Compelled to Finish a Book You’re Not Enjoying: What do You Call That?

A close up of a kitten wearing photoshopped glasses glaring on top of a book. As I mentioned in my review of A Stolen Season, I went from reading because I was convinced I was missing the Magic Thing that had created positive reviews for this book, to reading because I just had to find out how the plot was resolved.

As I said on Twitter, there's almost an annoyed affection I feel for a book that I really dislike but am compelled to finish. I just had to know how the ending was going to happen, even if I didn't enjoy the book or the characters  – and that's something which has happened to me before.

I figured there had to be a term for that. So I asked on Twitter and Facebook – and wouldn't you know, people had ideas, but not one definitive term. There are, however, really, really good suggestions.

I Storified the Twitter conversation here:

Determined to Finish A Book

What do you call it when you’re finishing a book you don’t like just because you want to find out what happens? I asked, Twitter has lots of answers.

Storified by Sarah Wendell · Mon, Nov 19 2012 09:15:45

Is there a term for when you’re really not enjoying a book but you have to finish it just to find out what happens?Sarah Wendell
@SmartBitches SkimmingKim Baccellia
@SmartBitches According to my mother it’s called “Why I read the 50 Shades trilogy”Cyndy Aleo
@smartbitches I usually think of it as Train Wreck Syndrome. Ditto movies/TV shows.Shae Connor
@SmartBitches SUCKS keri
@SmartBitches it’s “skip to the end to see if you were right in what the mystery was even though all the characters were total gits”Katie Dunneback
@SmartBitches Other than torture?Marg Bates
@SmartBitches masochism?AngstyG
@SmartBitches My mom calls it ‘damned and determined’.Jody Wallace
@SmartBitches Yes, the fourth Game of Thrones.Blanche Beecham
@SmartBitches Throwing good money after bad?Talia Thrace
@SmartBitches Masochism?Anne Holly
@SmartBitches My life? :PSeleste deLaney
“@ilikemints: @SmartBitches Hate-read” YES that is the PERFECT TERM. Did you make that up?Sarah Wendell
@SmartBitches Unfortunately, no! But I love it so, so much.Molly Jo
@SmartBitches curiosity? Pig-headedness?Mary Klaebel
@SmartBitches Baited & hooked.PM Newton
@SmartBitches danbrownesiaMel Johansson
@SmartBitches Dan Brown syndrome? ;)Sara Keeth
@SmartBitches I blame it on OCD… Or book fatalism, I have to know why happens even if I don’t really care.Jo
@SmartBitches @ilikemints I like “hate-read.” What’s the term for not enjoying a book but forging on b/c you feel loyal to the author?Mary Briggs
@SmartBitches I call it the “greys anatomy” factor.Carrie Ann Ryan
@mg_briggs @SmartBitches Obligatoread?Molly Jo
@ilikemints @mg_briggs I like that- or obligareadSarah Wendell
RT @SmartBitches: There’s almost an annoyed affection I feel for a book that I really dislike, but can’t stop reading because I need to find out what happens.Dr. Dan Challis
@SmartBitches I feel that same way about a book I read last night!Andria L. Arnold
@SmartBitches “I don’t even like you! Argh! Why am I not done reading you yet!”Wench
@SmartBitches I’m reading a book like that now.Ashley L.
@smartbitches just read a self-pub mystery like that, but VERY annoyed at last line, “Life isn’t tidy. That’s all. Goodbye.” WTF?Laura Kinsale
@LauraKinsale That’s like, “I’m done writing now. Bye!”Sarah Wendell
@SmartBitches That’s why I love ebooks. I delete those and never notice them again! Unlike physical books which taunt me w/ their awfulnesstxvoodoo
@SmartBitches Completism?Lorena O’English
