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Obligation to a Book

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“Life is too short to read bad books.” I’d always heard that, but I still read books through until the end no matter how bad they were because I had this sense of obligation. Do you read everything all the way through or do you feel life really is too short to read bad books?

I answer with yet another question: Do you read to be informed or read to be entertained? As a reader of literature, I read to appreciate the language and forms as well as to be entertained by a good story. Aesthetics and appeal are equally important. To open a book is like exchanging a wedding vow, which symbolizes a commitment. I aim to read everything all the way through unless either the form or the story do not engage me. In that case I skim through the book and go easy on the notes because I owe my readers the responsibility to review the book judicially. I feel unethical and inappropriate of me to review a book that I haven’t finished, even if it’s a slow or poorly-written one.


17 Responses

  1. you are a more noble reader than I.

    I agree that I will not review a book I have not finished. But I will also admit that there are books I find myself unable or unwilling to read to the end. It may be a commitment, an establishment of a relationship, when I open a book. But it is a two sided relationship and if, in my opinion, the author does not fulfill their side of the bargain by writing a readable book, then I feel no obligation to fulfill mine.

    Life really is too short to waste time on a book you do not enjoy…IMHO. 😉

    • Sometimes I feel bummed that I do not get my money worth! The least I can do is to speed-read and finish it. After all, even the worst book must have one positive attribute. 🙂

  2. Interesting! I continue reading out of schadenfreude and a love of writing reviews, but you take it to another level. Very nice answer.

    • I had a hard time finishing Growth of the Soil. But I really wanted to finish because I wanted to see how great it was that it was awarded the Nobel Prize.

  3. I read to be entertained and to learn. The entertainment portion is what interests me in a book and causes me to pick it up to read in the first place. However, I wrote that I read to learn, which keeps me reading even though the book may not keep me entertained as much as I might have liked. I believe that every book offers a learning experience, whether it is about the subject matter or about my own likes and dislikes. This is why I read everything I start.

    • Every book is a learning experience to me. I cannot agree with you more. Even a book that I don’t enjoy helps me improve reading technique.

  4. I read for both entertainment and to learn – and if I feel a book is not meeting either criteria, I am not opposed to putting it down and not picking it up again. My reviewing of books is quite limited and generally only for my own reference when I try to remember if I did in fact read that book. I usually do finish the books I start, but I can think of a few I have purposefully not finished – generally because not only did I find the writing boring or sub-par, but the plot did not hold my interest or drove me to the point of entirely not caring about the characters(or of hating them because they were so stupid).

    Perhaps it isn’t very fair of me to not give the author a chance to redeem his/herself, but really? I have absolutely no regrets about putting “New Moon” down one or two chapters in and reading the summary on Wikipedia. I would much rather spend those four or five hours reading something that would enrich me, open up new perspectives, or demonstrate some sort of skill.

    • I have a couple that I rushed through without giving much thought because I just wanted the books to end. Over the years I have developed a fair radar for books that I would enjoy reading. Every once in a while I would have a stall because a book simply doesn’t move forward or just like lumps in a bowl of porridge.

  5. I read to read. Sometimes to be entertained. Sometimes to be informed. Sometimes just because the book is there. If I don’t finish a book I will include the reasons why in my review. My full answer is here.

  6. “Do you read to be informed or read to be entertained?” Excellent, excellent question! I just commented to my husband the other day that I’ve reached this odd point where being entertained by a book I’m reading has nearly become irrelevant. Not that I’m *never* entertained, because I usually am. But if I’m not, I’m finding analysis other aspects of the book to be equally fascinating. There are so many angles from which reading can be approached!


  7. No, I definitely don’t finish books that I don’t like: life is too short and my tbr list too long!

  8. I don’t “review” a book if I abandon it (and I personally have no qualms about stopping reading a book for any reason) — but I do mention it on my blog and a few times lately people have convinced me to pick it up again.

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