Saturday, February 25, 2012

When to quit reading a book

Posted by Amy Baranski

Call me a quitter, a slacker, a blank--I don't care. I quit reading Shop Class as Soul Craft and I'm not picking it up again.

My husband's Good Reads review of it tells me what I need to know. Besides I'm not going to figure out the new direction of my life's work by reading this book--my expectations were too high. And do I really need some PhD-turned-craftsman's pseudo thesis-style book disguised with a cool title dissecting the value of the working class in which I grew up? I think not. I got 20 pages in, now I'm out.

But I wouldn't quit that piece of fiction you might be working if you're not at least 50-70 pages in. Because you are so close to 100, which is already a half, third, or quarter of the way through. That's my new rule. I'm not sure what the rule for non-fiction is. I suppose I'll have to try another and see how long I last.

So now I'm 72 pages into The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho. The Alchemist is also from my ridiculous stack of unread books. It's actually a book that someone asked me to give to someone I went to college with as a graduation present, and I never did. That was a LONG time ago. It's been sitting on my shelf all these years. I tried to pick it up once. But, I usually stray from anything that wreaks of moral high-ground or is explicitly about following your moral compass. We have the bible, and or the great religious texts for those stories. But this time with the Read a Book a Week challenge I needed something doable (so I could potentially squeeze in two more books to reach my four book quota for the month) by the 29th. Thank God it's leap year!

So far I'm liking it. The storytelling kind of reminds of Antoine de Saint-Exupery's The Little Prince. And I'll probably knock it off the list today since I have a few hours of free time (thank God for personal time on a Saturday and Sunday -- I'm going to miss that someday!)

So, if you're quitting a book to pick up and finish another one, consider yourself absolved. I do.


sophanne said...

I'm so glad both you and Melissa both know when to say "enough" when it comes to a book that isn't meaningful to you. Reading just for the sake of reading seems pointless. I think of all the people on the planet that I might not enjoy having a conversation with. They write books too and it's no crime to decide, after spending a little time with them, not to have a long term relationship.

Sasha K said...

I saw Nancy Pearl speak at a NW Bookfest a few years ago, and she shared her trick. "Take your age, and subtract it from the number 100. That's how many pages you have to read before you should stop reading a book you're not enjoying." Her theory was that life's too short to labor through a book you're not enjoying. :) Hope that helps!

Cassandra said...

I think it's ok to give up on a book once in awhile. I have a really hard time not finishing books just because I feel like I've already invested time in it. Thankfully, I've learned how to drop movies that I'm not enjoying! Now if I could just not feel guilty about the unread books... ;)

I hope you post what you think of the Alchemist once you're done with it!

Amy Baranski said...

@Sophanne - Thank you, I appreciate your perspective.
@Sasha - Love that formula. I will be using in the future.
@Cassandra - I know what you mean, although I've dropped more books than movies in my day (blush). I just wrote a little bit about The Alchemist. It is not as thought-out as this Ishmael post. But, I'd recommend that book too.