@SmartBitches @ilikemints I just survived an obligaread…reading on out of loyalty to an author whose series I love…er…loved. Painful.Mary Briggs
@SmartBitches I did this recently with an audiobook. Literally screaming at it in the car. Same feeling as bad reality TV.Shawny Jean
@SmartBitches sometimes i read a bad book because i think ‘this has to get better!’Ba dum tiss
@SmartBitches Torture…? Don’t worry I’m the same way.taina fernandez
@SmartBitches yeah, it’s called being suckered in :/highland hussy
@SmartBitches I kept the worst paperback I ever read because I hated how badly written it was so much that it started me writing as a teen.Jennifer Matarese
@SmartBitches Rage-reading?Deanna Raybourn
@SmartBitches I will finish a book, if it’s just a character that I don’t fully love. Otherwise, I give the book about 100 pages, then done.Chris Alexander
@SmartBitches a bit like series where you know that you didn’t enjoy 1 book but you will read the next because you liked the other characteMarg Bates
@SmartBitches Masobookism. It got me through all 4 Twilight books. Fortunately I don’t suffer from it’s sister syndrome, masomoviesm.Liz Lincoln
@SmartBitches If it’s a dirty book, it’s prolly Cockholm Syndrome.Jody Wallace
@jodywallace Cockholm Syndrome should be when a heroine’s poor opinion of the hero is reversed by his magic sex @SmartBitchesErin Satie
@SmartBitches Book-a-holic, optimistic,Regan Taylor
@SmartBitches I call it tortureLela Whitus
RT @lizlincolnwritr: @SmartBitches Masobookism. It got me through all 4 Twilight books. Fortunately I don’t suffer from it’s sister syndrome, masomoviesm.Sarah Wendell
@lizlincolnwritr I think she’s got it. Masobookism! @SmartBitchesErin Satie
@ErinSatie @jodywallace @SmartBitches Masobookism, Cockholm Syndrome. What do you think we have to do to get these in the next Oxford Dict?Liz Lincoln
@SmartBitches Maybe curi-OW-sity. Not restricted to books…works for TV shows, movies, and much more!Laura Xixi
@SmartBitches Thank you for expanding my vocabulary. This is awesome!Experiment BL626
@SmartBitches Ugh, I experienced that recently, too. Maybe it’s a cauliflower book? Endured so you can have dessert/satisfaction.Cecilia Dominic
It was the Fifty Shades of Grey for me. @lizlincolnwritr @SmartBitchesCamilla
@SmartBitches @ilikemints Dorothy Parker once said “This is not a book to be tossed aside lightly. It should be thrown with great force.”Jessica Banks
@SmartBitches recalcitrant compulsionGlenda Burgess
@SmartBitches Odd how many of us suffer the “good girl syndrome” with bad bad books! Like dating come to think of it….Glenda Burgess
@GlendaBurgess “I don’t want to make the book feel bad for being shitty!” @SmartBitchesRedheadedgirl
@SmartBitches @redheadedgirl Okay, so now we’re all in therapy, lol. Just say “no”! Go with your gut, girl! It will end BADLYGlenda Burgess
@GlendaBurgess There’s a bookI gave up on and finally got to the point where I piled up a down comforter to throw my IPAD at @SmartBitchesRedheadedgirl
@SmartBitches That’s me with most books ;-)Tez Miller
@SmartBitches It’s like a car wreck or train wreck I need to know what happened. Like Twilight or any Danielle Steel movie on LifeTimeRaine_D
More must-finish-book terms: apathetic imperative, via Catherine Wade. And “Sin Eater” from @redheadedgirl HASarah Wendell
@SmartBitches Hate read.thelostdwarf
Torture “@SmartBitches: Is there a term for when you’re really not enjoying a book but you have to finish it just to find out what happens?”Lynda Ryba
@SmartBitches Reading The Last Boyfriend & Clare calls having to choke down a book just to finish a “Brussel Sprouts Read”. Haha using that.Still A Damn Wannabe

