Thursday, November 12, 2009

Booking Through Thursday – Too Short?

The question:

“Life is too short to read bad books.” I’d always heard that, but I still read books through until the end no matter how bad they were because I had this sense of obligation.

That is, until this week when I tried (really tried) to read a book that is utterly boring and unrealistic. I had to stop reading.

Do you read everything all the way through or do you feel life really is too short to read bad books?

My response:

I used to try to suffer through a book even if I wasn't enjoying it, but I think reading So Many Books, So Little Time by Sara Nelson convinced me it is okay to give up on a book. So Many Books is the chronicle of Nelson's attempt to read and write about 52 books over the course of a year (It's a really fun read.) One week in February, she just can't get into a particular book on her list and writes about giving up on books:

"Allowing yourself to stop reading a book—at page 25, 50, or even, less frequently, a few chapters from the end—is a rite of passage in a reader's life, the literary equivalent of a bar mitsvah or a communion, the moment at which you look at yourself and announce: Today I am an adult. I can make my own decisions" (55).

This sentiment has stuck with me, but I'm still a recovering member of what Nelson calls the "book equivalent of the Clean Plate Club" (56). There are some books I have started and just wasn't in the mood to finish at the time, but that I still intend to finish reading them one day. Usually these are the ones that others have raved about, so I feel they deserve another chance: Pride and Prejudice, Anna Karenina, Reading Lolita in Tehran are three that immediately come to mind.

But maybe my desire to finish these books also has to do with the fact that they are considered serious or "important" books. I once tried to read Confessions of a Shopaholic to critique for a literature class project, and I just. could. not. do. it.  I didn't feel bad about that one bit.  I also gave up on reading Eats, Shoots and Leaves earlier this year because, while it was really funny and informative, I just grew tired of the author's condescension and penchant for calling people who make grammar mistakes "stupid." I don't feel bad about not finishing that one either.

In short, I have found that allowing myself to stop reading a book that no longer interests me is very freeing, but I can't always bring myself to give up on it entirely.

Anyhow, what about you? Do you finish what you've started reading even if you don't like it? Or do give it up and move on to something better?


  1. This is a great response and I know how you feel. Excellent quote. Here's mine:

  2. It's probably just a part of getting older, but I'm definitely a "life is too short" believer! If a book doesn't grab me after a few chapters, I feel absolutely no guilt in abandoning it and moving on.

  3. What a fantastic post! I agree, I would probably give some of the classics or books others have raved about a little more time, but I just can't waste my time on a truly bad book. Love the blog!


  4. I only skimmed Eats, Shoots and Leaves for the same reason you noted. Her other book is worse in that regard. My post is here.

  5. What a great BTT prompt! I officially quit one book: The Manny. It was TERRIBLE. At least what I read of it.

  6. Excellent post. I used to finish everything I started reading, but eventually I decided that there really isn't enough time in the day for reading something that I'm not enjoying.