As I’ve mentioned before in this-here column, I keep track of the books I read through Goodreads. Although I don’t take part in the discussions offered by the website, I do read reviews and peruse book-related questions.
In fact, just the other day, my eyes settled on the following question posed by a fellow reader: Is it ok not to like a book?
That’s like asking if it’s ok not to like a certain food, person, or blog. I could never imagine asking permission to dislike, well, anything.
Anyway, the question also addressed an issue that haunts book readers – to finish or not to finish a book that you’re just not into.
With one notable exception – a trashy memoir of a Z-list actress that was even too tawdry for me – in my youth I finished every book, story, or reading assignment I started. It mattered naught that my mind occasionally wandered and that I didn’t always retain the material. I read every word.
But in my junior or senior year of college, a literature professor assigned an Ernest Hemingway story that was basically a fishing manual. That was the first of many times to come when I wondered if anyone could actually die from boredom.
The professor frequently quizzed us on assignments, so I pulled out the abacus and determined that I could fail a potential quiz and still maintain my grade. Thus, I did not read the story. (By the way, it wasn’t The Old Man and the Sea. I don’t remember the title, but, for reals, it was basically a fishing manual.)
Thankfully, we were not quizzed on the boring story. Nor did the professor engage us in a class discussion. What’s more, this did not set a precedent for me. I still read every word and finished every book, story, or reading assignment I started.
As I’ve gotten older, however, I’ve developed a self-diagnosed attention disorder and I’ve become even more impatient. I’m also not into self-torture, so I will not finish a book that I’m not into. Indeed, the book that led me to the Goodreads question about whether it’s ok not to like a book…well, I didn’t finish it. In spite of the good reviews and laurels heaped upon the book, I could not spend one more word with the characters.
It would be wrong to say I didn’t care what happened. Hence, my visit to Goodreads. It’s just that I preferred spending a few minutes rather than a few hours learning the characters’ fates.
And that’s ok. Because everyone has different likes and dislikes and maybe the next book will be so good that I’ll wish it contained more words.
This post originally appeared in the Appalachian News-Express.