Monday, April 02, 2007

"A bookcase can be a real bastard."

Are you being bullied by your books? Do you allow them to push you around until they get their way? Do those stacks of unread books that glare at you from all over the house make you feel inadequate? If so, you're not alone. Guy Dammann, Guardian Unlimited columnist, knows just how you feel.

...the same old notion that unfinished and unread books are objects of shame. Books, in this way, are somehow allowed to bully us, using nothing but our own reflected guilt to do so. They sit on our shelves, or in piles on our desks and bedside tables, gathering dust and issuing gentle reproaches with every glance, a literary equivalent of water torture. In full chorus, with a few heavyweight volumes thrown among the chirruping paperbacks, a bookcase can be a real bastard. But, then, as with most bullies, a simple turning of the worm can render them powerless.

For starters, reading a book because you feel you should usually saps all richness from the encounter. Simply closing a book after a couple of chapters, perhaps with half a mind to come back to it, is often all it takes show them who's boss and to allow future encounters to unfold on more equal terms.

I agree with the subtitle that Dammann has attached to his column: "If you don't make it from cover to cover, it may be the book's fault, not yours." Over the years I've come to realize that a lot of poorly written books are hyped all the way to the various best seller lists and that I'm not required to waste my time on them. I used to follow the "50-page rule," the one that says that if I'm not enjoying a book after completing the first 50 pages, it's time to put it away and move on to another book. But, as the years pass, and as I've come to realize that I'm not going to be here forever to read all the books on my long TBR list, I've cut that back to my own "40-page" rule. That's something close to an hour's worth of reading, depending on the book, and that's all I'm willing to invest in something that doesn't work for me. Maybe I should call it the "Put up or shut up rule."


  1. The worst is when you haven't read a book that a reader bought for you off your wish list... :-S

  2. When I finally give up on a book, my biggest fear is that I'm giving up on a novel that starts off slowly but vastly improves as the it progresses. Of course, it is the author's burden to hook readers from the first sentence all the way though to the last...

  3. JS, I've come back to a few of the discards, months or even years later, and haven't finished one of them yet. I was kind of afraid that it was my mood that was wrong the first time out...turned out to be a permanent mismatch between me and the books, though.

  4. My piles glare at me daily. I do set books aside that I am not into, but I admit I am much better at doing this with library books than my own. That said, I have plenty of books that I have started and set aside this year. Sometimes it is a matter of timing, and sometimes the book is just not for me.

  5. Does it seem to run in spurts for you, Danielle? I find that sometimes I'm just not in the mood for ANY book and that I have to struggle until I get back into the groove again. When I feel that way, I'm reluctant to start even anything by one of my favorite writers.