The Art of Quitting


I literally could not put this book down. I read it all in under two hours. I think I do have a problem with not being able to quit things . . .

In The Art of Quitting, Evan Harris explains the many attitudes, techniques and styles that can be applied to quitting. She also discusses different things that can be quit: objects, people, locations, habits, jobs, and ideas. This book is for people who are ready to quit, but do not know how or when to do so. Harris believes that many people have forgotten that quitting is even an option, becoming entrenched in their lives. I first heard about her book because of a This American Life episode ( I listened to the story a while ago, but just barely decided to read it because I have recently thought about quitting several activities. I tend to trudge along miserably and endure what I hate rather than quit it. (Of her techniques, “Get Fed Up” most accurately resembles my situation, except for the actual quitting part.)

Harris encourages you to take control of your life. If you do not like something or someone, why bother? Make a scene. Be passive aggressive. Burn bridges. Quitting is all about pleasing yourself. (Not all of her techniques are as aggressive as the aforementioned; many are simple and effective, such as “Give Up,” “Muster Willpower,” and “Be Reasonable.”) Harris rejects the supposed moral superiority of “sticking it out.” Quitters, she explains, “have the good sense to admit their mistakes, cut their losses, and move on.” She gives twenty suggestions about the execution of the quit, most of which are practical, but others are hilarious and not applicable to everyday situations. “Deny Involvement”—one of the more extreme options—is my favorite; “Claim you have never heard of the company you work for. Say that you never even applied to the college you are dropping out of. Insist that you’ve never met the person you are married to.”

Yet, although this book does tailor itself to people like me, who have no idea how to quit anything, most people do not have this problem. Many people are far too good at quitting, and could instead use a lesson in sticking with things. And even I knew the various ways to quit before I read the book, and did not learn anything new.

If you have something you might want to quit but are unsure of your options, I would recommend reading this. Yet, although this book did list ways to quit, I must admit that it did not transform my nonquitting self into a quitter who can just drop everything (or even anything) and stop caring. Nevertheless, if you want to quit something and really have no clue where to begin, give the book a try. Maybe it will work better for you than it did for me.


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