Sunday, October 19, 2014

When to Abandon a Book

Now I'm not talking about abandoning a book that you're writing. There's a time for that, sometimes, and that's for another post. I'm talking about when to abandon a book that you're reading.

When you're in school, you're required to read books that you wouldn't normally choose on your own. And that's what school is for. To challenge you, to get you to think critically about things you wouldn't normally think about.

Even after college, I felt that if I started reading a book, I was making a commitment to finish it. No matter how boring, awful, or predictable it was. I sloughed through some real stinkers, just because I felt it was my obligation as a reader to finish it. And maybe, I had some small hope that it would get better.

But you know what? Life is too short for bad books.

That's not to say that sometimes you don't take a chance on a complex book. But when you're reading for pleasure, you should be reading things that you enjoy. Duh.

Yet it took me years -- YEARS! -- to feel comfortable abandoning a book that I had started. Some say you should dump a book after fifty pages if you're not feeling it. I still give books a hundred pages, sometimes two hundred, before I close it for good. But I'm feeling less and less guilty each time I do.

As a writer, as a reader, as a librarian, as a former bookseller, as a former English major ... I want to love a book enough to finish it.  But there are too many books in my TBR pile to waste time on a book that's not grabbing me.

This shift in my reading habits has really freed me. I try more books outside genres I'd normally read. I'm often pleasantly surprised. I have more depth of knowledge on books to recommend. I might not have finished a book, but I know enough about it to share with a patron who may be a better fit for it.

And that's what has been key for me. Realizing that not all books fit all readers. I am not obligated as a reader to finish it. Just as I am not obligated as a writer to write something that will appeal to everyone. Because I can't. Someone out there will hate it, but someone else will love it. (Even if it's just me.)

So I am giving you permission to stop reading books that you don't like. Give it fifty or so pages. Maybe come back to it in a couple of years. But it's okay to stop reading it. Even if it's the bestseller that everyone loves, a prize winner that was adapted into a movie, the latest book by your favorite author. If you're not feeling it, put it down and try the next book.

Happy reading!

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