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Quit Reading that Book

“Quit reading that book.”

Can there be such a freeing admonition?

Quit reading that book, Set aside what you don't like, popular books, genres, why read what you don't like?, writer issues, libraryI’d been complaining to a friend about how much I detested a very popular narrative nonfiction book everyone seem to love.

This unnamed book violated every lesson I’d ever heard on the topic and I knew people would die as a result of her foolishness.

Pretty harsh.

But who was I? I hadn’t taken the author’s journey.

I read the book because everyone loved it.

But the author’s described behavior was so irresponsible!

My friend continued:

“There are too many great books in the world to read. Don’t waste time on one that isn’t working for you.”

So I didn’t.

It felt wonderful.

(I don’t believe anyone has died because of that book, but as a result of its popularity, many people have been hurt and others severely inconvenienced.)

No one says you have to finish.

Where did this notion come from that you can’t quit reading a book?

An echo from childhood?

“You need to finish that book. Millions of children in China don’t have any books to read.”

Did my mother really say that?

Quit reading that book, Set aside what you don't like, popular books, genres, why read what you don't like?, writer issues, library,

Too many good ones to read!

Of course not, but she was the one driving me back and forth to the library–which only allowed me to check out ten books at a time.

I needed more than that, especially in the summer!

She did ask me to slow down, however, and take more time so we didn’t need to visit more than once a week.

Perhaps from the requirement that if you began something, you needed to finish it?

I’m old enough to waive that rule now!

(I’ve also solved the problem. It’s a mere 20 minute walk to the library from my house and I stop by regularly–whether I need to or not!)

You need to be informed

It’s helpful to be able to enter discussions with friends about popular books (particularly since I don’t have cable television).

But you don’t have to read the entire book.

When my teenage daughter read all the Twilight books, I needed to know what was in them. (I quit reading the series after the first one. I hated them for many reasons).

Too many people asked for my opinion about Harry Potter books, so I needed to read them. (Loved them from the start–though several need to be edited).

As a professional writer, I need to know what people are reading and why–particularly in my genre.

I can’t put together a proposal for a publishing house if I have no knowledge of what is popular today.

For example, it doesn’t matter if you love Pride and Prejudice–feel free to read it as many times as you like–but that style of writing doesn’t sell in the publishing world today.

The story, yes, the genre, yes, but not the way Jane Austen wrote it with long paragraphs.

Maybe you only need to read a few sections then you can quit reading?

Why not?

I, for example, adored the Italy section of Eat, Pray, Love.

Quit reading that book, Set aside what you don't like, popular books, genres, why read what you don't like?, writer issues, library,

Photo by Gaelle Marcel (Unsplash)

The writing inspired me; I wandered the house speaking Italian; I looked up flights to Rome, fully engaged and loving the book.

Then I got to the India section.

For me, the book went completely downhill. I could barely bring myself to slug through the rest of us, skimming as much as possible.

I do a lot of skimming these days, and leave it at that.

My taste isn’t necessarily your taste

I’ve concluded that we need to read what we like and what satisfies us.

Yes, we should stretch and read outside of our favorite genres, but if a book you don’t have to read becomes a slow grind, quit reading it.

(Or, if you torment your friends and loved ones by moaning, “I can’t believe how awful this is.”)

Unless you’re reading for work, or in my case, research, your experience should be pleasurable.

I read both nonfiction and novels to savor the experience, to learn something and to gain insight into what it means to be a person.

If your recommended book doesn’t meet that criterion (or, God forbid, is riddled with factual errors), I’ll be upset.

I’ll quit reading. Sorry.

Too many books call my name with bigger and better promises.

I’m not going to name titles, but feel free to do so in the comments–what books should I avoid? 

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