Overcoming Reading Guilt

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

That's it...I'm giving up guilt.  Well, maybe not the guilt I feel when I have that extra piece of pizza, but book guilt.  I'm giving it up cold turkey.  What is this book guilt, you ask?  Well, I'll tell ya...

I picked up a book a couple of weeks ago.  It was a book I had selected, not some required reading.  I sat down in my comfy chair with a cup of coffee, cracked open the new binding, and got to reading.  The premise sounded interesting-the story revolved around the mystery of two missing women.  One, a 200 year old red haired maiden, was discovered fully preserved in a peat bog in Ireland.  The other, a wealthy land-owners wife and her son, disappeared without a trace, and suspicion fell on her husband.  A mystery!  Set in a part of the world I would love to explore?  Sounds like my cup of Irish Breakfast!

20 pages in I was telling myself it was just a slow-starter.  75 pages in I was telling myself it was me-I was too stressed out to concentrate.  120 pages in I still wasn't hooked.  "What's wrong with me?", I thought.  "Someone went to the trouble of writing and revising and publishing this book.  I owe it to them to keep plowing through!"

Suddenly I found myself choosing every other free-time activity but reading!  I'm sure my Play Station appreciates the many hours of Final Fantasy I've played on it in the last couple of weeks, but surely that is not a laudable goal to which to aspire.  Even my treasured bedtime ritual of reading in bed til my eyes start to cross was expendable.  Fact is, I just didn't want to read that darn book.

Hence the guilt!  I have always been one of those people who believed in finishing what I start, honoring the creative process that went into drafting, re-drafting, and finally bringing to fruition the ideas that the author wanted to convey.  What a gift to be allowed to share in the author's vision!

Well, there's a reason that the term re-gifting has made it into the American lexicon!  Sometimes you get a gift you just don't want.  Sure, the intentions were good.  It's very gracious and kind of that person to give you the Christmas sweater with the huge gaudy reindeer on the front.  (Incidentally, a scene from a book I did enjoy!).  But good intentions or no, you stash that sweater in the Good Will donation box as soon as you can.

For whatever reason, this author and this story failed to reach me.  It wasn't the writing-it was very evocative of Ireland, and the author is obviously skilled at his craft.  The story itself is one that I was sure I would get into, loving mysteries as I do.  The characters were likable and decently developed.  Nope, there's nothing I can point to as the reason this book didn't appeal to me.  It just didn't.  Sorry, Irish-bog-girl story-it's not you, it's me.

So what did I do?  I pulled that bookmark out of that book like pulling off a band-aid.  It was painful to admit that I wasn't going to finish that book, but it was a relief as well.  No more finishing books that don't hook me in the first 100 pages or so (after all, you've got to give the author a little time to court you!).  No more finding other things to do when what I really want is to sit in my comfy chair with a cup of coffee and lose myself in a book.  There are too many great books out there for me to spend my time on the ones that just aren't doing it for me. 

So, now, on to my next book club book, Julie and Julia.  A delightful book, from what I can tell, that will finally allow me, if all goes as I hope, to write a positive review on this blog.   In it's short life I have yet to have that opportunity.  I can't wait!

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