As I sit down to write this, I can see the nightstand next to my bed. There are no less than four books piled upon it. Inside each book is a bookmark, noting the page I last read. Next to the stack is a Kindle, itself brimming with books waiting for my attention. I even belong to an informal book club that meets in just a few weeks and I’m not yet finished with this month’s selection.
However, I’m done with “Unfinished Guilt Syndrome.”
Despite the made-up name, Unfinished Guild Syndrome has plagued me for years, especially regarding books. In the past, when I have started reading a book, I’ve felt compelled to finish it, even if I wasn’t enjoying it. More than anything, the guilt associated with putting a book down knowing that I wouldn’t pick it back up was the real deterrent. I’ve never liked giving up on a book.
And it’s not just me. The website Goodreads recently published a list of the most “initiated but unfinished books,” as reported by its users. The top ten were:
- Catch-22 by Joseph Heller
- The Lord of the Rings (The Lord of the Rings, #1-3) by J.R.R. Tolkien
- Ulysses by James Joyce
- Moby-Dick by Herman Melville
- Holy Bible: King James Version
- Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
- War and Peace by Leo Tolstoy
- Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
- One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel García Márquez
- The Silmarillion by J.R.R. Tolkien
These are all classics and I’m sure individuals are more than willing to argue that the books are worth finishing, but still they are only partially read by the masses. So, is pushing through a book you dislike or have lost interest in really the best course? And, obviously, it’s not just books — is any hobby worth pursuing to the end if you dislike it? The time you waste feeling guilty and begrudgingly finishing the project could be spent doing something than you actually enjoy (reading a book you like better, knitting a scarf you really want, refinishing a chair you will use and enjoy).
Understanding what I have to sacrifice to do something I don’t have to do and don’t enjoy, I’ve finally given up Unfinished Guilt Syndrome. It’s OK to stop reading a book that I’m simply not enjoying. It’ll result in a greater number of books read overall, and prompt me to try again in a year or so, when perhaps the time will be right or to give away the book to someone who might enjoy it more than me.
Are you ready to let go of Unfinished Guilt Syndrome?