Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Good Book, Bad Book

The other night over dinner with some friends we were discussing our reading habits. L. mentioned that a family member instilled in him the sense that "life is too short to read a bad book." I laughed at that, and agreed. If I'm not enjoying a book, I tend to put it down and move on to something I do like. M. and Dan are both the type of readers who will finish a book, no matter what.

Then I brought up the gift book. What do you do when a friend gives you a book and they say "I think you'll love this one," and two chapters into it you're wondering why they thought so? I'm in the center of a long book like that. I can tell you why I'm going to finish it though - I want to find the part that made the friend connect with me while they were reading it. It may be one sentence. Maybe a phrase? In the meantime, I am really wondering why they thought this was a good book for me. It's sort of like a mystery, without the compelling plot.

Do you finish books whether you like them or not, or is life too short to read a bad book?


Talia Reed said...

I would like to finish a book even if I'm not enjoying it because sometimes the book changes halfway through and I start to "get it" or something, but really I like the feeling of finishing books. To not finish a book is some sort of a failure. So I guess I try harder, but in the end I will put it down. Now when it comes to poetry, I absolutely don't keep it up.

When I loan someone a book to read I often disclose "you won't hurt my feelings if you don't like it...please don't feel like you have to finish it, etc. because I know how it is to feel obligated to read something because you know they'll be asking what you thought of it.

Jodi Anderson said...

If something doesn't reach out to me in those first few chapters, I put it down. Right now, I'm feeling that way about "River, Cross My Heart", but I'm going to give it another chapter. I suppose it doesn't help that I have dipped into two other books at the same time.

Like you, though, if a book was given to me by a dear one, I would read it for that connection, wondering if it's the writing style, a character, the descriptions, etc.

Two books that I recommend to everyone who I think may share my taste: "Housekeeping" and "Astrid & Veronika". The latter is officially my favorite novel. It leaves me feeling suspended in time and space, even like I'm suspended in air.

Sorry for the ramble; You got me to thinking (out loud)!

Kristen said...

Recently I put one down that was basically a diary of a solo trip by a man who doesn't change at all from start to end of where I read, more than halfway through. It is day after night of battling hills and wind on his bicycle then drinking beer alone before setting up his tent and sleeping uneasily. He should have just kept his journal to himself, or found an editor who would make him write a proper storyline to his travel.

Another book was a compelling concept - three Japanese detective stories written in the 1920s reworked into one longer novel in English. The stories were interesting, but the interweaving was clumsy and awkward. I finished reading it and learned some things not to do in my writing.