Friday, October 31, 2008

Life's Too Short to Read Something You Don't Have to Read

Things have been a little crazy this week, so I've not finished any of the three books I'm currently reading. And I may have talked about this topic before, but one of my students reminded me of it, when he told me he just had turn in the book he had just checked out because he just didn't like it and couldn't get past the first page.

One of my favorite laments is "So Many Books, So Little Time." With than in mind, as an adult, I now subscribe to the philosophy that there is no reason to keep reading a book that you don't have to read. Sure, sometimes you have to read a book for school or work. You are forced to slug your way through something you really don't like, but we often have to do things we'd rather not. However, when it comes to pleasure reading there is no need to torture yourself. I used to think I had to finish every book I started. Not any more. A friend and former employer of mine always gave a book the 100 page test. If he just couldn't get past the first 100 pages, then he didn't bother to finish it. I don't even give it 100 pages. Sometimes you just know that it's not a good read for you by reading the first few pages.

Here are some recent reads that I just could not finish:

1. The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck - It's as dry as the dustbowl he was writing about.
2. Cross My Heart and Hope to Spy by Ally Carter. This was an audio book. I loved the first one, but just couldn't get past the first few minutes of the second one.
3. 48 Liberal Lies About American History (That You Probably Learned in School) by Larry Schwiekert (It's not that I agree or disagree that the 48 things he talks about are lies. It's just that his defense of his position is so dry and comes across as a convulted history text. I read one page 3 times, and I still can't tell you what he was talking about.)
4. Death of a Rug Lord by Tamar Myers. I've enjoyed all the funny books in this series, but this time, it just wasn't funny anymore. It was annoying.

Sometimes, you can't get into a book the first go around, but something compels you to keep trying. When this happens to me I usually try two options. First, if I can't read it, I try listening to it. This worked for a book called The Stolen Child by Keith Donohue. On the written page this story about "changlings" was so tedious I could hardly stand to pick up the book. However, I had just joined an online book club that was reading it and I felt I had to read it. So I gave the audio version a try. Somehow the reader managed to breathe some life into the story and I was able to get through it.

Other times, you just have to give reading it another try. This was the case with The Book Thief by Markus Zusak. There was a great deal of hype about this young adult novel. I was a teen librarian and felt I needed to read it. The first time I picked it up, I just couldn't get in to it. I guess it just wasn't the right time for me to read it. I had borrowed it from the library and couldn't renew it. The holds list was rather long for it. I figured I'd lucked out. Not being able to renew it gave me permission to not finish it. A few months later, I was out of work and I was also participating on a Mock Printz discussion group. You got it. The Book Thief was on the list. So I gave it another try. It turned out to be one of my all time favorites. (After all, it's the character's love of books that saves her life and you got to love a story narrated by death.)

So. . . while my friend Betty Bookworm says "Read Lots of Books" - I say "Read Lots of Books You Enjoy."

What are you reading?

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