I love to read.
When I say I love to read, what I really mean is that I love to read. This year has been light on content, but high in quantity. Years past have been the reverse. I don’t discriminate between genres. Very little is too fluffy or too heavy for me to devour. I’ll read just about anything.
This is what makes it particularly hard for me to decide not to finish reading something. I can only think of two books I’ve put down in recent years: Ishmael and Twilight. Both came highly recommended, both well-acclaimed, both made me want to scratch my eyes out. Ishmael was preachy, predictable, and went on far longer than necessary to make the author’s point. Twilight was insipid, terribly written, and frivolous in the absolute worst sense of the word. Both books were suggested to me by people I respected at the time.
At the time… because now I have trouble looking at those folks the same way. This has happened to me before. When I was in university, a very good older friend recommended The Celestine Prophecy to me as a book that had changed the very direction of his life — encouraging him to go back to school, despite being older than his new peer group. He claimed it had given him a new outlook on his personal responsibilities and opened his eyes to a new way of seeing the world around him.
I bought it. I sat down to read it. Ihated it from the very first sentence, but I persisted — figuring it could only improve. Right? RIGHT?! Wrong. It got worse. It so far exceeded my expectations of “badness” that it became the literary equivalent of eating 5 lbs of unseasoned, overcooked, smushy broccoli. I kept chewing because I had to — because if I didn’t keep chewing it would never go away. There were so many things wrong with the book: the writing was horrible, the “plot” so transparent I was predicting stuff chapters ahead, the author so terrible he didn’t even bother to hide his agenda — he practically announced in each chapter what the reader was supposed to “discover” on his or her voyage to enlightenment. I actually had a nightmare about the book where I kept reading it, striving for the end, except that with each page I finished the book increased in length by one page.
Eventually I did manage to finish the book, but I was never able to look that friend in the eye again. I credit The Celestine Prophecy with destroying the friendship.
I no longer read books recommended to me by friends unless I happen to have discovered the book myself already. I have a few exceptions to this — people whose tastes are so closely aligned with my own that they’ve never yet thrown me a bad suggestion — but for the most part I nod, murmer a “I’ll have to add that to my list”, and move along.
So if you recommend me a book and I don’t read it, it’s not because I don’t like you — not at all! It’s because I want to be able to keep liking you.. 😉