It’s not you, it’s me

This line has been occurring between me and some of the books I’ve been trying to read lately. For the past year, my approach to reading has been if a book doesn’t have my complete attention by the 2nd or 3rd chapter, I’m putting it aside and reading something else. I don’t have time to dawdle, folks, and there are a lot of books I want to read (and a lot of magazines, journals, and newspapers, too).

Sometimes I decide I’ll come back to the book at another time; perhaps I’m not in the right mood for it. One example happened earlier this year with, “The Life of Pi.” I tried to read it quite a while ago, while I was still in grad school, and was so utterly unimpressed that I put it aside, and didn’t consider it again. When I saw it on my shelf earlier this year, I thought I’d give it another try, and I enjoyed it very much. The difference between the first try and the second, I don’t know. But I’m glad I revisited it.

I also seem to have attention deficit disorder regarding books. Right now I having the following strewn about the house, each at various levels of completion: Richard Wright’s “Black Boy,” W.E.B. Dubois’ “The Souls of Black Folk,” Philip Lopate’s “Notes on Sontag,” Fyodor Doestevsky’s “Crime and Punishment,” Anthony Burgess’ “Mouthful of Air,” the “2009 Best American Essays” edited by Mary Oliver, and Elizabeth Hawes’ “Camus: A Romance.” I have yet to finish any, though I’m making quick progress on “Crime and Punishment” and “Black Boy.” However, the Camus biography is from the library, which means I read it with the stopwatch ticking because I’ll have to return it soon. Yet, I find myself not craving the book, not looking forward to picking it up each night. I find myself already wondering if I should return it for something else. But have I even given it a chance? I don’t know. It came with glowing reviews, and I’m interested in the subject. One moment I’m engrossed in the story, and the next I can hardly keep my eyes open. Maybe I’m expecting too much from biography? I don’t know; I’ve read some others that I could hardly put down.

Then there’s the notion that maybe I should just trudge through. I’ve taken it from the library, and now I must read it, and that’s that. I know of many people who read works they don’t particularly end up liking, simply because they started them and felt compelled to finish what they started. I admire this approach very much.

However, I’m not convinced this is the approach for me. I’m not a terribly fast reader, so if I were reading something not enjoyable, I think my progress would slow to molasses. Also, if I were hit by a bus and killed at this time, and I had spent the last days of my life reading some thing that gave me little enjoyment, well, I’d be really pissed. But, I’d be dead, too, so…never mind.

With 2010 moments away, and numerous books on my To Read list, I wonder whether I should kick off the new year making the effort to finish what I start, or continue with the “it’s not you, it’s me,” approach and hightailing a book I find uninteresting back to the library drop box. Am I doing myself a disservice by not pushing my way through its pages?

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