It’s a conundrum faced by every reader at some point – ditch a book that you are just not enjoying, or see it through with grim determination until the bitter end.
A new poll suggests that many of us are unwilling to give up on a book, no matter how much we are struggling, while others will wait weeks, or even months, before conceding defeat.
And it also indicates that the majority of Britons will avoid reading material that they believe will make them sad, with a considerable proportion saying they see reading as a form of escape, and want to be transported to a happy place.
The Reading Agency, which commissioned the survey to mark World Book Night on Monday April 23, suggested that anyone who finds themselves facing “book block” should not force themselves to continue with the book in question.
And the books that adults are most likely to struggle to finish? The poll suggests that readers are more likely to have difficulty with modern-day novels, such as Fifty Shades Of Grey, rather than works by classic authors such as Dickens or Emily Bronte.
Overall, more than a fifth (22%) of the 2,000 people polled said you should always finish a book you have started.
Around one in six (15%) said that they would give up if they were struggling with a book after one to three weeks, with 11% saying they would stop reading after four to six days, 13% after two to three days and 6% would stop up to a day after.
Books adults are most likely to struggle to finish:
Source: Reading Agency poll
Fifty Shades Of Grey, EL James
The Fellowship Of The Ring, JRR Tolkien
Harry Potter And The Order of the Phoenix, JK Rowling
Great Expectations, Charles Dickens
Wuthering Heights, Emily Bronte
In addition, just under one in 10 (9%) said they would persevere for one to three months, with smaller proportions saying they would wait longer.
Asked what factors make it hard to finish a book, the most common answer (chosen by 51%) was that they find it boring, or are not enjoying it, with around one in four (24%) saying they find it hard to concentrate when reading, and 20% too tired from work and family life.
The majority said that reading can have a positive effect on mood and wellbeing, and of those that agreed with this, 28% said that they would turn to a book if they felt lonely, and 24% said they would do so if they felt stressed.
One in five (20%) said that they would definitely avoid a book if they thought it would make them sad, with 35% saying they would possibly avoid it.
Of this group, 39% said that they use reading for escapism, so want to be transported to happy places, while 28% said that they feel sad enough at the state of the world, and a similar proportion (27%) felt sad about something in their own lives and do not want the books they read to add to this.
Among those who said they have started but not finished reading a book, the most common book to not finish was Fifty Shades Of Grey by EL James, followed by Tolkien’s The Lord Of The Rings: The Fellowship Of The Ring; Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix by JK Rowling; Great Expectations by Charles Dickens and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights.
Sue Wilkinson, chief executive of The Reading Agency, said: “At a time when one in five of us will experience anxiety or depression, and world events can leave people feeling confused or scared, reading has never been more important. As this research shows, reading can have a hugely positive impact on our health and wellbeing; it can build empathy and help us understand the world and the people around us.
“At a time when so many brilliant books are being written and published, you should never force yourself to read something you’re not enjoying. World Book Night is the chance to find a book that works for you.”
– The Censuswide poll questioned 2,000 British people in March.