Thursday, November 18, 2010

Go Ahead...Give Up!

I often lend and recommend books to my friends and family; I’m the go-to girl for them for finding new series and authors. And more often than not, they agree with my taste. What I find interesting, though, is what happens when they don’t.

They apologize.

“I’m sorry,” they say as they hand the book back. “I just couldn’t get into it. It was too wordy/too slow/the main character was annoying/the premise was silly…” You get the idea.

I’m not mocking them, though; I’m commenting on the phenomenon, which affects me as well. And probably you. When you pick up a book, especially if it comes recommended by a friend, and you realize you hate it—why is it so hard to put down? And why do you feel so terrible when you do?

My personal reasons are usually twofold—I’m afraid I’m going to miss something good, simply because I didn’t push on far enough, and I’m a cheapskate. If I paid money for this thing, well, dang it, I’m determined to enjoy it, even if the resulting headache from forcing myself to read it takes 3 ibuprofen and 2 Gatorades to kick. (Side note: don’t knock the Gatorade thing. Excellent headache cure. Snapple iced tea does in a pinch, too.)

A few years ago, an author wrote an article about the phenomenon. Unfortunately, I can’t remember who it was; I wish I could, since it was excellent advice and they deserve credit for it. What it boiled down to was this: life’s too short to spend reading books you don’t like. The time you’re spending grinding brain cells together on something you’re not feeling could be spent reading something you actually enjoy.

So lay down some ground rules for yourself, to make sure you’re giving the book a fair chance. Give it, say, 25% to impress you, to prove it has something more to offer. Some books start slow, and often these are the best ones. If you feel this isn’t enough, give it forty, or even fifty. But set a goal and stick to it, so when you reach it unfulfilled, you can set it aside with no regrets. You gave it a fair chance. Books are like clothes; they don’t fit everyone.

The incident that sparked this blog was my recent purchase of the eighth book in a series I’ve been following for two years. And as hard as I tried, I could not get into it. So now you add character attachment to book abandonment remorse, and…I forgot my rules. Briefly. But after my fifth unsuccessful attempt to be carried away by the story, I gave myself a stern talking to and set the book aside in favor of something else.

Which, by the way, I’m enjoying very much.

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