Make the most of Lent: Give up a bad book habit

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Category: Reading

As a classically trained Catholic, I can’t help but get that niggling feeling every February that there's something I should be doing, something involving reflecting and penance and giving up something I love. That’s right folks, it’s Lent!

Though Lent is normally limited to practising Christians, the message of removing a bad habit or unnecessary luxury from your life can be carried over to the greater population. Personally, I haven’t given anything up for Lent since the year I decided to cut out sugar, and then realised that my entire diet was sugar. It didn’t go well. However, I have seen many friends and peers use Lent as a time to set new goals, try new things or break bad habits. So this year, I thought, why not try and break a bad book habit or two?

Whether it’s breaking the spines on new paperbacks or scanning a book to see if it gets good, we all do them, in secret. Here are a few of the worst offences in the book habit world.

Cheating on your book, or reading two books at once.

We’ve all done it: Picked up a book and started reading only to see a newer shinier cover a few days later and get totally lured in by its charms. ‘Oh, but look,’ you might say, ‘it’s got a quote from JK Rowling on the cover, and the reviews are excellent’. Step away. Respect the relationship you have with your original book. The new book will still be there waiting when you finish it!

Eyes too big for your bookshelf

This I one I am particularly bad for. Picture the scene: You have lots of books to read at home, but you pop into a bookshop, ‘for a look’. Suddenly all you see are titles by authors you love, authors you want to read and authors you’ve never even heard of, but look quite good. Twenty minutes later, you emerge, with six new books because you wanted four but they were on a 3 for 2 offer.  To relieve the pressure, stem these cravings by taking a healthier trip to your library or a well-timed book borrowing from a pal.


This vice has many names and many guises. You might be the type who always reads the last page first, or you might be the one to skim through the pages pre-read to see if anything good happens. You might even be the rare one who scans for the dirty bits (here’s looking at you 50 Shades of Grey readers).  Personally, the only time I have ever committed this reading sin is when I thought someone had died in Game of Thrones and couldn’t handle sleeping without knowing if they lived or not. Spoiler alert: everyone you love dies in these books.

I know it’s hard, but let the book reveal its secrets to you the way the author intended. After all, it’s kind of the point of reading it in the first place. Even if it means you can’t sleep.

Hands off my book

Last but not least, bad book handling. This is my worst offence by far. If I bought the book, chances are you can tell if I have read it. Spines are unceremoniously cracked, pages are turned down and in some cases there is even - gasp - writing in the margins! I blame the spinebreaking on the unfortunate combination of big hands and bad eyesight, but for the rest I have no excuse! I like to mark interesting passages and sometimes I just don’t have a post it note handy!

If you’re like me , you could try keeping notes in a notebook with page numbers instead and try to pretend the book belongs to someone else.

For Lent this year, I'll try and keep my double-booking, margin-writing, corner-folding self in check, and maybe by the end of it, I'll have broken a habit or two, instead of a spine!

What are your bad book habits? Do you read ahead or double book yourself? Do you do something so shocking I haven’t even thought of it? Let us know in the comments!