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To Read or Not to Read?

To read or not to read? That is the question.

When you sit down with a book that’s not quite grabbing your attention, how do you gauge when you should stop reading? This question has permeated (and even troubled) book lovers and avid readers for as long as books have been in existence.

For some, it’s quite easy. If a book’s not grabbing their attention, out it goes; onto the next great read. But for others, it’s not so simple.

Some readers, myself included, are occasionally plagued by a lingering, pestering sense of guilt if we choose to stop reading the book we’ve started. Perhaps a great deal of thought went into the book choice and you’re reluctant to abandon it on a whim. Maybe a friend recommended it and raved about it, or perhaps it was the latest Oprah’s Book Club Pick. If hundreds or thousands of others are loving it, you might question why you aren’t connecting with it in the same way. So you keep reading; you commit to finishing the book no matter what. Yes, even if there’s something else you’d much rather be reading. If there’s a world of worthy books out there, why waste time reading books you don’t like? During December’s Books for Lunch gathering, in a tangential discussion about this exact subject—to read or not to read—Roz Weedman said, “Set aside the notion that there’s a virtue to any of this.”

There’s no rule that requires you to keep reading. The book police aren’t going to come knocking at your door inquiring about your reading habits, nor are the book teachers waiting to tally your perfect (or not so perfect) reading attendance. The choice to read or not to read is entirely up to you.

I think there’s something to be said about giving a book your best try, whatever that looks like for you. Some readers commit to a page limit or percentage of a book before deciding whether to soldier on or call it quits. Maybe you abide by the First 3 Chapters Rule, the 100 Pages Rule, the 1/3 Rule, etc. The list goes on and on. Choose a rule that works for you and try it out.

I think we can learn a lot from those who discard books they’re not into with ease. Their method is simple and effective. If you don’t like it, return it, and find something new.

Here at the Wickson Library, we believe that reading is magic when you find the right book. This should be your only challenge: find the right book.

When you pick up a book that’s not grabbing your attention, it might help to remember that the challenge is not to finish it or even to force yourself to keep reading it if you don’t want to. The challenge, once again, is simply to find the right book for you.

Reading should be enjoyable, it should be magic, and the only way to make that happen is to forgo the books you don’t like so that you can indulge more frequently in the ones that you do.

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