Friday, September 14, 2012

Promiscuous Reading

     So I don't really need to finish that book.
 "I often feel as though I’m a bad reader, an unfaithful reader, a reckless literary philanderer. But I can usually assuage this guilt by reminding myself that if I were to impose some sort of embargo on starting a new book before finishing a current one, I would end up reading fewer books. I would be a more methodical and orderly reader, certainly, but a less varied and prolific one. There’s a bit in Boswell’s “Life of Samuel Johnson”—a book that I started but never finished—where Johnson gives amusingly short shrift to the notion that you should finish reading any book you start. “This,” he says, “is surely a strange advice; you may as well resolve that whatever men you happen to get acquainted with, you are to keep them for life. A book may be good for nothing; or there may be only one thing in it worth knowing; are we to read it all through?” Well, when you put it like that, then no. It’s always reassuring to have Dr. Johnson on your side, and he makes an excellent point—that we don’t necessarily have to think of books we are reading as relationships, that they can just as well be casual acquaintanceships—but I’m still only ever half convinced of the virtue of my ways."

Mark O’Connell (via Writing in the Dust)


Cara Herzberg said...

The only New Years resolution that I have ever made, and am still keeping, was from 2008: If the book doesn't have me by page 50, I put it down. It is so freeing. I'm sure I am missing out on some good stuff out there, but it sure beats finishing a book and thinking, "Why did I read that?"

Anonymous said...

If I don't like the book (for whatever reason), I go read the last chapter and call it done!

Margie Haack said...

Flip a coin. Either policy is going to work for me from now on.