Friday, June 29, 2007

Reading to the End?

At some point, I developed a habit of just plugging along reading whatever I was reading until I got to the end, whether I liked it, found it useful, or whatever.

A couple years ago, I let go of this habit with regard to things I read for pleasure. But I still have difficulty putting down a book (articles are less difficult) that's work-related.

But I did it! I feel strangely liberated. But the book wasn't doing what it promised, wasn't helping me, wasn't challenging me, and wasn't keeping my interest well. And it set up Shakespeare folks as idiot strawmen, and that irritated me.

And yet, in addition to feeling liberated, I also feel a little guilty.

I think it's a holdover from graduate school, where I put a lot of emphasis on trying to actually do the reading required for classes. I took this to stupid extremes, even. I was in a class where the prof said that graduate students were supposed to read the primary texts in the original language whenever possible. So I did. I read plays in two different languages. And no other grad student did. There was no reward for my effort; I didn't know either language well enough to get nuances from the 16th or 17th century texts, even. And it took way longer to read the texts in their original languages. And since no one else bothered, I couldn't even commiserate.

Time to LET GO!


  1. Ars longa, vita brevis, and all that. Life is too short. If you don't like a book, drop it! There are too many good books out there to waste time on things that don't give you pleasure.

    Of course this advice does not apply to professional reading. There the axiom: "We will push the peanut up the hill with our noses.." applies.



  2. I've just recently given myself permission to just read the abstracts of papers in professional journals that I don't want to read. :)

  3. The level of guilt I experience when failing to finish a book correlates with whether the book was bought or borrowed and if bought, how much I paid for it. It causes me great pain to stop reading a book I've paid a lot of money for, but I can give up on a library book or a free desk copy without any guilt whatsoever. This is just wrong. You're right: let it go!

  4. I realized this summer I've gotten to feel that way about museums. I always felt obligated to walk through all the sections of a museum, noting and appreciating everything, even if there were sections I wasn't all that interested in. Now I give myself permission to breeze past the stuff I don't care about, so I can stop and soak up the stuff I like!

  5. I'm with all the other commentators! I just quit a book club in which 90% of the books were books I didn't enjoy! It felt incredibly liberating!


  6. Mr. B, This IS professional reading! That's why it's so difficult to let go!

    MWAK, Science papers tend to be short, too, right? AND they come with abstracts! As in: we find X to be more useful in circumstances a, b, and c, than Y?

    Bev, Correlating guilt! HAH!

    Pilgrim/Heretic, I'm the museum visitor who only looks at a few pieces, and just sits or stands there at different distances and angles. I love looking at the way paint's applied. The first time I saw a Van Gogh in person, I suddenly had a sense of his power; it never came through in reproductions for me.

    Roaringgrrl, YAY! Sounds like a miserable book club, though!