Reading why you should and when it is alright to stop.
A group of us were having a discussion the other day about books we wouldn’t read and why. As conversation are inclined to do it then meandered off onto a few tangents one of which was the fact that there are those who read books to the bitter end, even if they are not enjoying the experience, and then there are others, like me, who can easily put a book down if the author hasn’t managed to engage them and move onto the next one.
So why won’t people even attempt to read a particular book or even (hold onto your hats this is radical) not finish it at all because, in their opinion, it’s a waste of time!! This is hard to answer so I won’t even try it’s just the way things are. However a few ‘finishers’ told me they had to finish a book because it would upset the author. So I wrote to a few well-known internationally published Australian authors I know and asked what their thoughts were when a book is rejected deemed unfit to read by a reader did they mind were they wounded. I promised anonymity with their replies!
The first one wrote: “…I never pay any attention! I haven’t got time to go and check people’s reading progress. It’s never occurred to me to do so. And if someone told me they’d been unable to finish one of my books, I’d think that’s a shame but obviously the book was not for them. I certainly don’t expect everyone to like what I do! That’d be impossible…”
The next author responded: “…If someone marks my book as DNF, of course it hurts. If there is feedback, I’ll read it to see if there’s anything I should take on board…I don’t like everything I read, so I can’t expect others to…Getting good AND bad reviews and the occasional DNF is just part of being an author…constructive criticism is one thing, but abuse is not acceptable…”
Finally the third author said: “…Life is too short to finish a book you’re not enjoying…if I’m not enjoying the book I am reading the lure of another on my bedside table is too strong…don’t feel guilty…”
Their replies certainly contrast with another unnamed Australian writer who messaged me through Goodreads and demanded to know why I didn’t finish reading his/her book and then proceeded to lecture me as to how horrible I was and how much effort he/she had put into their work and how dare I reject it! Needless to say I have not picked up anymore of their books, which is one reason why people, well me anyway, won’t pick up particular books. The other reason is if a book is in a genre that the reader doesn’t like. For instance I won’t read anything in the horror genre a close friend would have her nails removed rather than read romance.
The conversation continued and I was asked how come I average 140 books a year (one of the others managed over 200) did this mean I was indiscriminate in my reading? Was there actually anything I wouldn’t read because in their opinion there were books on my ‘to read’ shelf on Goodreads that they personally wouldn’t dream of picking up.
That was scary do I read books that are so ghastly that at least one person couldn’t bear to read it? What does that say about me? Well nothing we can’t all like the same things and thank goodness there are enough authors in the world all writing in a myriad of genre to keep we readers happy.
So why do we read what we read?
In her article 10 benefits why you should read everyday, Lana Winter-Hébert says we should read because it’s good for our health!!! I like Lana, I must be the healthiest person ever!!! She writes:
…But not all books are for everyone. A book might be a best-seller, but maybe you can’t stand the writing. Or maybe it’s not the right time to read a book…
So don’t read a book just because it is popular, or it’s won an award so it must be good, or even because it is a classic and people will think I’m dumb if I haven’t read it. Read a book because YOU like the sound of it, not because you’re influenced by what people think about your reading choices. And while you’re reading a book you’re getting healthy, de-stressing and exercising your mind how cool is that?
