Getting Over Book Guilt
There are so many great classics – so many books you’ve heard of that you wish you’d read. Fact is, a lot of them aren’t good… or at least they’re not good for you at this particular point in your life. Here are some tips from Steve Leveen, author of “The Little Guide to your Well-Read Life”, to help you get over the guilt of never having read “War and Peace”:• If you’re 50 pages into the book and still not hooked, put it down. Maybe you give it the heave-ho, maybe you save it for another time. But it’s not your fault if the author didn’t write a book that grabs you.
• Learn to discern between literary pretentiousness and books that are actually worth reading. Maybe the book just made the list of classics because it was groundbreaking for its time. That doesn’t mean you’re illiterate for not having read it.
• Establish a shelf of “maybe later” books. If a book doesn’t appeal to you now, perhaps it will down the road – when you’re traveling or are in a different state of mind.
(Source: Rachel Sauer, writing in The Palm Beach Post)
This is a fine mini-article that addresses the issue that many not-too-enthusiastic readers face. These little cluster of people do want to read – and God knows how hard it is to inculcate the reading habit in today’s techno-centric world already – but they often feel discouraged when they do not like the book they are reading, thinking that it is reading they do not like, rather than not liking reading that book. Or that they feel less intellectual for preferring pop genre books like Harry Potter and try unsuccessfully to read more “intellectual” genres and finding out the frustrating way that they just don’t like reading it, but feel compelled to because they don’t want to feel less intellectual (ahem, writing out of experience here).
I admit, sometimes I read a certain kind of book so I could say the next time in conversation, “Hey, I read that!” and find a common thread with the person I am conversing with. Or that I would read it in an attempt to feel more intellectual than someone who has not read it. But I find that to want to read it is not enough. I wanted to read Pride and Prejudice, but I could not finish it because it took me forever to understand one sentence, and I got bored quickly because it was more like work reading it than pleasure. I wanted to read Life of Pi but I could not see where the plot was going by the fourth chapter.
I do remember the one time I ploughed through a book I didn’t want to read before long, yet I did because it was critically acclaimed and I thought it would get better as I go on (which is the case with some books I have read). After I finished Arundhati Roy’s The God of Small Things, I felt like I wasted one week of reading something that I neither enjoy nor understand. Ever since then, I do not feel as guilty when I decide that this book is not for me and I’m not going to force myself to read it.
I am a bimbo reader and proud of it.
Nick Hornby has written about this too in a slightly different angle. Here’s a nice quote:
And please, please stop patronising those who are reading a book – The Da Vinci Code, maybe – because they are enjoying it.
For a start, none of us knows what kind of an effort this represents for the individual reader. It could be his or her first full-length adult novel; it might be the book that finally reveals the purpose and joy of reading to someone who has hitherto been mystified by the attraction that books exert on others. And anyway, reading for enjoyment is what we should all be doing.