It wasn’t long ago that I had to read every book I picked up from beginning to end. It seemed like sacrilege not to finish what I’d started. All of the books I began had to be finished for a reason: I paid money for it (a big motivator when I was young and spending money was tight), it was recommended by a friend, *everybody* thinks it’s a fantastic book, it was a gift, or reading it will enlighten or educate me.
Whatever. I’m over it. In the time that I spent during high school really, really trying hard to like Tolkien, I could have read my way through at least four other books that I did enjoy. I still find Tolkien stultifying and unreadable even though I love the genre. Today, I’d have the sense to stop after four or five chapters of total disinterest. You might have that experience with Terry Pratchett, Neil Gaiman, or George RR Martin. It’s alright, there are no consequences if you just walk away. I won’t think any less of you.
What I know now is that life is too short and time to read is too limited not to bail on a book that doesn’t have my full attention. I’m not saying I’m going to join the short-attention-span crowd and put down a book if it doesn’t grab me on the first page. I am saying that if I’m half an hour into it and still not engaged, it probably isn’t worth another half hour of my time.
I still have trouble putting down any book I paid for. As a result, I have learned to be more careful about where I spend my book money. Before I buy any book I read through the first chapter or so to get a feel for it before I hand over the cash. If an ebook is front-loaded with something other than the story itself, I am much less likely to click “buy”. I don’t want any nasty surprises when the book turns out to be something I didn’t expect. When I’ve already lost the money, I remind myself that money can be regained eventually, but I will never get my reading time back!
The way I figure it is this – I can get through two to three books per week in a good week if kids, job, and school leave me with enough breathing space and privacy. I doubt that I’m going to get any more free time soon, so that’s about it. Adding that up, I estimate I can read around 100 books in a good year. With an average life expectancy of 80 or so, I’ve got around 45 years of reading time left. It doesn’t seem like anywhere near enough at only 100 books a year.
I can tell you this, though – not a single one of them will be Tolkien.
What about you? What would you leave out? How much time do you give to a book before you decide to just pack it in?
Posted by Lauren Miller 4/28/2013