…A book lying idle on a shelf is wasted ammunition. Like money, books must be kept in constant circulation… A book is not only a friend, it makes friends for you. When you have possessed a book with mind and spirit, you are enriched. But when you pass it on you are enriched threefold…
Henry Miller, The Books in My Life
…This book is a treasure; I did not suspect it would be so good when I picked it up, but now I can feel the printed words seeping through my skin and into my veins, rushing to my heart and marking it forever. I want to savor this wonder, this happening of loving a book and reading it for the first time, because the first time is always the best, and I will never read this book for the first time ever again…
Laura Nowlin, If He Had Been with Me
The following quote is about awarding a ‘star’ to a book – she thinks the same way I do
I am shocked to find that some people think a 2 star ‘I liked it’ rating is a bad rating. What? I liked it. I LIKED it! That means I read the whole thing, to the last page, in spite of my life raining comets on me. It’s a good book that survives the reading process with me. If a book is so-so, it ends up under the bed somewhere, or maybe under a stinky judo bag in the back of the van. So a 2 star from me means,yes, I liked the book, and I’d loan it to a friend and it went everywhere in my jacket pocket or purse until I finished it. A 3 star means that I’ve ignored friends to finish it and my sink is full of dirty dishes. A 4 star means I’m probably in trouble with my editor for missing a deadline because I was reading this book. But I want you to know . . . I don’t finish books I don’t like. There’s too many good ones out there waiting to be found.
Robin Hobb, author
If the book you’re reading doesn’t make you feel these emotions then please go and find one that does.
So if reading is good for us when we are reading a book of our choice that makes us happy in my opinion this translates to it’s doing us harm if we insist on finishing a book that is not making us happy but for some reason feel bound to not giving up. By golly, by gosh I will grit my teeth and keep on reading!
Sadie L. Trombetta gives us 10 signs that you should give up on the book you’re in the middle of no really she gives 10 of them!!! And while you will certainly laugh when you read her article you have to think very seriously about the message.
So, how can you know if you will like a book? Well it’s not always easy to know. Certainly if you love an author’s work, or a particular genre then chances are higher that you may enjoy it. I get my books from reading reviews written by people who have similar likes to me, Reading reviews in magazines, looking at book blurbs in bookshop catalogues. I certainly have tried and true authors so I am highly confident I will enjoy their work. Sometimes yes I judge a book by its cover! Especially when I am in the library or book store I pull a book off the shelf if it catches my eye and if I like the picture then I’ll read the blurb and if the two seem appealing I’ll borrow/buy the book.
Or you can let serendipity guide you – there are places on the web that will recommend books for you here are three, but there are many more:
Which book? – This page lets you pick 4 things you want from a book to test it out I picked happy, lots of sex, bleak and gentle the recommended book? Boys and Girls by Joseph Connolly the blurb says Susan wants another husband. Which comes as a shock to the current one.
Next test was happy, safe, beautiful and gentle resulted in Companions of Paradise by Thalassa Ali the blurb for this is Mariana Givens, a brave, beautiful Englishwoman must face the repercussions of her marriage to a Punjabi Muslim, and choose between the people she calls her own—and the life that owns her heart.
What should I read next? – With this page you start by typing in your favourite author’s name I typed in Enid Blyton it then comes up with a list of a few of her books for you to choose from I clicked on one of her ‘Famous Five’ titles and the web page suggests I might like Alone on a Wide Wide Sea by Michael Morpurgo the blurb for this is When orphaned Arthur Hobhouse is shipped to Australia after WW II he loses his sister, his country and everything he knows. Actually I have taken note of this one sounds pretty good!
The literature map is another one I use a lot using Enid Blyton as my chosen author for this one it comes up with a pageful of suggested authors I might like to read as well not sure about some of the connections Jackie Collins, Monty Python for example!!!!
Another idea for finding books you’ll enjoy is to find your favourite authors facebook page, or blog, and see what they are reading .
In the end immersing yourself in a book that takes you away from the world for a few hours is one of the greatest pleasures in this world. Add a glass of wine and life is indeed good!
Of course there is also the added bonus of annoying a librarian:
“…The Librarian considered matters for a while. So…a dwarf and a troll. He preferred both species to humans. For one thing, neither of them were great readers. The Librarian was, of course, very much in favour of reading in general, but readers in particular got on his nerves. There was something, well, sacrilegious about the way they kept taking books off the shelves and wearing out the words by reading them. He liked people who loved and respected books, and the best way to do that, in the Librarian’s opinion, was to leave them on the shelves where Nature intended them to be…”
Terry Pratchett, Men at Arms
You can also find this post over on Book Charmers