Confession of a Faithless Reader

There are some things I’m just too old for now. Short dresses; rude service staff; yelling at people who drive even worse than I do.  And I am  conscious that my time is not unlimited, which  makes me avoid wasting it on bad movies or dull company.

But then, there are deep questions about my integrity that give rise to dilemmas that paralyze me. Like this one:

Is it a virtue to read a book that is well written, one that was selected to deepen one’s  understanding of the world and one’s self – but is boring one to tears? It’s not just  The History of Western Europe that cures my late-night insomnia. I can’t seem to plow my way through Ha Jin’s perfectly lovely  War Trash, either.

Tell me, dear reader: do you feel faithfully compelled to finish a book once you’ve started it? Or, does  knowing there are more books left to read than lifetime in which to read them, do you cut your losses early, take your booklight and  move on?

Does leaving “good” books unread make a lazy and  perfidious reader? Or is my literary judgment maturing along with the rest of me?

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  • Jude  On March 11, 2011 at 1:09 pm

    1. It’s your time.
    2. Clean-plating a book has about the same illusory moral weight as clean-plating the lima bean soup (canned, not fresh).
    3. A book is a blind date. A compelling checklist is a good reason to try but a real relationship takes chemistry.

  • Jude  On March 11, 2011 at 1:22 pm

    whoops- So, no to both your explanations;-). Ending a relationship is never about the other person’s merits, its about your own self awareness. (see #1).

    • Intentional50  On March 11, 2011 at 2:38 pm

      Actually, I LOVE #3. Dating books. Why do I let books move into my bedroom nightstand when I wasn’t excited to read them when we first engaged each other at a coffee shop?

      Please, please tell me there really is no such thing as canned lima bean soup.

  • Dawn  On March 11, 2011 at 5:53 pm

    Do not waste your time – stop reading if it doesn’t engage you! I say it doesn’t even have to be great literature. The characters need to feel like friends or stimulate you, whether it’s fluffy or deep. Read for your pleasure with no “shoulds” – it’s your life, and there is no wasting it if it makes you happy – that is intentional.

  • Jillian  On March 11, 2011 at 7:27 pm

    Life is WAY too short to spend on reading anything that is boring. I think reading is meant to be a pleasure and/or a deepening. It’s for inspiring or moving or awakening something in the reader. If there isn’t some corresponding resonance or response in my heart or my gut to what I’m reading, I put it down. Relegate it to the shelf. Take the damn thing back to the library. I no longer give a crap if someone else thinks I should have read this book or that.

    • Intentional50  On March 11, 2011 at 8:17 pm

      OK, Jillian & Dawn, but these criteria make it seriously unlikely that I will ever get through Adorno’s “Dialectic of Enlightenment.” And when I meet St. Peter (and the rest of my committee) at the Pearly Gates, however will I be able to pass the heavenly comps? 😀

      That’s a joke, but with a serious realization in it. Did I forget that I am intentionally NOT pursuing a PhD? Maybe it’s time to re-focus my reading habits to reflect that. If women as smart as you all are reading whatever you damned well please, I’m unlikely to fall into a pit of Harlequin novels and comic books if I relax my ambitions a tad!

  • Marilyn Wyzga  On March 14, 2011 at 12:54 am

    I believe the book dictates how it will be read. My bedside floor and side tables are peppered with partially read books. Some are for browsing, some are for seeking, some are for research. And then there are others that suck me in completely, that yank me off the page and into the story. Those I relish most.

    • Intentional50  On March 21, 2011 at 2:59 am

      Hmm. I’ve always thought of reading as a linear process. I wonder how it would be different if I let my self enjoy different books for different reasons, sometimes all at once? I’m willing to give it a try.

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