It seems like today’s a big day for hating the books you read. Lev Grossman goes off on hating a novel by a well-respected author and wonders if it’s just him. Publishers Weekly has a post up about which books readers couldn’t finish.
I don’t hate many of the books I read. Maybe I don’t fall in love with all of them, but I don’t think I leave many reading experiences thinking, “Dear lord, if only I could erase all the words from the page.” Still, I’m all in favor of setting aside a book that isn’t working for you. A few years ago I read Anna Karenina because I thought I should. Honestly–not a huge fan. I only finished it because I thought I should, and I don’t think I’m better off for it. Just like you don’t have to like every food or movie or song, you don’t have to love every book you read. Maybe you’re just not in the right place for it, or maybe it’s just not for you. Why waste your time reading books you don’t enjoy or get something out of?
My suggestion: Put the book aside. No guilt. Life is too short and there are too many awesome books out there to waste time on the ones you don’t like.
I’m tackling a top 100 novel list, and each time I don’t like one I feel guilty about not wanting to finish the book. But I’m getting better about it.
I’m a big proponent of always finishing things, especially after “The Ward” entered my life, a movie that I really didn’t much care for, but had quite possibly one of the best endings I’ve ever seen. It was worth the rest of the film being lackluster. Even books I’ve hated have contained certain elements I loved…and even without those moments, as a writer, I can learn just as much from something I don’t like as I can something I do.
I happen to be reading Anna Karenina now, actually. So far, so good, but I’ve only just begun, so we shall see.
I often feel compelled to finish a book, regardless of whether I hate it or not. But that’s mainly because I’m OCD about it. I can’t just not finish a book; it would bug me quite a lot!
Your suggestion at the end is something I have told myself many times in my adult life. I think it is something that all people eventually realize (hopefully). I would much rather read something mesmerizing like The Night Circus than Ulysses just to prove that I am an amazingly deep reader to a bunch of faceless professors in my mind.