It’s said that if you find just one small useful piece of information in a book, then reading it has been worth your time.
So, does that mean that we should finish every book we read in the hope that we find that one snippet of useful information?
Here are my thoughts on that.
To keep going or not …
Do you keep on reading a book in the hope that you’re going to find something useful, even if the material is not really ticking your boxes, or should you consign the book to your DNF (Did Not Finish) pile?
Let’s consider the advantages and disadvantages of each scenario.
Scenario #1 – Finishing the book
Let’s say that you’ve started reading a book. You’re not enjoying it and you’re not getting any value from it but you still keep preserving and push on to the end.
There are two advantages if you continue reading.
Firstly, you might find something valuable in the book if you persevere, and the book might get better as you go further into it. (Of course, there’s always the chance the book won’t get better and you won’t learn anything from it at all. So, this advantage is a kind of “swings and roundabouts” scenario; It could happen, but it might not.)
Secondly, by finishing the book, you’re proving that you can stick at something without giving up, even though the going got tough. So, finishing the book gives you an emotional pat on the back. (However, this could be a “vanity metric” since you’ve wasted time, energy, and effort in reading a book that had no value for you whatsoever.)
The main disadvantage of persevering with a book that is not delivering on value is that you’re wasting time and resources. You’re using up your precious willpower on a task that’s useless.
Secondly, reading a book that you’re not enjoying can sour your attitude to reading books in the future, making it really difficult to pick up another book and continue developing the reading habit.
Scenario #2 – DNFing the book
In this scenario, you’re reading a book that is giving you no value, so you decide to put the book on your DNF pile and move onto something else.
So, one big advantage of this scenario is that you won’t be wasting time reading something that is worthless to you. Instead, you can go back to reading something that does provide you with value and is worth your time.
This tactic keeps you keen to read and doesn’t sour your reading experience. Also, by moving on to a new book, you’re actively trying to find value, meaning that there’s a greater chance you’ll find it!
Turning to the disadvantages of this scenario, you have to consider the possibility that you might be missing out on something of real value by not reading the whole book. (However, that’s very unlikely. If you’ve read the first 50 to 100 pages of the book and gained nothing, it’s highly unlikely that you’ll find anything useful in the next 100 pages.)
Also, if you abandon the book, you’ll feel that you have wasted your money on something that you’ve gained no value from. (That said, you have at least recovered the time that you would otherwise have wasted.)
My opinion …
If you’ve got to this point in the post and read all of my italic comments, you’ll have probably guessed that my view on this is that you do not have to finish every book that you read.
If you’re gaining nothing from reading the book, simply put it into your DNF pile. The book may be more relevant to you in the future when you’ve moved on in your reading and learning journey.
You may also find that many books become irrelevant to you as you acquire more knowledge. So, it’s not worth your while to read books that just tell you what you already know.
In conclusion, don’t be afraid to DNF a book. Life is too short to read a book that you either a) are not enjoying or b) is not providing you with any value. There are plenty of other books out there that will fulfill both of those criteria!
(If you’re struggling to find great books, check out my 10/10 book category)
What do you think?
I’d be really interested to learn what you think about this topic. Do you DNF books? Or do you hang in there until the bitter end?
Let me know in the comments box below.
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