I had a lousy commute this morning. The blue line train was delayed, the yellow line train “broke” and had to be “offloaded.” And then the book I was reading took a turn into boringness. So I did something I don’t often do in less distracting circumstances – I dropped it. So long, Jane Smiley, hello, Tiger’s Curse. Somehow the rest of my commute went by more quickly after that.
The question of when to give up on a book is a tough one. Too many books, too little time to read something boring. And with a Kindle, I always have four or five books ready to read so it’s easier to switch. But sometimes I’ve found you need to push through and then a book gets really good.
Which leads to a bigger issue for me, which is “book guilt” – do I read enough literature? History, political analysis, biography? Or conversely, do I read too much “fluff”? And if so, should I care?
With the Kindle is no one can judge me by the cover of my book. Maybe I shouldn’t care. But I do.
When I was in school some fourteen years ago this never occurred to me. In college I was a lit major, and in law school, I carried around 20 pound texts and spent my days in the library. These days, I lean towards werewolf fiction and mystery series. I do try to mix it up, so I don’t overload on any one genre. Still, at the end of a long day of work, it’s a lot easier to reach for something, well, easy.
And yet, some of the authors that have been most memorable, and most influential in my life, are the classics – Thomas Hardy’s Return of the Native, Jane Austen’s Emma, Charles Dickens’ David Copperfield, to name a few. Books I might not have read if I didn’t have to.
There’s a reason these authors are loved – they move us; they change the way we think about ourselves; they inform us about our world; and still they entertain.
At the same time, “fluff” is a subjective term. There are great, wonderfully written works of fantasy, science fiction, children’s books – and there are books that end up on the New York Times “best of the year” lists that I despised (Prep comes to mind). It’s not the genre. And reading books that are brain-candy can be fun (and necessary) at times. But still, I think it’s important to read things that challenge us.
At least for me. I won’t make that judgment for anyone else. But what do you think? Do you read books because they are “good for you”?