Wednesday, April 6, 2011

BEDA 5: It's Okay To Judge A Book

I didn't put BEDA in the title yesterday, but since it was a blog post I'm counting it. (That, and I wrote a whole other blog post over on my Good Madness blog. Between the two, I figure I'm covered).

Today's blog isn't going to be too long. I just had a realization about a habit of mine that I thought seemed blog-worthy. It's about books, and a bad tendency I've developed to stubbornly wade my way through to the end of a book even if I can't stand it.

So I'm at the library or the bookstore and I see this book, and authors I really like have written blurbs on the cover and the premise sounds amazing and the cover just looks so cool and I think, "Wow, I'm really going to like this book." So I bring it home and read a chapter, and I'm waiting for something to happen... to get caught up in the action or really interested in the character or to admire the use of language and imagery or something. But none of that happens. Sure, they're using proper grammar, and they gave a lovely description of that girl's dress in that one scene, and I can tell I'm really supposed to feel for that guy (poor fellow) because of the way the author pretty much told me to (yes, that big no-no of tell-versus-show), but golly gee whiz darnit if I'm just not buying any of it. But by this point I'm thirty or forty pages in. If I'm feeling very tolerant, I may even be a hundred. And I think (not a voice-in-your-head thought, but the more subtle kind of thought that is so very slight that you may not even realized you've thought it for quite a while) "I should finish it anyway to check it off the list."

What a waste of time.

I remember reading in a book by C.S. Lewis once that he wanted people to realize that they had the freedom to read his book in any order they wanted, that they could jump from the introduction to chapter six, to chapter eighteen then back to chapter three. He went on a tangent about people who feel like they have to read the book through from beginning to end (people like me, in other words) and how that seems the silliest thing. If you read the chapter heading for chapter seven and think, "Wow, that looks interesting," then you should read that. Follow your interest.

So I did that tonight. Not reading a book out of order (I think that only really works in nonfiction books, not novels), but realizing that I was getting absolutely nothing out of the book I was reading and that I'd much prefer to just return it to the library.

There are too many good books out there to waste my time trudging through ones that have already proven themselves to be not very worthy of my time. That may sound snobbish, but I like to think of it as practical: managing the short amount of time that I have on this planet to try to eliminate the dreariness of a boring read.

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