages, to refresh your Instagram or make yourself a cup of tea, gives you the opportunity to shake it off and keep your mind sharp.

I often make the mistake of thinking “Oh, I’ll just read in bed for a while, I’m not that tired”… only to wake up 3 hours later with the book on my chest and only two pages deeper into the story. Treat reading this book you hate like you would any other task that needs your laser focus.

6. Keep your eyes on the prize.

Don’t forget you can reward yourself when you’re done! The easiest way to do this is promise yourself you can read something you’ll really enjoy next. I’ve tweaked the order in which I intend to read the books on my list now and then, bringing forward something I’m eager to read as a reward for finishing something that bored me to tears. Dangle that carrot over your nose, and follow it all the way through to the last page.

7. Have a whinge to someone who knows the book.

If you have a friend or a family member (or me!) who’s read the book, chances are they’ll share – or at least understand – your grievances. Air it out with them. Tell them exactly what’s giving you such a hard time. Either they’ll agree completely, and you’ll feel vindicated, or they’ll be able to shed new light on some aspect of the book that you hadn’t considered, and maybe that will be enough to spur you on.

8. **Most Important** Ask yourself: do you really need to finish it?

Ultimately, you need to ask yourself why you’re pushing yourself to finish this particular book. Was it written by a friend? Is it something you thought you’d like but it’s not what you expected and you’re just too stubborn to give up? Are you only reading it because you think you “should”?

I can’t decide for you how important your reason is, but if the book is really causing you pain you should consider whether one outweighs the other. Life’s too short, carpe the diem, and all that.

Bonus tip: I once heard a librarian suggest that you should subtract your age from 100 (so 100 minus 27 years old would be… uh… 73!), and that will give you the number of pages you should read before you decide whether to finish a book or not. Seems fair to me!

If none of these tips work, you could always just start a blog to complain about all the awful books you read! It’s a really good motivator, as I can attest 😉 I have a 100% completion rate so far. What about you? Are you a finisher? Or are you more than happy to let books fall by the wayside? Let me know in the comments below (or join us over at KUWTP on Facebook)!


  1. This is such an interesting post. I am also very selective about what I read. I actually hate very few books also. I am not sure that I would push that hard to finish a book that I did not like. There were a few books recently that I became bored with that I stuck with,, but they became interesting again. With all that, I love your tips.

    • ShereeKUWTP

      March 3, 2018 at 1:50 PM

      Cheers, Brian! “Hate” is a strong word, granted, and there’s very few that I’d say I “hated” too… but there are definitely a few that have bored the pants off me, and more than a few that have got my goat in other ways. Glad you were able to persist through the ones that you weren’t engaged with, it’s tough going! 🙂

  2. I think I’ve had to do all of these at least once with books I’ve hated, but was way too stubborn to put down (if I quit, the bad book wins!). One of the things that I sometimes do to help is every fifty pages, I let myself read a few chapters in a book I actually like – or I let myself watch an episode of a show.

    • ShereeKUWTP

      March 3, 2018 at 1:51 PM

      Bahahahahahahahahaha! “If I quit, the bad book wins!” – I literally lol’d! I definitely reward myself too, when the going gets tough – usually with a glass of wine, or checking my phone or something. Great tip! Thanks for stopping by 🙂

  3. I’d go with the life’s too short option
    BTW saw that you have colour of magic on your list
    recommend anything by Pratchett, doubt that is going to occur on your hate reading this list

    • ShereeKUWTP

      March 6, 2018 at 12:22 PM

      Ooooh, thanks Phil! I’ve been trying to find that one in secondhand bookstores for a while, it would seem it’s too popular and no one’s selling their copies :’) Something to look forward to! Stay tuned…

  4. Some great tips. I think I have done most of these at some point in my reading career. In fact, before I came to your blog this morning I was contemplating ordering an audiobook for one of the books I started last month and put down in favour of something I was enjoying more. I hate to DNF things, but I should more because most of my reading slumps start because I have a massive pile of part read books and I feel guilty starting yet another book.

    • ShereeKUWTP

      March 8, 2018 at 11:03 PM

      I don’t think you’re alone there – so many people get so overwhelmed/irritated/bored with what they’re reading at the time that they abandon reading completely for a while, which stinks. I’m learning so much from pushing through books that I wouldn’t otherwise read, but that’s not necessarily always the best way to go – the most important tip I listed was definitely to ask yourself if you *really* need to finish it. Did you end up ordering the audiobook?? Good luck with it, either way! 😉

  5. Megan @ Ginger Mom & the Kindle Quest

    July 13, 2018 at 2:08 PM

    I’m glad this process works for you. I won’t finish a book if, by 50% I hate it. There are just too many books to read and I won’t waste my time on something I don’t like. I, however, don’t review a book I haven’t finished because I figure it gives an unfair disadvantage. Another great discussion 🙂

    • ShereeKUWTP

      July 14, 2018 at 10:19 AM

      That’s a really great system, Megan – it gives the book a fair go, but still respects your time and effort (life’s too short for bad books, and all that). There’s definitely been a few that I’ve wanted to quit, as I’m reading my way through this List, but I’m glad I’m forcing myself to persist. I don’t think I’ll do it forever, though; one day, I’ll revert to abandoning books that aren’t giving me anything. Thanks again! 🙂

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