Chronicles of a Fickle Reader


Almost immediately after starting school at the end of August I noticed a pretty drastic change in my reading. I expected to lose a big chunk of time, but didn’t foresee the impact that time would have on the actual content of my reading. I alluded to it on Monday, but I’ve been an extremely fickle, book-hopping reader lately. Last week alone, I think I started and stopped two or three books before landing on what I read and I’m not sure how to feel about it.

On one hand, I’m starting to DNF books as soon as I get the sense they won’t work for me, which has been one of my reading goals for years. No more hanging on to so-so books when my time is so precious. On the other hand, reading 20 pages here and 40 pages there before wiping the slate clean and starting over again means I’m not progressing through much. There has to be a point where picky becomes self-sabotaging, right? I’ve kind of let everything sit this week in hopes of avoiding a repeat of last week’s woes, just waiting for a book to call to me.

Do you mind feeling like a fickle reader? Is it better for you to book hop or settle on a single read?


  • Oh I can relate to this. With moving and new job, I was a lot slower at reading over the summer, but even after I settled in, I had trouble settling on a book to read, jumped around a lot, and DNF’d more than I normally do. I finally turned a corner and have been getting back in a better rhythm, but I still feel way behind. I think it just comes in phases.

  • I can definitely relate to this right now, although I don’t have a real reason behind my fickleness of late. I’ve bookmarks in a good number of books at the same time and when I do sit down to read I’m finding myself less connected to the books themselves. I don’t know what’s going on! Usually revisiting a favourite book or author helps me in this kind of situation, but even that has proven useless this time round. I think when the right book comes along, I’ll be pulled away from being so finicky, until then it’s a bit meh!
    Waiting for a book to call to you seems like the right route to go down.

    • I actually had the thought about picking up a favorite yesterday! I have one of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s books still unread on my shelves and may have to give it a go.

  • I’ve definitely been there – a lot this year. It’s incredibly frustrating and you almost end up feeling like you aren’t reading anything. For me, not being able to settle on something is directly related to how chaotic my life is. And I do understand the feeling of being quick to DNF books since you’re reading time has been significantly cut. That’s how I started being so quick to DNF.
    Sometimes it helps me to read something that doesn’t require much brain power to get me back on track…I almost view it as a break from reading, but I’m still actually reading.

    • I think you’re right about this year in general, so none of this is helping :/ I’m going to have to find something light and fluffy!

  • Kailana

    I hate book hopping weeks. I feel like I accomplish nothing. But, I am currently going through a no time to read life and a book takes me like a week without the book hopping. It’s sad!

  • Jennifer Hansman Rosenberg

    I’ve also been book hopping lately. So much! I returned 8-10 books last week that I either never opened because they didn’t sound good or read 20 pages of and quit. Luckily, I have no problems quitting a book. I’m in a major slump and I just need to find the right book to get me out. Suggestions appreciated!

    • Everyone else is giving some great suggestions, because I’m totally stuck in the same boat (with returning books unread, too)! Sending you a ton of good book vibes :)

  • Time + energy available vs. books you’ve been planning to read but don’t grab you right away… it can be difficult to find a balance sometimes. I wouldn’t call it being “picky” though — it’s not like you’re refusing to eat your greens — maybe “selective” is a nicer-to-yourself way of thinking of it? The last thing you need is to be stressing over how you spend your precious free time!

  • I think this is a good thing. Reduced free time results in prioritizing that free time…DNF freely, my friend! You can always pick up the same book later if it calls to you again. :)

  • I’ve also been fickle lately. I think it’s because I’m sick and in a bad mood. Books just haven’t been holding my attention. I’m hoping it’s just a phase and will go away.

  • I hate it when that happens – it feels like a waste of reading time when I can’t find something worth settling on. It doesn’t surprise me to hear you’re having that problem right now, though, with all the other stuff you have going on! When I start feeling this way, I pick up some short stories – you only have to concentrate for 5-20 pages, and then you can move onto another story. I hope you’re book-hopping resolves itself soon!

    • It really does feel like a waste of time! You’re probably on to something with the short stories – I read an essay/interview collection early in the week and it helped :)

  • Debbie Rodgers

    The older I’ve gotten, the more comfortable I am with DNFs. The books out there are countless, our minutes in this life not so much.

  • I am still not comfortable with DNFs. Sometimes I torture myself a little with my insistence on finishing everything I start BUT I am also extremely selective about which books I read to begin with, so maybe that balances it out a little bit? Also, I admit, I do occasionally enjoy giving a book a thoughtful negative review. After a while, gushing about books gets a bit boring.

