Wednesday, December 08, 2010

Life's too short to read bad books . . .

So when have you read enough of a book to know you don’t want to read any more?

For most of us, it’s been a while since we “had” to read a book (except, perhaps, for the occasional book club selection foisted upon us by the member whose turn everyone absolutely dreads). If we read for pleasure, reading a book should be pleasurable, or at least in some way rewarding – that goes without saying, doesn’t it?

We choose a book we think we will like. We read a good review, or someone recommended it to us, or we like the author. Sometimes it’s just the look of the cover, or the publisher’s blurb, or the snippets of praise on the back. Most of the time -- if we’re lucky -- we make a good selection.

But what if we don’t? How good does a book have to be for us to finish it? And how much do we have to read to know it’s not worth it? Although I usually give a book 25 to 50 pages, I once stopped reading a book on page 10 because I hated the typeface, and I recently put down a memoir when in the first chapter the author alluded to ghost-sightings. One patron I know says if she starts a book, she finishes it, no exceptions. I conducted an informal survey among reading friends and library patrons and received answers ranging from “the first page or two” to “the second chapter” all the way to “I never open a book unless I already know I’ll like it.” (How does that work??)

One thing seems sure: readers are more likely to finish a book they don’t like if they have purchased it, which means they have not only wasted money, they have wasted time as well. One of the many wonderful things about reading books from the library is that I have made no commitment other than the time it takes to decide to go on or not. I always have a pile of other possibilities waiting next to my chair. Best of all, because they don’t cost me anything, I can experiment – I can step outside my comfort zone of the tried and true (and maybe boring) and expose myself to new authors, different genres, unusual devices, unfamiliar subjects.

So many books, so little time . . .


Suzanne said...

Thanks for saying that! Pleasure reading should not be a chore or an obligation. Nothing lost if it is a library book--free to take a chance on any title, and 50 pages rarely hurt anyone (though I did not make it through 5 pages of Eat Pray Love.)

I wish more readers would take a chance, check out 3-4 titles and maybe choose one to read entirely. I call it the Librarian's 50!

parks.pj said...

Nancy Pearl, in Book Lust, talks about the 50 page rule, if you are 50 and under read the first 50 pages. If you are over 50 subtract your age from 100 and read that many time is short! Thanks for your blogs.