5 Reasons to Keep Reading a Boring Book


October 15, 2012 by chriszumtobel

We’ve all struggled with a book before.

That book where each time you turn the page, you find your eyes wandering to the bottom corner and thinking, I’m only that far! I’ve been reading forever!, and then you look at your watch and realize it has only been ten minutes…

Or the one where you wonder how the author possible thought their story makes sense… Or their dialogue sounds remotely like real people… Or that a single page of the story was even worth writing…  You know the book.

When is it time to put this book down and say, Okay, maybe later…?

Well I believe there are 5 basic criteria, which make a book reading worthy and if your book fits 2 or more of them you may just have to keep on plugging away at it.
I’m writing this post because I have just recently finished Slaughterhouse Five, and I have to admit, it really didn’t capture my attention early on the way some of Vonnegut’s other books have.  But, luckily I kept at it and about half way through I realized how great of a decision it had been, as the story got more and more interesting page after page!  It made me think about which books are worth the battle and which books should just become maybe laters”

1. Required Reading

Ok, so I started with the obvious one: If a book is required for a class, or a job, or even an ambition, that may be a good reason to read it.  But is it enough of a reason to make yourself miserable.  If the book you’re required to read for class doesn’t meet another of the requirements on this list, maybe just read the key passages or the Sparknotes, read at it a little bit, but don’t make yourself hate the class because you end up hating the book so much.  (I’m going to add here: just make sure it’s not laziness that is the reason you’re not reading.  Use the time: read a different book, focus on another class or maybe even another aspect of the same class.)

2.  A Favorite Author

I say favorite, but it doesn’t actually need to be a favorite, but just an author whose work you have enjoyed in the past.  This was the case with Slaughterhouse Five: at first, I wasn’t loving the book but I knew from other books that I really loved Vonnegut for his unique style and the opinions throughout his book, so I stuck with it and I was sure glad I did.

3.  Recommended to You

If a book was given to you by someone you respect or care about, sometimes it is worth the extra effort to sit down each night and chip away at it.  People and friends are important, and we don’t want to let them down by not even attempting a book they thought was worth suggesting to us.  If it really isn’t a good book, then just try to learn something small from it (even if its just what not to read) or enjoy it in some simple way…

4.  Regarded as a Classic

Some of these so called “Classics” can be absolutely grueling reads… but that doesn’t mean they can’t be amazing books with some equally timeless messages throughout.  I haven’t yet read either of Tolstoy’s masterpieces, but just from glancing at the pages (and reading some of his lesser works) I know that those two beasts are going to be a challenge, but hopefully someday I’ll find that they meet a couple of the criteria on this list and I will get through them – because I really know it will be worth it.

5.  An Easy Read

Certain books are just easy to read.  They might not be the highest level writing you will ever see, but sometimes that makes them easy to pound through in only a night or two.  If you’ve got yourself one of these books and it fits one more of the reasons on this list (say a friend gave it to you or it’s considered classic) I recommend just reading it.  Why not right? One more book to knock off your list on your path to being “well-read”.

If you follow these guidelines, more often than not you will make the right decision when faced with whether or not to battle through the boredom of an unengaging read.

How do you decide which books are worth reading? Do you agree with these guidelines?


6 thoughts on “5 Reasons to Keep Reading a Boring Book

  1. Maddie says:

    I am reading Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne and I really want to finish it just to say I read it. It is so so boring! But I will finish it! haha! I enjoyed reading your post!

    • Haha I’ve got that one sitting on my bookshelf.. opened it once and put it right back on the bookshelf… good for you for getting through it and thanks for stopping by the blog, I’ll check yours out tonight!

  2. Mike says:

    First there is a saying that I find spot on: There are no boring books, only bored readers!

    Most people, especially most young people, haven’t had enough experience in life to actually be bored; every new experience should be exciting. But what is often confused with boredom is the reader’s inability to be engaged with the reading.

    I know the feeling. Back in the 1970s a friend tried to get me interested in Science Fiction; he had me read many of the classics and I filled in by reading my way through a great deal of the Science Fiction section at the local library. But even though I discovered some interesting or fun fiction, for the most part I was undergoing a torture of disinterest … or as you might say, I was bored out of my mind!

    II didn’t get the Science Fiction gene and many other people are genetically unable to read or understand other forms of literature, but that doesn’t make them bad people.

    Another factor is Time: even the best of readers cannot always meet the challenge of some literature. Books like War and Peace benefit greatly from a knowledge of the history of Europe and Russia. If you are 15 years old, the 1200 pages might be surmountable but the historical features will be muddled and the novel will be “boring.” Wait another 10 or 20 years and Tolstoy will knock your socks off.

    One other way books can be “boring” is when they are required reading. I remember in High School how tedious and off-putting those required texts were—Silas Marner, Moby Dick, A Tale of Two Cities, Catcher In the Rye, The Return of the Native—we hated them! But this is a clear example of how it’s the reader that is bored and not the book that is boring. Later in life I had the opportunity to reread most of these required school books and except for Catcher, which was truly awful, I really enjoyed the reading.

    • Thanks for the thoughtful comment! I had actually meant to include time / maturity in one of the reasons but totally forgot about it. I know exactly what you mean: as you mature certain books which you used to think of as boring or uninteresting will start to inspire you in new ways and you will find them a much more engaging read.

      Sometimes required reading can just ruin a book. Believe it or not, that was the case with The Great Gatsby for me in high school… I can’t believe it after rereading it now, but I guess I just didn’t want to spend my summer reading and didn’t even give it a chance!

      As for The Catcher in the Rye, can’t say I agree with you there. It is a wonderful novel (although I didn’t read it in high school), and since reading it this summer I have made my way through the rest of Salinger catalog and enjoyed every minute.

      Once again thanks for the great comment and thanks for stopping by, I have been loving your blog!

  3. Marcia says:

    I like your ideas here, Chris. I think today, we are so used to high-paced, action-filled adventures (tv, movies, books or games) that many of us have forgotten how to be patient and let a story build slowly. I can usually tell by the end of page one if I’m going to like a writer’s style, but sometimes the story line itself takes a slow immersion–kind of like settling down into a warm bath–before we reach that “Aaaaah,” moment.

    I would say one thing. If you start reading a book that sounds like it was written by a third-grader, and it’s NOT a children’s book, you might need to skip right to the chase. There are way too many good books out there to read really bad writing. For me, lousy writing, poor editing, and glaring spelling or grammatical errors are reason enough to stop. Immediately.

    But that’s just me.

    Thanks for liking my blog, and for starting such an interesting one here. I’ll check back, for sure.

  4. Sharmaine says:

    I used to be a finisher I read everything, no matter how bad I think they are. But I realize life is too short–and time is too precious for borinng books.

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