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One of the most important elements of my identity is my identity as a reader. I love to read. Really, if I’m honest with myself, it’s practically the only activity that I truly love to do.

As part of that identity, I developed the habit of finishing every book I read. Once I started, I felt committed. A “real” reader like me finishes books and also gives authors the benefit of the doubt (“maybe this book will get better after the first fifty pages”). Right?

But I realized that I was spending a fair amount of my precious reading time reading books that didn’t really interest me. I’d finish these just because I felt as though I should and for the bragging rights of being able to say that I’d read them.

I decided to set myself a new habit: Stop reading a book if I don’t enjoy it.

(I consider getting valuable information from a book as a form of “enjoyment,” even if I don’t particularly enjoy the experience of reading it.)

I’ve put down several books over the last few weeks, and it is such a relief.

More time for reading good books! Less time reading books out of a sense of obligation.

Do you feel as though once you start a book, you must finish? Or do you put down books half-read? I’ve heard speculation that using an e-reader makes people more likely to stop reading a book. Do you find that to be true?


Gretchen Rubin is the author of the #1 New York Times Bestseller The Happiness Project—an account of the year she spent test-driving the wisdom of the ages, current scientific studies, and lessons from popular culture about how to be happier—and the recently released Happier at Home. On her popular blog, The Happiness Project, she reports on her daily adventures in the pursuit of happiness. For more doses of happiness and other happenings, follow Gretchen on Facebook and Twitter.

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*Image courtesy of Abee5.