    • It’s not really the DNF I mind, I’m just struggling with so many in a row! I feel like I’m not reading anything :( But you’re definitely right about a good, thoughtful negative review.

  • I wouldn’t worry too much. Sooner or later, you’ll find a good book to settle down with and before you know it, you have a streak of fulfilling books going. I do know how you feel, though. When I get to the point where nothing seems to work, I look for something completely different, a graphic novel or a short story. That usually works like a cleanser, so that I can start fresh afterwards.

  • Amanda

    I hate that! When I have been so excited to delve into something and it just is flat. There’s disappointment and also such annoyance at wasting time – especially when you have less of it. I fall back to comfort rereads when I get in this kind of mood – though I think graphic novels are also a great way to go for something different.

  • I’m all for DNFing, although I still rarely do it, but the way you’re describing your reading of late would make me bonkers.
    But let’s be real – there is no enjoyment reading a book you don’t care about. So if it takes some hopping around to find something that sticks, then let yourself do that. Especially since your reading time IS so precious now!

    • Yeah, I definitely don’t want to be stuck reading something that’s not working…I just want to be reading something :( booo

  • Rebecca Foster

    This happens to me occasionally, usually when I’m really busy and distracted. I’d say give yourself permission to read some tried and true page turners!

  • Greg Hill

    This is a tricky one but with so many books out there I will DNF if it’s not working. The thing I do is if a book is boring me I’ll tend to put off reading anyway and go off and blog or something, lol, so I may as well DNF! Once I find something that DOES work I’m good again. :) And yeah I can be a fickle reader from time to time…

    I think it’s good you’re not sticking with something you don’t enjoy, time is too precious.

  • I go through phases where I seem to quit on several books in a row. It can be really frustrating! That’s one reason I really like Kindle books. If I’m on the fence, I might try the sample and if it hasn’t grabbed me by the end then I won’t go any further. I definitely don’t think you should ever feel bad about giving up on a book. Life is too short and there are too many excellent books to waste time on one that isn’t doing it for you!

    • I always seem to forget about the Kindle samples, but I really need to use them more often (especially before checking something out from the library!).

  • Like a lot of people here, I go through phases! My favorite thing when I have a new batch of library books is to sit down with them and read a few pages of each one — it’s heaven, but it does make it hard to settle on a single read. At the moment I’ve been doing a lot of tearing through books to the finish, but I know a new dilettantish reading period is coming up. :p

    • I think I’m going to do the few-page-read thing with this stack I have here right now – I need to narrow things down a bit!

  • Ceillie Simkiss

    I definitely have times when I get more fickle than usual – my policy is if I’ve DNF’d more than three books in a row, I stop reading for a day or two and go try a few movies on netflix, and then I’ll try them again. However, sometimes the books are just bad, and I feel absolutely no guilt in not finishing stuff that don’t entertain me.

    • You’re a smart one! That definitely worked for me – I took a few days away and was able to read a bit more happily this weekend :)

  • I am of the old school. If you start a book, you are “morally obligated” to finish it! Ha. Maybe I’ll put it aside for a while (maybe months), but I’ll always come back and finish the darned thing!

  • Oh boy, I can’t answer this! Sometimes I’m one thing, sometimes the other. I think it goes back to what I thin yo called being an “emotional” reader. Right now, I need soothing and to sink into a book so I’m abandoning more quickly than usual, but at the same time book hopping makes me feel as jittery as reading the news these days.

    I’m not much help, am I?!

    • I’m right there, having the hardest time sinking in! I did manage to finish a few this weekend, though, so I guess that’s some sort of progress!

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  • I try to stick with one book and not hop around but you do have to be in the right mood for certain books — like I did put aside H Is for Hawk recently and it’s not b/c it’s not going to be good — I’m sure it is — but I needed a quicker read at the time. I try to pick up the right books at the right time; I guess that is key.

  • Julie @ Smiling Shelves

    I think book hopping would drive me a little crazy. I try to give a book a full 100 pages before I decide to DNF it, but I can’t always make it that far. For the most part, though, I’m a committed book monogamist until I make it through! :)

  • I’m totally a picky reader. I usually will start a book and then finish it no matter what, even if it’s not working for me. I don’t do that because I like giving low ratings but because I’m weird and like to analyze what worked and what didn’t. I also have an eternal hope that the book will get better.

  • Kelly Sloan

    Interesting! I’m fickle but in sort of the opposite way. I read in “moods” – so a couple cozy mysteries, then maybe a spy novel, then a classic, then something funny, then nonfiction, etc. Rather than book hop, I’m slow to take a new read on before mulling over what type of mood I’m in.