I believe life is too short to read books you don’t enjoy, but I also believe some great books take a while to get going. I have *loved* some books which I had to start three or four times because the beginning just didn’t grab me (Power of One) and then once I got into them could not put them down.
To get around this I formulated the 100 page rule; to try and read up to at least page 100 (unless it is absolutely awful and I can’t get past page 2) and if I find I don’t care what happens next, or the characters leave me cold, then I give myself permission to put it down and move onto something else.
This rule has served me faithfully over many years, giving me the freedom to cast aside stories that don’t grab me, and helping me along to those that eventually do.
I picked up ‘Love in the time of cholera’ by Gabriel Garcia Marquez last week and keenly started reading it. It has been on my ‘books to read’ list for more years than I care to mention. Being set in a different culture and written in a very different style to many modern books, I quickly found myself lost in the world of spice and sweat and noisy parrots.
Like so many books I have enjoyed in the past, page 100 came and went without my notice, and I was powering through it. But then something strange happened. I got to around page 200 and realised there really wasn’t any story. It was about, exactly as the title would suggest, love… in the time of cholera. That’s it.
Seeing another world with wonderful descriptions is all well and good, but without a story, and with a lead character who gets more selfish and perverse with each page, I found myself creating excuses not to pick it up! With less than 100 pages to go, I did not want to give up on it, but I had no desire to find out what happened next either. I was confused.
So I did something I have never done before. I forced myself to read to the end, speed reading at times and disliking it greatly by the time I got to the last page. My page 100 rule failed me badly.
Which makes me wonder, when it comes to reading maybe all rules should go out the window? If you don’t like it anymore, put it down. I think that might be my new mantra.