Too often I hear people tell me that they have read certain classic novels solely on the fact that they think everyone else has read them. After reading, they ended up not liking the classic work but said they did because they felt like they should have. To be perfectly honest, that’s a pretty poor excuse to read any novel, classic or contemporary. And, to lie about enjoying it merely because everyone else did is … what word am I looking for besides dishonest … stupid!
We shouldn’t feel like we have to read a work simply because others think it’s good, or because someone else liked it. Reading books is something to be enjoyed, it’s not compulsory, if it were all the enjoyment of reading would be lost.
I see reading as experimental. Now don’t misunderstand me here. I’ve been around a long time, I’ve read thousands of books; covering the whole playing field of genres. And, I’ve read books for reasons I have listed above—because everyone I’ve talked to liked that particular work. A recent example of a work I read because I had heard all the fuss about how good it was—Everything is Illuminated by Jonathan Safran Foer. Frankly, I did not enjoy that novel.
So here is what I mean by reading is experimental. Read everything, find out what you like, make recommendations, read recommendations, but never lie and say you enjoyed a work simply on the basis that everyone else did. Books are like clothing, some of us like certain brands, styles, colors, etc. Some books fit us at the time we read them, others do not. Sometimes we have to grow into books. Sometimes we never do.
It’s okay if you end up not liking a best selling novel, or a tide turning work, or a fashionable/popular novel. It boils down to the fact that the work probably did nothing for you. It did not speak to you, strike any keys in your reading register. That’ cool, move on to the next work and see if it does.
Also, I’m not sure if you’ll even care about this one minor point but I’m gonna throw it out there anyway. I usually give a book 100 pages. If it has not grabbed me in 100 pages then I’m certainly not gonna waste precious time on it. I might put it aside and try it again a few years down the road. On a second attempt if it still does not grab me, then I give up on it and never try again. But hey, that’s my personal way of filtering through what I might consider “rubbish,” so to speak.
Bottom line, read your tastes. Life is too short to read what others like and miss what would otherwise speak to you on a meaningful level. Readingis to be enjoyed, so find books that give you that joy. By the way, even though I did not really enjoy Everything is Illuminated, I have recently picked up Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close. I’m hoping this novel has something to say to me. So far it’s been awesome.
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- anymousse said: I love what you said about giving a book a hundred pages before dismissing it. I’m in the middle of a book right now that I’m debating whether or not I should finish. It’s not really doing anything for me; maybe I’ll try your method.
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