I used to force myself to read books that didn’t interest me. It was a habit held over from high school English, when I knew that everyone in class was going to be called on and asked to offer thoughts on the book. So I read every last painstaking word of Go Tell It On The Mountain freshman year. I slogged my way through A Farewell To Arms. In college, if I wasn’t feeling a certain book, but knew that reading it would be important to my grade, I’d somehow force myself to stay awake much too late into the night, my eyes growing blearier with each boring, dragging page. For a few years after school, I kept up the habit. “It’s a classic!” I’d tell myself. Or, “maybe it really gets going after the first one hundred pages.” But now, as a fully realized, not currently in school adult, I don’t bother with that nonsense anymore. If I’m not enjoying a book, I simply stop reading it. Perhaps I’ll return to it at a later date–I did this with Atonement, which I hated the first time I picked it up, but devoured after my second try–but perhaps not; there are plenty of books out there to read.
I bring this up because recently I have tried and failed to read several books. I started with Winter’s Bone, selected because I’d heard good things about the movie (admittedly not the best reason for picking a book), but after several days of trying, I just couldn’t get into it. So I moved on Alan Brennert’s, Honolulu. Different book, same problem. Next came The Drowning People. Perhaps I’ve just been in a mood and that’s the problem, but nothing about any of the books I selected was appealing to me at all. Finally I moved on to trusty Margaret Atwood, and a book called Bodily Harm. I’m absolutely loving it. Just think, if I had wasted my time forcing my way through any of those other books, the due date on my most recent batch of library selections would have arrived before I even got around to Bodily Harm. You can certainly argue that if I’d given them a chance, I might have ended up enjoying any number of those books just as much as I’m enjoying this one. Maybe that’s true. But in a world where there are more books than there are days in one’s life, why waste your time on something that doesn’t interest you? There will always be some great book you didn’t read. A great movie you never saw. A fabulous place you never visited.
I guess what I’m saying is that there are only so many things you can do in a lifetime, and it’s nice to be past the age where someone else is telling you what those things have to be.