BLOG POST: To read or not to read?
Blog note: Author Regina Lopez Puerta’s first language is Spanish, not English. This is why we have retained the American spelling of realised Incidentally, Regina will be hosting Spanish classes at Red Lion Books. Please email email@example.com for more information.
There’s a piece of advice my Dad gave me when I was little and it’s stuck with me ever since “If you’re not enjoying the book you’re reading, drop it. Life is too short to read bad books.” I’ve lived by those words ever since, and 40 pages into a very popular novel whose name shall not be named, I dropped it.
I did not think much about it, until I came across a video where a girl was talking about how much she suffered and struggled to finish the book. In her own words “through it was torture, but I finally got through it.” Those 45 seconds sparked doubt in me.
After having lived by the DNF, internet slang for “did not finish”, for years and years, I started questioning my deeply rooted reading (or not-reading) habit. I’ve come across those who stick by the book and finish it no matter how long it takes them and those who, like me, stop reading the second they get bored. I’ve also realized that belonging to either side means having a very strong opinion about your habits.
Am I doing the right thing by sticking to my DNF rule? Should I give the book a longer chance? Can I say I didn’t like it if I only read it halfway? What about the cost of a book, if you’ve paid for it should you finish it?
While sharing a shift at the bookshop with my colleague Polly, I brought up the topic and she gave me some insight and validated my feelings with a very well placed metaphor.
When I asked her if it’s alright to say you didn’t like a book if you only read half of it, she compared it to a bad meal. “If you go to a restaurant and they give you a bad meal, you know it’s a bad meal from the first few bites. You’re not expected to finish the entire thing and then decide if it’s bad. In that sense, you can know if a book is not for you even if you only read the first part,” she said.
Even though DNFing a book she’s not enjoying is a habit for her, it wasn’t always like that. While growing up, she always read through the entirety of a book, even if she was not enjoying it. It wasn’t until she started working as a bookseller that she picked up the habit of DNF.
As booksellers, we’re always getting proofs and review copies, way more than we could possibly read. We need to have a fair idea about what rests on the shop’s shelves. That means we have to be very selective about what we read, so we can’t dedicate more than a few chapters to some books. It is only the truly special books that make it all the way through, and that is okay.
My dear friend Adriana would be gasping for air if I told her I dropped Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass after the first two chapters, while she struggled to get through the entire series even if she did not enjoy them. I’m sure many readers would, too, recoil at my habit.
However, I’ve come to the conclusion that there is no “one size fits all” when it comes to reading. It’s such a personal habit, that your decision about pushing through a book or leaving it, is determined by many other factors in your life and way of viewing the world. It’s fairly sociological, if you ask me. How much about a person can you tell if they DNF books? Probably a lot.
Time, economy, mental state, and personal beliefs are all factors that determine whether we finish a book or not. There’s no right or wrong, only what’s best for you, as cliche as it sounds. In the end, I’ll stick to my habit, because it makes me happy. There’s only certain books I’ll be able to fit into my lifetime, and I’m trying to cram in as many good ones as possible.