I am an exceptionally fast reader. I always have been. I don't skim, I don't "speed read", I read voraciously and anything I can get my hands on. So, while the sight of a weighty tome, one that could be used as a doorstop, might make some readers quail, if I'm hooked within a few pages, it's on. Knowing that I will have something to read for the next few days is simply a relief. Reading is something I absolutely cannot do without — it was my first addiction and earned me the completely original nickname "bookworm" among my cousins. Books have been my companion for some very lonely times and places. You can plunk me down in the corner with a good book and probably forget about me for a while. My mother told me "when you're a reader, you never have a reason to be scared or lonely, ever."
I will read just about anything I can get my hands on, and when I can fall into a narrative that I'm loving, I can think of far worse scenarios. I'm discerning, but not overly concerned what anyone else thinks of my choices and neither should you. It's true that reading is good for your brain, and a good narrative is as much escape as mental exercise. And while it should be pleasurable, something that you're not enjoying is absolutely okay to put down. Yep, I've put down Catch-22 more than a few times. I know that Kurt Vonnegut endorsed it, and kudos, Mr. Heller. It doesn't speak to me, at least yet.
I used to feel guilty about not finishing books that I didn't enjoy, plugging through until the end until I realized, it could be just as much about you as the author. It's not the right time for that book. Put it down, and if it's something you really want to finish, pick it up again in a few months. My friend described a certain book as a "joyful experience" today &mdash that was the perfect turn of phrase. Anything that isn't for you — unless you're simply in a masochistic frame of mind — it's alright to let find you again when it's time, which may be never.
Meanwhile, I'll be over in the corner with something to read. The really big ones? I'm thrilled to embark on that journey and let you know whether you should jump on that train. Maybe you can put this down and go grab some Pahlaniuk, which I HIGHLY recommend. He's a Hemingway, never giving more information than you need. Make no mistake: I do not believe that because a book is long, it's good. For example, I am not a big Tolkein fan. I don't enjoy two pages to describe something that takes two sentences. When you delve into an author, you're asking to trust them, and be trusted in return. Any author who is not complicit in this agreement is okay to put down. It's a relationship — if it's not mutually beneficial, move on. Meanwhile, I'll be over here, nose in a big book. Don't bother me, I'm reading and working on my elevator pitch for this book I want you all to read.
(Originally published on my own blog, Life and Other Fatal Pursuits).