Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Should you plod your way through a book you don't like?

by Andrew M Brown, in The Telegraph, May 17th, 2011

Two young women read books in front of a giant book display (Photo: Alamy)

Fans of Arthur Ransome got cross with me earlier today on this blog. I said that as a boy I thought his Swallows and Amazons books were boring. But, I admitted, I hadn’t actually managed to finish the one I tried. So I wasn’t speaking from a position of knowledge.

But then, would those commenters have thought more highly of me if I’d trudged through Ransome’s masterworks in their entirety and then said they were boring? I doubt it. I think what they disliked was that I dispraised a treasured author from their childhoods and they felt as if I was insulting them personally. It goes without saying, I did not want to insult anyone. I didn’t want to upset anyone. I wanted  to provoke discussion, not insensate rage.

Some of them said I was foolish to comment on something I hadn’t read, but I don’t think that’s fair. I think it is perfectly possible to form a accurate idea of whether a novel is your cup of tea after just a few pages – especially a children’s book.

Life is too short to waste hours or days on reading an unrewarding book. I don’t claim this as a new insight: Harry Mount, my colleague, once wrote a brilliant article saying it. Our reverence for the printed word makes us feel morally bound to carry on right until the end.

Full piece at The Telegraph


Anonymous said...

Never! When I'm looking at a book to buy I open it at random and read a page. If I don't like the style, it goes back on the shelf no matter how good the review is.
I'll also abandon a book half read - most recently The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks which came from another reader with glowing praise. Fascinating until about halfway through -

Jacqui Dimes said...

Someone very clever told me that if he only accepted books for publication that he actually wanted to read the presses would be idle for most of the year.