And also on Facebook, there were other excellent suggestions, like “Apathetic imperative” from Catherine Wade, or “FTF-forced to finish” from Vanessa Lillie.” Redheadedgirl calls it being a “Sin Eater.”

So which is your favorite? Hate-read? Masobookism? Obligaread? Apathetic Imperative? Brussels Sprouts Reading? 

What do you call it? And does it happen to you? Because it happens to me ALL the TIME.

 Thank you to BigStock for the image!
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Random Musings

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  1. 1
    Trixienv says:

    I am gonna call it ABS.  Anita Blake Syndrome.  It is the only thing that got me to read the last 4 or 5 books in the series, and I thinking I may need to go to rehab to convince myself that I absolutely do not need to read the next one.

  2. 2
    cleo says:

    I like FTF – forced to finish, because that’s how it feels.  It happens to me more with action / suspense books than romance – if I can’t figure out how the plot is going to end I’ll plug on, grumbling, but feeling like I *have* to finish it.  And sometimes I do feel that odd affection – I still feel that towards The Firm and I read it some 20 years ago.  By the time I realized that I *hated* everyone in the book and didn’t care about them at all, I was invested enough in the plot to have to finish it,.  And you know, I remember that reading experience more vividly than reading books that I didn’t hate.

    Someone mentioned completism – to me, that describes having to read everything by an author or everything in a series – I suffer from completism when it comes to JAK – I’ve been reading her since early 90s on and I feel compelled to read her new releases, even though I’m mighty, mighty tired of the Arcane Society.  And I’m starting to feel that with Nalini Singh’s Psy/Changling series.  I haven’t loved every book but I’m committed to completing the damn series (if it ever ends)

  3. 3
    KimD says:

    Shit Shingles
    I have a box full of books I regret buying and refuse to display for the curious or donate to torture any other souls.
    I was recently asked, “What’s in the box?”
    “Shit shingles. Handle with care.”

  4. 4

    I’d call it Optimism: either the ending will redeem the book, or the book will be so bad that at least I will be able to enjoy mocking it.

    I’m most often hopeful about redemption when reading books with shitty, unlikable characters. Perhaps they will be humanized in a realistic, honest way and grow and change and in the end, I will find that I like them and find their changes believable.

    And if not, well, there’s always mockery.

  5. 5
    riwally says:

    ECS-Ending Compulsion Syndrome.  A severe form of OCD, when you just can’t put a book down until you try to justify why you’ve kept reading a lousy book with a crappy plot and substandard characters.  Then you go and drink three glasses wine, three times to delete the knowledge that you just read a SHITTY BOOK TO THE VERY END.

  6. 6
    Lyra Archer says:

    This happens with saddening regularity- usually why I refer to myself as a “furious hampster of book-reading rage” to my friends (my folks have learned to stop asking what I’m reading). Though it might be a wise idea to keep a few terms on hand. Some people might completely appreciate an in depth discussion of masobookism, while more delicate company may pearl clutch & spontaneously combust.

  7. 7
    Tamara Hogan says:

    I’m more of the Parker/wallbanger school – life’s too short, and reading time’s too precious, to finish a book I don’t like. Into the donation bag it goes. 

  8. 8
    Joan says:

    I saved this comment from Nili from May 18, 2012 which pretty much sums it up for me too. “…when I say I am a compulsive reader, I mean that in the “some people take medication for this” sort of way.” (Nili)

  9. 9
    FlyingFreeways says:

    I like masobookism as a term.  I turn the experience of reading a crappy book into a WTF finding expedition—I enjoy figuring out exactly why I find the book so awful. 

  10. 10
    GhengisMom says:

    I’ve finally come to regard these books as bad boyfriends. You just keep reading because you started reading it. I am now a pro at breaking up with bad books. It is so freeeeeeing! And then I go traipsing into my next read with starry-eyed optimism. I broke up with Come a Little Closer last night. And I grabbed a tub of ice cream to soothe my resentment over the money and time wasted,  and my comfort read What Happens in London and settled in for the evening.

  11. 11
    Rij says:

    Somebody Else’s Problem

    For me, putting a book aside is almost too easy and I refuse to waste time on a book I’m not enjoying. Which leaves me with not only bad unfinished books but also good books that are left in limbo because something distracted me at a slow bit or I was in the mood for something else.

  12. 12

    Pure literary masochism, also known as my life. I just can’t let a book beat me, it’d be like Al Capone going down for tax evasion.

  13. 13
    Sarah W says:

    Bloody-Minded Stubbornness.

  14. 14
    Joanna S. says:

    My vote is DEFINITELY for “Masobookism.”  That’s it. Like, totally. Fur-shure.

  15. 15
    Jenny Dolton says:

    I call it “Reading For School”—otherwise there is no way I’m finishing a book I hate. I’ll skip to the end to see if maybe the annoying heroine fell off a cliff or was pecked to death by pidgeons, but I won’t bother with the rest of the book.

  16. 16
    LauraN says:

    When I hate a book or catch myself wishing I was closer to the end so I could just figure out how everything ended and move on (usually because I’m just not that invested in the characters), I just read the last chapter or two and move on with my life.

    That being said, I think “Cockholm Syndrome” is a hilarious term, but better used for heroines who stay with an alphole for no apparent reason, aside from his Mighty Wang.

  17. 17

    I read the entire Twilight series wondering when it was going to get good. If that isn’t hate-reading, I don’t know what is. On the bright side, when I talk smack about those books, I can do it from a place of knowledge.

  18. 18
    Alpha Lyra says:

    I like the term “hate reading.” I only do it for books where the author has failed to get me emotionally involved (usually this happens because I dislike the characters), but the plot or premise has successfully hooked me, and I really want to find out what happens. And it’s not enough to just flip to the ending because I want to see how the book gets there. So I’m reading because of curiosity, but with a lack of enjoyment.

