I was at a small party of friends a while back, where more than one person said that they hadn’t read any good books this past year. I may have whispered it in the moment, but in my mind I yelled, “What do you mean?!” Since then, this idea has rattled me. If you rarely read because of preference or time constraint, that statement may be totally fair. But if you’re reading throughout the year, I’d like to suggest something:
You should put down more books.
Unless you’re reading for school or your book club, there is no reason to finish a book that you’re not enjoying. This may be hard if you pride yourself on never quitting anything, but to steal the words from a certain Irish novelist, life is too short to read bad books.
When you slog through a book you’re not enjoying, you’re less likely to be excited about the prospect of reading in general. Everything you spend time on should be something you’re looking forward to.
To get you started on the path to putting down more books, I’m going to share a few examples of the many, many books I put down in the last year, along with my reasons for letting them go.
The much-hyped experimental-format literary tome
I put down a couple of these in 2019. I love a weird-format work. Some of these, such as 17776 or George Saunders’ “Lincoln in the Bardo,” are some of my favorite reading experiences ever. But that doesn’t mean that every one of these kinds of books is my cup of tea. Maybe it’s someone else’s favorite work of all time, but if it’s not for you, let it go.
The graphic novel adaptation of a TV show that I really love
This should be an easy call. You love the TV show or movie so you think, never too much of a good thing, right? Wrong. There’s sometimes, definitely, too much of a good thing. Just because you like something on the screen doesn’t mean you’re going to like it in a different medium, and that’s OK.
The advice guide that already gave me everything I needed
Some nonfiction works are meant to be consumed as a whole piece, but not all of them. Like cookbooks, self-help guides and how-to books are filled with bits of information. It’s OK to jump around, read just what you need and pick up the next thing.
The third-straight title in a genre when it’s time to mix it up
I tend to read eclectically, but lately I’ve been working on exploring different genres. In doing so I’ll dive head first, binging several books within the same subgenre or by the same author consecutively. But eventually I will hit a breaking point, and I’ll need to try something new. I often find that changing it up refreshes my desire to sit down and read.
The book that everyone said they loved, but I just didn’t
There’s no shame in not liking the critical darling of the season or the big soon-to-be-a-major-motion-picture hit. The great thing about the world of publishing is that it’s broad, and everyone is entitled to read what they like. You like what you like and if that doesn’t include the National Book Award or Booker Prize winner, that’s OK.
So, I’ll say it again ...
You should put down more books. There’s no shame in it, I promise.