Resolve to Give Up…Sometimes

Sticktoitiveness is in full force in early January. We’re goal-setting, resolving, and self-improving every day. At least until March. For many library lovers and library workers, reading resolutions can float to the top of our lists. Read 50 books. Restart and finish(!) Dubliners. Read across genres.

Reading across genres isn’t new to genre X readers. Each time we select books we aim for a balanced slate–something in translation, classic and contemporary pieces, short stories, graphic novels. Reading a little of everything is almost endlessly beneficial. For example, we’ve developed a genre X “canon,” if you will. Our longtime members compare current selections to past and draw connections between authors during discussions.

Personally, I’ve started, finished, and loved books I wouldn’t have picked up on my own and seen that taking risks when I read can result in some surprising new favorites. Definitely a win.

But like any risk, you can find yourself mired in a literary mess with 500 pages to go. So what about the books that you start, thinking about finishing, try to finish, but mostly hate?

On the one hand, maybe it will get better. Maybe you just really need to know what happens. Or maybe you’re in a book club and even though you really find quite a lot to dislike about The Tropic of Cancer you want to be able to fully participate in the discussion.

On the other hand, maybe your time would be better spent reading something else. Or maybe nothing has happened so far and you can’t imagine anything happening the future. Or maybe the first few chapters of a book are enough to get you to and through a discussion.

If we’re reading for pleasure, how much displeasure can you tolerate before the whole endeavor is ruined? One of the most prolific readers I know decides on page one. If it doesn’t grab her, she doesn’t finish it. Others are more generous, saying it takes 25, 50, 75 pages to determine if it’s worth their time. Other still are do or die readers, and will struggle through each tortuous page until the end.

Personally, I’m a stop-n-starter. I have no problem being in the middle of two or three or five books, not knowing if I’ll finish them. If the time between starts and stops for any particular book drags so long that I don’t remember where I left off, that’s a pretty good sign that I won’t be finishing it.

Sometimes giving up is the best thing you can do for your reading life. Slogging through something you hate can be draining, and worse, it can make you forget what it’s like when you feel a real connection to a book. And feeling you have to finish what you start can make it harder to take reading risks.

This year as you’re making your lofty reading goals, think about resolving to give up…sometimes.

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