Alchemical Thoughts

Do I abandon books? Oh hell yea.

Posted on: January 18, 2013

I read an interesting post in May of last year over at Book Riot on the topic of “Abandoning Books With No Remorse.” Reading this prompted the question for me of whether I abandon books or not. You bet I do, although not as often as I should. Here is how some of my reading process works. Very often I do skim books. If I skim enough of the book to get a good sense of the book and its content, then I do consider it read. I look at it in terms of the fact that I did inflict on myself a big chunk of a bad book, so it counts. Now, if I leave a book unfinished with no intention of getting to the end, that’s abandonment, and I do that as well.

Over the years, I have refined my art of skimming just enough to call a book “read.” I really got it down during graduate school. Given the amount of novels and essays I had to read in short periods of time, one learns to skim to get the basic point. The fact that a lot of those “classics” were books I came to loathe just added the incentive to skip and skim as needed. In the end, all I needed was knowing enough to be able to discuss the book in an intelligent way in class. I am sure others did the same, even if they would not admit it as readily as I do. I think with that life now behind me, I can write about this with more freedom.

As for the books I fully abandon, I don’t really have a rule. The number of pages I give a book to get my interest varies from a few pages to about 40 to 50 pages. Some may say that is not enough to really know a book. To those people I say, besides an “I don’t give a fuck,” that if I abandon a book, the book was not worth knowing in the first place. I don’t think that reading a book  you hate for the sake of completion makes you a better reader or some heroic figure. If you are one of those people, either you are masochist, or your whining about how heroic you were because you slogged through some long, not so good book (that may be classic, trendy, by some “literary” author, etc.) is just for show like Pharisees bragging after praying. The latter reader is just full of it.

So, yes, I abandon books. Life is way too short to waste it on a book that simply does not engage me. There are many other fine books out there to explore. I don’t feel guilty about it at all. To quote Dewey from Unshelved, I read irresponsibly, and I encourage others to do so.

Read freely. Read what you like. Read what engages you and moves you. There is a great world of books out there, so go exploring and leave the crappy books behind. Follow your reading bliss.

 

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