I have a bit of a problem.
Once I start a book, I tend to finish it. Even if the book is tedious and boring; even if I have to force myself to skim paragraphs or pages; even if I really don’t like it.
I suppose I feel committed once I start reading, especially if it’s a book I bought (borrowed/library books are much easier to return unfinished thanks to a deadline and a lack of financial investment). Similarly, once I start a movie, I try to finish it, unless I really hate it (looking at you, Uncut Gems.)
But I’m finally done with that. I’m saying “bon voyage” to reads that don’t captivate me—even if I’m only a few chapters from the ending.
Because life is too short to read bad books.
The pandemic has taught me a lot of things, including not to take anything for granted. I’ve realized how valuable our time is, whether we’re able to go explore a new country or simply enjoy a coffee with friends. I started reading a couple of new books this year, and I put them down once I realized I was putting off reading, not enjoying the story, feeling ambivalent towards the characters and (honestly) uninterested in the plotline.
I love to read, and I know not everyone does. Part of me wonders if people who claim to dislike books just haven’t found the right one. Audiobooks, Kindles, paperbacks and hardcover books offer different platforms to digest literature, but you have to find a “good book,” first.
Everyone’s idea of a good vs. bad book is a little different. Luckily, there are so. Many. Choices. Fantasy, fiction, memoir, self-help, romantic comedies and even cozy mysteries—go browse a bookstore if you need some inspiration. I’d like to get you started on a book I think everyone should read, no matter what genre you typically gravitate towards.
Know My Name by Chanel Miller is easily one of the most powerful, well-written, emotion-provoking memoirs I’ve ever read. You likely know the infamous case behind the Stanford assault. But hearing what happened in her own words is hypnotizing. In fact, it may be the most important book I’ve ever read.
Start with her victim statement and then go purchase Know My Name. It is worth owning, sharing and returning to. My partner is currently listening to the audiobook (which she reads in her own voice) and I lent my mom the hardcover.
And hey—if you really, really hate it? (Or any other book, for that matter?) Put it down and pick up something else. Life is short, and there are millions, possibly billions of books out there waiting to be read. I bet you’ll fall in love with at least one.
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I am very careful about the books I decide to read. Back when they were all dead-tree versions, it was much better – check the cover art, read the blurb on the back cover, and often an excerpt inside the front. Kindle, and COVID curbside Library delivery make that more difficult.
I feel that if I commit to reading it, I owe it to the book and myself to finish. Even a poor book yields geographic, and sociological insight, as well as new/different words and usage. The only book in my entire life that I just could not wade through – after several months of trying – was L. Ron Hubbard’s Dianetics. 😯 🙂
I usually only abandon books if I believe something is a bit off about the content, like if it is introducing brain washing sexist, fascist, fascist… philosophies.
Others books I still plough through if they are worth something educational to me even the author is tedious or the facts too many and too heavy for me to keep up with. I make sure to alternate the hard to read books with some light reading though.
Hey Alison, been thinking about this as well. See my recent post on Unbarred, http://www.joshuaraff.com. Cheers!
Thanks Josh! Hope all is well 🙂