We’ve all dealt with the frustration of a book we can’t seem to finish. This is why you should always finish reading difficult content.
Maybe it’s assigned reading. Maybe it’s a book with specific information inside that will help advance your career. Or maybe, it’s a book that you feel, deep down, that you should have read by now, like Ulysses by James Joyce.
If you’ve trouble finishing reading difficult content, you’re not alone. According to a survey on Goodreads, nearly two-thirds of readers give up on a bad book before they turn the last page.
However, there are many reasons to persevere even when the going is hard.
The Benefits of Finishing Difficult Reads
Sometimes, the primary benefit of finishing a difficult book is the attached grade. When you are assigned a hard book in high school or college, your choices come down to reading the book, doing the assignments, or failing the lesson.
However, even when school is over, difficult books should still come across your path. These books may be ones that contain technical knowledge that will help you in a career or hobby. As an example, if you wish to become a ham radio operator, you first need to absorb a technical manual and take a licensing test.
Other times, great insights will be hidden between the covers of a dense and difficult book. You can gain empathy for people who are not like you. You can improve your brain function and sharpen your memory. You will also find that reading hard books increases your general knowledge and improves your vocabulary.
If you are interested in academics or if you like to write essays, the best thing you can do is read a hard book.
How to Finish Reading Difficult Content
No matter why you have to read it, getting a handle on how is imperative. There are a lot of things you can do to cut difficult material into more manageable bites. Working through a difficult text methodically allows you to get through the material and absorb more of what you read.
1. Start by Surveying the Content
When faced with a hard read, don’t try dive right in. Instead, give yourself an overview of what you will read.
Look at the table of contents first. Chapter names and descriptions can help you get a handle on the material. This step lets you identify what is important before you start.
Take a bit of time to page through the back matter, the introduction, and to skim a page or two of each chapter. You’ll learn about the writing style and pacing to prime yourself for deeper reading. These prereading actions will make it easier for you to digest the book when you read in earnest.
2. Take Notes
Keep a pen and notebook nearby to take notes as you read. This sort of notetaking is considered essential for increasing reading comprehension and retention of what you read.
Your first time reading, do not take breaks to look up words that you don’t understand unless they severely impede your comprehension of the text as a whole. Instead, note these vocabulary words to look up later. At this point, you are reading for the gist of the subject matter.
Read our guide to the best apps to take notes while reading.
3. Summarize Each Chapter
When you finish reading a chapter, write down a few sentences about what you read in your own words. Rewording what you read engages critical thinking skills and helps ensure that you understand what you took in. It’s a more useful method for consuming difficult content than passive reading.
Learn more about how to analyze a book.
4. Consider Photocopying a Chapter or Reading an Ebook
If you do not want or are not allowed to make marks in the physical book you are reading, give yourself a substitute. Underline passages that seem particularly important. Write questions in the margins. Highlight sentences that you do not understand. The freedom to make marks can help you get a deeper understanding of what you read.
5. Read Out Loud
Consider reading the material out loud to help with comprehension. When we read aloud, we read more slowly than we do when we read in our heads. This slower pace is good for reading comprehension.
Additionally, you engage different parts of your brain when you speak than just reading in your head. That, plus hearing the test as you read it, can help anchor your reading assignment.
6. Try an Audiobook
Some people will claim that listening to an audiobook instead of physically reading is “cheating.” They are incorrect.
Research has shown time and again that when people listen to audiobooks, they are just as likely to have high comprehension as when they read. Studies also show that similar areas of the brain light up with activity when reading and listening.
The important part is to listen actively. Do not attempt to listen to difficult content while you are doing something else. If your attention is divided, you will not be able to concentrate fully. Sit in a quiet, distraction-free location. Take notes just as you would when reading a paper book or ebook.
By engaging in the activities that help with comprehension and retention during active reading, you can benefit from listening to difficult content. Audible is a great audiobook service for readers. To find out why read our Audible review.
When It’s Okay to Abandon Difficult Content
Any piece about why you should always finish reading difficult content would be incomplete without mentioning the exceptions to the rule. There will always be books that you just can’t get into, where finishing would be torture. Your reading speed would drop to a glacial pace, and you probably would have little to no retention anyway.
Author Mark Billingham once said that if a book hadn’t gripped you in 20 pages, it was perfectly okay to angrily throw it across the room. His reasoning is simple: life is short, and we only have so many hours we can dedicate to reading. If a book isn’t giving you what you want by the time you’re 20 pages in, you should direct those reading hours elsewhere.
The Final Word About Why You Should Always Finish Reading Difficult Content
The time spent reading has benefits that range from completing an assignment to acquiring new knowledge. You may even find that a book that was difficult to start is a pleasure to finish.
The benefit of reading difficult books is a cumulative one. Each time you complete hard reading, you get to keep what you found inside the story. You can add it to your knowledge, making new connections between ideas.
You become a wiser, better read, more well-rounded human being.
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FAQ About Why You Should Always Finish Reading Difficult Content
How can I retain an entire book?
Cut it into smaller bites. Read a chapter at a time, taking notes along the way. Don’t be afraid to reread.
Is it okay to listen to an audiobook instead?
Absolutely. As long as you listen actively, you can get the same benefit from listening.
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