  19. 19
    Laurie Evans says:

    I like Cockholm Syndrome and Hate-reading! lol

    I do this less and less as time goes on.  *Sometimes* I will skip forward to see how it ends…  The number of pages I give a book before I move on is brutal! (Very few these days.)

  20. 20

    I like brussel sprouts, so I like “Hate-Read,” “Masobookism,” and “ECS-Ending Compulsion Syndrome.”  I was currently reading a book like that and I just kept reading it hoping it would get better because there was always a glimmer of “it might get better.” With 40 pages or so left, I gave up. I literally made a gutteral roar and threw the book down. Then I donated it to my library’s book sale.

  21. 21
    electricbluecity says:

    Masobookism. You love to read but the damn book just hurts so much with every word.

    Fallen Series by Lauren Kate. I actually grunted when I finished the last book.

  22. 22
    Aurora says:

    I’ve read a lot of books that I couldn’t stand (here’s looking at you Twilight, Janelle Taylor’s first three ecstasy books, others,) and I’m the same way. I don’t give up easily, and this also comes towards books. It would take a lot of will power for me to say “forget about it,” and just put it down. What of the term “literary masochism” or something like “book whore?” even though its wrong and time consuming you still end up doing it…hope message is okay.

    http://sveta-randomblog.blogsp…

  23. 23
    Frisc says:

    Bragging rights.

  24. 24
    Lostshadows says:

    I like “train or car wreck syndrome.” You know it’s bad, but you feel compelled to slow down and have a good look at the disaster.

    I’m getting better at, intentionally, not finishing books. Now I just need to get better at avoiding “oooo shiny! syndrome” and “library book overload” and I can cut back on the unintentionally not finished ones.

  25. 25
    Vicki says:

    For a while, I was that way with Katherine Stone. I loved her first couple books then they started to be similar and all her characters had jewel colored eyes. I finally just gave up though I am still sometimes tempted. I am now at book 5 in Virgin River and starting to feel a little that way, compelled to continue though not as enamored as I once was. Once there were guys like that, too, beautiful and sexy and exciting initially but just not quite right for the long term….it’s not you, it’s me. We have to stop seeing each other.

  26. 26
    Kylie says:

    Hmm, I don’t do this as much anymore- I skip to the end and then continue or reject based on that. 
    M y husband on the other hand will tell me how bad the book is, and one occassion he was depressed by the storyline, and will then refuse to stop reading.  the book that depressed him ( he was moping around for over a day) was some American super romance from harlequin.  He gets much more upset than i do about bad storylines. So, I will go with sadobookism. 
    The good thing about bad books, it makes appreciate good writers all the more. 

  27. 27
    PamG says:

    I used to call the process of finishing a book I disliked “homework.”  I didn’t always do it either.  I now use the modified Nancy Pearl rule.  If you don’t like it after 50 pages, move on, unless you’re over 50, in which case you deduct a page for each year past 50.  I only feel obligated to read *mumble* pages these days, and thanks to book blogs and ebooks, I never have to wait for a better book.  Bad prose is more likely to turn me off than bad characters, but I also hate it when a series that I’ve been reading becomes so static and repetitive that I can’t distinguish between books.  Stephanie Plum #17 was the end of Evanovich for me, but that series was all “obligareads” since maybe #6.  Stephanie Laurens, too.  Same structure, same heros, same sex scenes, same words, same fucking ruched nipples…. 

  28. 28

    Guilty Displeasure.  since it’s NOT a guilty pleasure (or any pleasure for that matter).

  29. 29
    KellyM says:

    I’m a completist.  If I’ve invested time in starting something, I need to finish it no matter how bad it is.  This is especially true if it’s something that everyone is talking about and I want to find out what all the fuss is about (50 Shades of Ruining My Weekend, I’m looking at you).  It’s very very rare that I refuse to finish a book.  Occasionally I’ll put aside a series if it’s forgettable enough (Anita Blake).  But yes, sadly, I’m a completist.  And apparently a masochist in some cases (thank you Twilight, may I have another?).

  30. 30
    DianeO says:

    I kind of like Hate-Read.  I find this happens on my Kindle versus an actual book, because I can’t throw the Kindle across the room as I used to. Since I’ve starting reading your site, I’ve found a lot more great books and am not “grabbing” anything that seems remotely good which makes me want to throw them across the room when they turn out to be shit.  But the book Laura Kinsale mentions in your twitter convo, Wow…how lazy was that writer? 

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