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I shouldn't say "bad books", more like "books I don't enjoy." I used to be what I called a "completist", which meant that I had to finish any book I started. I've had enough experience with books that started out slowly, and later became fascinating, that I thought if I just kept going in any book, eventually something interesting would happen. Also, I somehow felt that I owed it to myself, or possibly to the author, to see the story all the way through to the end.
Multitudes of Options
But I don't do that anymore, because I realized that it is alright for me to indulge my individual taste. I don't have to read something just because a friend liked it, or it has been well-reviewed. If other people have liked it that much, it is selfish of me to keep the book in my house, where it just gathers dust. I have many, many other things to read. Reading something I don't like just keeps me from finding the next book I will love.
If You Are Bored by Something, Set it Free
I try to give every book a fair chance, but if it hasn't caught me by page 50, I realize it is never going to.
Case in point is The Dante Club by Matthew Pearl. I tried to read it at least three times, but I always found something that I was more interested in reading. I finally admitted I just did not like it and I was not going to finish it. I sold the book and felt a little guilty. But, I realized that this way, not only would I get to read something else, but the person who bought my copy of The Dante Club would probably enjoy it more than I did.
No Need to Play it Safe
Of course, at the library, you can take all kinds of risks and experiment with different books without spending any money at all.
How people read can be both fascinating and telling. To get some additional perspective on the many ways to read the many things you could choose to read, check out Books: A Memoir by Larry McMurtry.
What do you think? Do you finish a book no matter what? If not, how much do you read before you abandon it?
Meredith Burke Hammons works mostly behind the scenes at the Central branch, supervising the department that buys and processes library materials to get them out on the shelves. Her reading interests are varied; right now, she's focused on international fiction.