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Sunday surprises in the newspaper

>> Sunday, July 27, 2008

Sometimes the books section of my Sunday is just downright enjoyable. Such was the case today. I found a review of Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry which has me considering adding it to my TBR list.

Next I found a gem of an opinion piece by Brian Doyle entitled “
The freedom of not reading a book to its mind-numbing finish.” As someone who has struggled to learn to let go of a book I wasn’t enjoying, this really caught my attention. A few quotes that really caught my eye (the full article is at the link).

Something we don't talk about much when it comes to books and reading is how almost all readers finally arrive at one crucial and telling moment, one that changes your reading style forever -- that instant when you realize you aren't going to finish the book you are diligently plowing through, and you don't have to finish it, and you can fling it off the porch with a sigh of relief, and that such flingitude does not mean you are an ignoramus.

Almost every reader achieves this moment of maturity -- and it is a remarkably freeing line to step over.

Of course, in many books slogging pays off wonderfully

I know only two people who still obsessively finish every book they begin, and in both cases I suspect they are the sort of people who organize the socks and underwear in their drawers by color and manufacturer and country of origin.

But after 10 pages I slowed, and 30 was work and by page 50 I found myself thinking I really should finish this . . . The word should, as you know, is a death rattle, for we never do what we should do, which is the secret to a great deal of human joy and pain.
Ah that “I really should finish this” feeling. I admit to giving in to it and I also admit to having the courage to say ‘yes, I should but I don’t want to.’ I’m getting better at reminding myself that I cannot possibly read all the books out there that I might want to read someday, so what I really should do is put aside the ones I’m not enjoying and read as many as possible of the books I really do enjoy.

Brian Doyle is the editor of Portland Magazine at the University of Portland, and the author most recently of "Thirsty for the Joy: Australian & American Voices" (One Day Hill, Australia).


Kay 7/27/2008 12:46 PM  

Hurray for the opinion piece! I subscribe totally to that theory and now do not ever make myself finish a book. There are simply too many books and I'll never have enough time.

Lynne 7/27/2008 2:36 PM  

I've forced myself to finish a few books - mostly challenge books. I need to use the 50-page rule more often.

Eleanor 7/27/2008 5:06 PM  

I gave up on the required reading a long time ago -- there are just too many great books out there you'll never get to if you spend time reading something that isn't speaking to you in some way!

I do, however, give at least 100 pages, and have been known to read the last 5 paragraphs if anything at all captured my attention those first 100 pages.

SuziQoregon 7/27/2008 5:25 PM  

Kay: I've gotten better about it - for me it's mostly a 'finish what you start' mentality that I've had to overcome.

Lynne: A few of my books for challenges have been the ones that I forced myself to stick with. I've abandoned a few, but I think that I'm going to be limiting challenge participation in the future to relieve myself from the pressure.

El: I don't think I've viewed anything as required reading since I got out of school. For me it's more of a feeling of I picked this book up in the first place because I had some sort of interest in it so I need to finish it. I've abandoned more in the past few years, but it's still not something I do lightly once I've started a book. I don't have a set number of pages - some I've abandoned after 50, others after 150 or more because they were chunksters.

Literary Feline 7/27/2008 5:39 PM  

The only books I force myself to read anymore are review books--and it's been a long while since I came across one I didn't want to have to finish but did anyway. I think I've gotten better about selecting books that I will like.

I have given up on books though. Usually when I find I don't care about the characters or what will happen next.

Carrie K 7/27/2008 8:06 PM  

It is harder to do than you'd think, isn't it? I've done it, but I've probably read more bad books than tossed aside in favor of a better one.

Bellezza 7/28/2008 6:07 AM  

I'm crazy about this post of yours! Being the mind-numbed compulsive that I am, I ALWAYS finish a book...or, maybe it's the optimist in me? Hopeful that it WILL be worth it? I love the quotes you posted, and the reminder that we can be free in what we read. Or, don't.

SuziQoregon 7/28/2008 6:42 AM  

Literary Feline: Selecting the right books in the first place is a huge step in the right direction. I think most of the books I've abandoned are those where I find myself just not caring about the characters and what happens to them.

Carrie: It can be hard. Even with a not so good mystery, I'll often go ahead and finish just to see if I was right in my speculation.

Bellezza: I liked the quotes - isn't "Flingitude" a great word???

trish 7/28/2008 4:09 PM  

Often times I'll set aside a book for "later". Actually, what I'll do a lot is ask around. I had a hard time getting into Jane Eyre, but someone said to stick with it, it was their favorite book, and boy am I glad I did!

Love your blog, by the way. Very nicely laid out. I've added you to my reader. :D

samantha.1020 7/28/2008 7:51 PM  

Sounds like an interesting article...nice quotes.

Bookfool 7/28/2008 7:58 PM  

This is something I've been working on, for the past couple of years -- allowing myself to stop and say, "It's okay to set this aside . . . maybe even permanently." Or, "Honestly, I hate this and I'm getting rid of it." Sometimes I do go back and read a book that I abandoned at some point and find that it clicks on the second or even third try. Timing can be everything.

Vickie 7/29/2008 6:22 AM  

I am working on collecting all of Larry McMurtry's books for our house keeper shelves. I credit him for being one of the reasons that brought DH and I together.....

merrimerri 7/30/2008 8:18 AM  

I love this! It makes me stop feeling so GUILTY for not finishing so MANY terrible books.
I also love the "flingitude" ..LOL!
EXACTLY there are so many other books!

Les 7/30/2008 3:58 PM  

Great article. I just finished a book that I should've quit on when I knew it wasn't my cuppa tea. Oh, well. It was short. And a good friend sent it to me, so I felt a bit obligated.

SuziQoregon 7/30/2008 4:52 PM  

Trish: Setting a book aside for later is something I rarely do. Once I start - I tend to either finish or fling.

Samantha: thanks ;-)

Bookfool: I'm learning that it takes practice. Timing can be everything I need to learn to tell myself "maybe some other time".

Vickie: I thought the McMurtry book looked really interesting.

MerriMerri: Good - glad it helped you - let go of that guilt!

Les: Those are tough to set aside - at least it was short.

Jena 8/02/2008 12:33 AM  

Once, I really, literally flung a book across the room when I was eight pages from the end. I refused to finish it, because it had been disappointing since page two and I'd been so hopeful that it would rise above its utter mediocrity that I'd kept going. I'm almost ashamed to admit that I read so much of a book that I realized fairly early on probably should never have made it to press in the first place.

SuziQoregon 8/07/2008 3:38 PM  

Jena: Wow that's a great story - can't believe you hung in with it that far and it must have been awful to toss it that close to the finish.

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