Friday, August 17, 2012

Love it or Leave it?

While going through “My Shelves” on the library’s online catalog, I realized that the number of books I’ve finished hasn’t been going up nearly as quickly as it used to. And, as happens strangely often, the answer to “why” came in the form of a quote from a Pixar movie. In this case, it was Ratatouille. This is an exchange between an awkward, up-and-coming chef and a renowned food critic:
“You're slow for someone in the fast lane.”
“And you're thin for someone who likes food.”
“I don't like food. I love it. If I don't love it, I don't swallow.”

It dawned on me that the food critic‘s answer is the same as mine—lately, if I find that I don’t like a book, I put it down, and pick up the next thing on my never-ending list of book to read. Now, “not loving,” I don’t mean, “I don’t like what’s happening.” It means if it’s begun to feel like a chore to read it. For example, if I find myself bothered by the author’s lexical choices, or not connecting at all with the characters. It means that basically, this book and I haven't "clicked." I usually hate the thought of reading being a chore.

But on the other hand, is it ok for reading to sometimes be a chore for the sake of self-betterment? As an English major in college, I certainly didn’t always enjoy the assigned reading. One professor I had even apologized for the fact that we had to read Pamela, assuring us that if we managed to trudge through it, we’d understand why it was an important work in the end, however much we wanted to quit. And he was right—in the end, I was glad I finished it… even if I’ll never get those hours of my life back. And really, can you even judge whether you like a book or not if you give up halfway through? Maybe the ending will make it all worth it. Sometimes I wonder if I’ve done myself a disservice, especially thinking back on books that I might have missed out on had I not pressed on through a tedious beginning and finished.

When you’re reading something you just haven’t clicked with, do you press on and get it done for the sake of finishing it (or giving the ending a chance to change your mind), or move onto the next book?


Linda K. said...

There are way too many good books out there to regret giving up on those that just don't "do it" for me. When in doubt I skip ahead to see if getting to say "I finished it!" is worth the effort. If not, it's time to move on.

Tracy G. said...

I will just give up on a book I do not connect with. It was one of the best things I learned to do. The only time I experience remorse is when a friend recommended it to me or everyone else seems to love it. But I am always on the quests for books I love so much I read them every spare chance I get.

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