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SCOT BELLAVIA: Quitting a Book

I used to think it was virtuous to finish every book I started. You know the advice: “Always finish what you start.” This was before I learned we don’t retain most of what we read. I’ve since seen a higher virtue in quitting a book.

Quitting a book keeps reading for fun, well – fun. Since I became okay with abandoning a book, I’ve read more worthwhile literature, which makes me want to read more.

A big reason I read is to be a better writer. If I’m reading good books, I’ll improve. Better to see something done well than to attempt the opposite of something done poorly.

Though we don’t remember a lot of what we read, stuff sticks. I’ve found it hard to erase certain scenes—even in books I quit—from my mind. Quitting a book saves me memory space for valuable content.

On that note, almost every book I’ve quit was because of its gratuitous sexual content. You may infer whatever about me, my community, or my upbringing from that fact. You may be correct. Still, it’s alarming what remains on the shelves of our libraries when their neighbors are getting cancelled or burned because they don’t agree with someone’s sense of political correctness or felt experience.

Maybe you’ve been quitting books for longer than I’ve been reading through them. Maybe it’s now novel to you that you can abandon certain novels. Maybe you still consider it more noble to finish the books you start. The fact remains that we’re in control of what we put in front of our faces that goes into our brains. This is an awesome power we should handle responsibly.

– Scot Bellavia

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