Read Along With Emilie Richards has turned out to be even more fun than I expected.
When I decided it would be fun to create a new Facebook Group for readers who want to share and discuss what they’re reading, I expected we’d start small and grow slowly. To my surprise we’re now well over two-hundred members and growing quickly, despite little publicity.
Although my original intention was to discuss our individual reading challenges, we’ve moved well beyond that. Now anything “reading” goes. I’ve been privy to so many enticing book recommendations that I can’t begin to keep up with them. Which doesn’t mean I’m not trying. If I can shoehorn one into the Better World Books Challenge in which I’m participating, then I do so with pleasure.
When I opened the newspaper yesterday and saw the comic strip Crankshaft (above) I was reminded of a recent discussion we had. I had chosen a well known, well received novel published some years ago for the category: A Romance that Takes Place During Travel. I was delighted to have an excuse to read a book I’d long had on my reading list.
The library came through and I began.
When do you stop reading?
That was the question I asked our group, because by then I was ready to quit. Sadly this wasn’t the first no-go for my reading challenge. No titles are suggested for the separate challenge categories, but this was the second time I’d personally chosen something I knew I would have to struggle to finish.
Were the books that bad? No. Was I just a quitter? Nope. Were my expectations different from other readers? Higher, lower? This I couldn’t determine. And since both books I rejected were probably classified as literary fiction, were my tastes too commercial and I needed to just plow on whether I disliked a book of not?
As I considered this and we discussed it in the group, I came across this article in the New York Times. Why You Should Read Books that You Hate by Pamela Paul had a uniquely interesting perspective. A quote:
Here’s a reading challenge: Pick up a book you’re pretty sure you won’t like — the style is wrong, the taste not your own, the author bio unappealing. You might even take it one step further. Pick up a book you think you will hate, of a genre you’ve dismissed since high school, written by an author you’re inclined to avoid. Now read it to the last bitter page.
Sound like hell? You’re off to a good start.
Neither of the books I’d jettisoned exactly fit that criteria. I’d been “pretty sure” I’d like them both. But since I didn’t, I read on. Paul points out that since books are so much longer and more involving for the reader than a movie or a Facebook post, we have to wrestle with the ideas and decide why we are so uncomfortable with them. By the time we’ve finished, we understand ourselves better.
She goes on to say:
Defensiveness makes you a better reader, a closer, more skeptical reader: a critic. Arguing with the author in your head forces you to gather opposing evidence. You may find yourself turning to other texts with determination, stowing away facts, fighting against the book at hand. You may find yourself developing a point of view.
Okay, this all makes sense to me, but right now the political landscape worldwide has a lock on my natural indignation. The last thing I want to do in the evenings when I pick up a book is have a knockdown, drag out fight with the author, who isn’t listening anyway.
So here’s what I decided. Whether this be good or bad, I don’t read to hone my opinions about life, love, the pursuit of happiness, or who should run the world. In the long run I read to learn more about the human condition, and to confirm my deep belief that the world, with all its massive problems, is really a good place populated by imperfect people, most of whom have decent intentions and kind hearts.
And most of all, I read to enjoy myself.
I put my dilemma (whether to make myself continue reading the book in question, or move on to something I liked better) to our group. I was relieved to find that many of them, like me, had picked up the same book and put it down. One group member said she’d probably only put down three books in her life and that was one of them. More than one said outright: “You have my permission to stop.”
And you know, I needed that permission. So I did. (But not before I peeked at the ending.) Now I’m in the market for another book that fits the “Romance that Takes Place During Travel.” I bet there are thousands. If you suggest one, stay away from time travel, okay?
When do you stop reading? Or do you? Do you, like Pamela Paul, find value in reading all the way to the bitter end? We’d love to know.