People ask me all the time, “How do you read so much?” Sometimes I hesitate because the answer seems so obvious to me and I know that responses like “I just do” are pretty unhelpful. I have read all my life so I really have to step back to think about the how and the why of it. This month though, I had a realization. Part of what helps me read so much is to stop reading. Yup. You heard me right. I stop reading books I don’t like. And these past few weeks have been full of books I have put aside. Sometimes I close a book within a few pages, while other times, I will make it half way through before knowing that I just can’t spend another minute with the characters.
As much as I loved my time in school and encourage the girls to feel the same, I know it is years of schooling that have made reading hard for some people. We were taught in school that you finish the books you start. In fact, you don’t just finish them, you write an essay about them and you talk about them for a really long time and maybe you even have to create an awkward (for me at least!) art project about them. Regardless of how you feel about the book, as a student, you finish it.
For many of us, that is a hard message to leave behind when we walk away from the classroom. I spent years after grad school finishing subpar books. I never even consider the fact that finishing a book was optional. Truth be told, I don’t remember the first time that I realized I did not have an assignment to complete but I am so glad I finally came to understand this.
The guilt of abandoning a library book or a Kindle sample is obviously way less than a purchased book but truth be told, I abandon all types of books. I consider this an investment in my reading life and in the case of my purchased books, an investment in bookstores and authors.
I also know that I put down a lot of books that other people love. And books that I might love on another day or in a different season or in a different mood. There have been plenty of books that I have put down only to come back to and love on a different day.
Anything you have abandoned lately? I’d love to know!
The Female Persuasion by Meg Wolitzer- I loved The Interestings also by Meg Wolitzer and the cover of The Female Persuasion? I mean come on- just looking at it makes me happy. Even the topic seemed like it would be just right. A college aged girl discovering feminism. But nope. I couldn’t do it.
The Nightingale by Kristin Hannah. I think this is probably one of many readers most favorite books. It has been on my shelf for ages and when I had jury duty a few weeks ago, I brought it with me. I was so excited to have uninterrupted time to dive in to this book. And then I didn’t like it. Too much hype? Not so into to WWII books at the moment? Who knows. All I know is that it went back to my shelf unfinished.
Unselfie by Michele Borba- This is the title that our district chose for our One Book. One District initiative. I struggle a bit with non-fiction so I am not surprised that I put this one down. I bet the author has a lot of great things to say though so I will be curious to hear from people who attended her presentation earlier this week.
You Think It, I’ll Say It by Curtis Sittenfeld- Sittenfeld’s book, Prep, is one of my all time favorites so I really hoped that she would be the author that would get me to love a book of short stories. I’m not going to give up forever on this one but I did give up for now.
The Middleman by Olen Steinhauer- I think I have finally come to accept the fact that I don’t like spy novels. Many people do but they hurt my brain.
So… are there any titles here that you think I should try again?
I’m pretty good about abandoning books that aren’t working for me. And I LOVE Kindle samples so that I can give books a try and abandon at will. Lately I’ve struggled a bit with nonfiction books where I value what the author has to say, but feel like I’ve gotten the point and don’t need to read the rest. But I want to be able to list the book as “read” on my blog, etc. A podcast that I listened to recently convinced me to start listing those books anyway, and I think that will help (transcript here: https://fs.blog/wp-content/uploads/2017/02/Naval-Ravikant-TKP.pdf, this was recommended in the comments on my recent Facebook post about my daughter’s reading).
I would have to say over the past couple years, I have gotten really good and stopping books, as painful as it is, even the ones that I have bought. My most recent quit was My Year of Rest and Relaxation, as you stated in your essay, I couldn’t spend another minute with those characters.
Lately, I feel like I abandon every single kindle sample I try. I don’t know what it is, but for the first time ever, I’m having a hard time finding something that I’d like to read. As for your list, I’ve read The Female Persuasion and You Think It, I’ll Say It. Neither wowed me (as much as The Interestings or Prep), but I thought they were still decent. I was like you in that I almost never abandoned a book that I started, but with Kindle samples it’s so easy to decide that I don’t like it enough. I almost think it’s not a good thing:)
I’ve given up on MANY from netgalley. Too many to name.