From the Stacks
By Carol Ann Robb, PPL Reference Librarian
Recently my sister sent me a link to a story in British Vogue entitled “Life’s Too Short to Finish Books You Don’t Like.” That has been my position for many years, but I’ve not been able to convince her it’s true. She’ll persevere, hoping the book will get better. I don’t have that kind of patience (or faith) that a book holding no interest for me will suddenly transform into a fascinating read.
I admit to being a convert to this position—I used to read every book to its bitter end. Then a very wise woman by the name of Betty Vequist asked why I would struggle to finish a bad book when there are so many good ones out there just waiting to be read. Soon after, I read or heard about the “Rule of 50” espoused by Nancy Pearl—the librarian all librarians should aspire to be—which is this: if a reader is under 50 years old, then read to page 50 before putting aside a book that you just can’t get into. If a reader is 50+, subtract your age from 100—that’s the number of pages to read before deciding to reach for another book.
Finally, permission had been granted for me to stop reading a book that wasn’t speaking to me! However, there are some books that you have to finish if you’re doing an assignment (but that doesn’t include book club reads; trust me I’ve not completed all of them. Wallace Stegner’s “Angle of Repose” and “Eat Pray Love” by Elizabeth Gilbert quickly come to mind).
That’s not to say you can’t go back to a book you previously put aside and try again. Sometimes you just aren’t in the right frame of mind at that particular time or maybe it’s a filler read while you wait for that really good book to come in. Don’t force it. If you don’t like it, don’t finish it. If you’ve ever asked me for book suggestions, you know I always give you at least two, if not three books, saying, “you may not like one so you need a backup book,” which is my way of telling you it’s OK to put down one that just isn’t grabbing you.
Think of it this way: if you were eating a meal and there was a side or main dish that didn’t taste right, would you finish it just because you thought you should? I sure wouldn’t risk a possible case of stomach distress because I didn’t want to be considered a quitter (granted, a book might leave a bad taste in my mouth but not cause me to actually be sick; still, I won’t finish it).
As the article title says, life is too short to waste reading something you don’t like. There are far too many good books out there, or at least better than what you’re slogging through. So put down that uninteresting novel and come to the library—we’ve got plenty of books you won’t be able to put down.
BREAKING NEWS UPDATE: March Madness: Book Edition is about to be unveiled! Brackets will be available next week for you to fill out and return, as well as ballots for the first round of voting. Completed brackets must be turned in by March 11 and the championship book will be crowned on April 3 and the person with the winning bracket will get a gift certificate to the Mall Deli. Plan now to take part!