20 February 2010

So many books, so little time...

I find that as I grow older, the books I read become more important to me. What follows may offend the sensitive reader, so beware.

There was a time when I would finish a book, page by page consecutively, no matter what. I felt duty-bound to read a book through no matter how I hated it. Then, almost suddenly, I changed. I can almost pinpoint the moment. I was reading a book hailed by that most exalted judge the New York Times Bestseller list. A wiser (read older) me realizes that a book that sells the most isn't necessarily the best book. It is very seldom the best book for me. The book that changed me was a biography about a person who, very early in the book, seemed to me the most selfish, self absorbed and flamboyantly vulgar person I had ever been introduced to. Somewhere before the first chapter closed, I clapped the book shut and threw it away! Heresy! I won't mention the book or the subject of the biography. It matters little anyway, and is quite beside the point. At that moment, I was liberated from a life of unsatisfactory reading.

Of course, once that cat was out of the bag, I gave way to some pretty radical behaviors: if at some juncture I itched to know how a story ended, I would read the end (scanning backwards sometimes, to satisfy myself about the outcome). If the book ended well, in my estimation, I continued. (I hate being cheated at the end.) I skipped or skimmed chapters if I felt they didn't add to the story. And I very often stopped reading entirely. I developed the philosophy that if a writer couldn't bother to engage me within a reasonable amount of time, I would not plug through vast swamplands waiting for them to deliver. There are so many books to be read. So many interesting, informative, contributory, inspiring, worthy books. I won't be able to read even those in my lifetime. Why waste time on the drivel? And confess - we've all read drivel.

So writers, take heed. I am your new discerning public. Impress me (and be sure to do it in the first few pages!)

No comments:

Post a Comment