Reading is Learning

I try to finish every book I start reading. Even if the first 30 pages of the book aren’t that spectacular or make me roll my eyes in annoyance at the characters, I still read on in the hope that the book will redeem itself in later pages. I hate giving up on a book; I feel like it’s a disservice to the author who spent so much time writing it. And besides, I’ve read several books with slow starts that ended up being really awesome in the end.

They say life is too short to read a book you don’t enjoy. But there haven’t been any books I’ve flat-out hated. Every book has its redeeming qualities; whether it’s the snarky characters or the intricate plot or the writer’s style of description. If you finish a book you don’t like, it’s a reminder of what not to include in your own writing. Reading anything is a learning experience. It doesn’t matter whether it’s a short story in a magazine, a self-published memoir, or a Harlequin romance novel. Whether the book was good or bad, it still taught you something. Maybe you learned something about your own tastes or you learned never to read another book by that author again.

It’s never a waste of time to read.

24 thoughts on “Reading is Learning

  1. Right there, with you. Even if I don’t like the book I finish it… and sometimes only then, after the last page, can I find a reason to recommend it.

    It wasn’t always like that for me. It took me four or five times starting Catch-22 before I “got into it”. Coming back, finally, I found a great deal to like about it.

    These days I’m a little more particular about the books I pick up. Most of those I read have been read and recommended by people I know and trust. I am seldom disappointed any more.

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    1. I’m not particular at all; I will read anything and everything. I used to read a lot of fantasy – and that was all I used to read, but after awhile I got tired of it.

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  2. Most of the time I finish every book I begin. Then again, I usually only buy books I know I’m going to like. Though I have found a few books that really lost me and I never ended up finishing them. I usually give them pretty good chance to gain me back, but they just didn’t do it. Doesn’t mean they are bad books, just not for me.

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    1. I usually try reading books again a few years later if I don’t like them the first time. Maybe something will change and you’ll end up liking the book.

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  3. In my younger years, if I started a book, I finished it. Period. No ifs, ands, or buts.

    It didn’t matter if I had borrowed the book from a friend, received it as a gift, checked it out of the library, or purchased it for myself: once started, I read through to the sometimes bitter end.

    That is no longer the case. If an author hasn’t hooked me in the first 25-50 pages, I close the cover and turn my attention to another book . . . without regret

    * Unlike turning away (mid-sentence) from a tedious speaker, returning an unappealing book to the shelf unread is not rude.

    * Unless someone is holding a gun to my head, or I’m being compensated for my time, I see no reason to keep turning pages that offer me nothing in return.

    * No longer a dewy-eyed optimist, I refuse to believe that tedious writing, ill-formed characters, and laborious story lines will transform themselves if I forge ahead.

    * Slogging through swamp water to reach a distant destination holds little appeal. I no longer expect to be surprised by a satisfactory ending after a dismal start.

    In reading, like life, the journey matters more (to me) than the destination. I refuse to plod along a rocky road riddled with potholes solely to satisfy my curiosity about an unseen destination which may not be worth the trek.

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    1. Why should a book (we are not enjoying) be more deserving of our time and attention than the book (we will adore) that’s still waiting on the shelf for us to find?

      An imaginary obligation to its author (Just because we happened to pick it up first) seems a poor justification for finishing what we’ve started.

      Reading either benefits the reader, or no one. Every book out there wants to be read, but we can’t read them all. It pays to be selective and be dictated solely by our own preferences.

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      1. I read any book I get all the way through no matter what because it’s a learning experience. I study the book as I read it to see if there are techniques in it that I can borrow for my own writing or if there’s anything an author does that really irritates me that I know not to imitate.

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      2. Obviously, lots of readers agree with you. I don’t.

        If I want to be a better musician, I listen to talented musicians.
        If I want to be a better painter, I study paintings that resonate with me.
        If I want to be a better writer, I read books that I enjoy.

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        1. It’s like all those boring books you might have had to read for school. Even if you didn’t enjoy them, you still learned that you never want your own writing to be that boring!

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  4. I’m on the side of nrhatch. I’m too busy these days, and there are millions of great books out there. I’d rather learn what to do from the best, than learn what not to do from the worst.

    After I put it down, I often evaluate a book’s bad beginning, asking myself why it didn’t grab me, what the author could have done to keep me reading, and so on.

    I’m glad for you that you can stick with it and learn from the what-not-to-dos of the middles and ends, but it’s definitely not for me.

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  5. I agree, it’s never a waste of time to read, but I do find I have given up several times on books that I should have perhaps persevered with. You are good to keep going! I blame my immaturity for several instances; for example, I never finished Anna Karenina but I was only 13 so I think it was too grown up for me. I’ll give it another shot though soon!

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  6. I was at a memorial a couple of days ago, for the mother of a friend of mine. She had a stroke about ten years ago and went blind. For those last ten years, a friend came over several times a week to read to her. He spoke at the memorial and said that they had read over 300 books together. Their rule was that if a book was well written, they had to finish it, even if it didn’t really catch their interest. If the writing was bad, they gave up and tried another one instead.

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    1. I like the idea of reading a book if it’s well-written even if it’s not necessarily the most interesting thing in the world. It’s a good nod to the author.

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      1. This is why I quickly skimmed the last 100 pages of The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Good mystery, but badly written, and there was still another 100 pages to go after the mystery was completely solved? It would have taken really good writing to get me to read all that.

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        1. There were quite a few things about that book that irritated me. The slow start, the mystery ending before the actual book… I’m not going to read the rest of the series.

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          1. I stopped after the first book, too, but I watched and enjoyed all three movies. I also wrote about the series a few times (http://u-town.com/collins/?tag=millennium-trilogy), both detailing the things that I think were wrong and also giving Larsson credit for the things he did right. As I said, Dragon Tattoo was a first novel (and it read that way), but if he’d lived he could have learned the things he didn’t know. I have heard that the third novel is the best of the three, but I don’t know if I’ll tackle it or not.

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            1. Someday, I may pick up the second and third novels, but for right now I have too many other books to read that seem more promising. Quite honestly, the only reason I read the first one was to see what all the hype was about.

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  7. Great post!
    I kind of agree with you. I’ve flipped through books with a feeling of, “Oh, come on … it HAS to get better … doesn’t it?”
    There are limits. Some books I do give up on because I don’t feel they can give me anything at all, but it’s rare.
    Usually I keep reading because it’s a classic and I’m curious, or I may dislike the main character, but I like the plot, or I think it’s boring, but I like the way it’s written.

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    1. There’s rarely a perfect book where everything satisfies you – at least for me. Most of the time, I feel like there’s something the author/editors could have made better.

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  8. The only book I’ve recently stopped reading “Crimson, Petal and The White” as it’s soooo long, I wanted to read some others I had first and was excited about. I hope I can return to it one day when I have a block of time to devote to it.

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  9. I have currently about 4 books which i’ve started but not managed to finish, and one of them has been sitting here for a whole year now! I don’t hate them, but i just couldn’t be bothered to finish them! My enthusiasm fizzled out!

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