02 June 2010

Breaking up is hard to do...

Sonya Chung's article on The Millions this morning ("It's Not You, It's Me: Breaking Up With Books") got me thinking a little about reading and commitment.

I'm going to come right out and say it: I do not see anything wrong with giving up on a book

Now, my parents instilled in me a sense of duty--finish your vegetables, finish your homework, finish your sentences--and I suppose I interpreted this philosophy to also mean finish your book. And for years I trudged through fiction (and a little non-fiction) that I would have otherwise put down after the first few chapters.

But now, as I transition into my grown up years and begin to embrace grown up perks (I eat brownie batter for dinner sometimes) I think I've made peace with the fact that I will not enjoy every read I start. I abide by the "Page 57 Rule."
Page 57 Rule: One must give each book a chance up until page 57, after that, one may continue as one sees fit. The origins of this rule trace back to a cool summer roof top night shared between three friends and a pitcher of wheat beer.
I also fully agree with Ms. Chung's understanding:
"My commitment to finishing books in the past was probably related to the above – fear of ensuing guilt and shame. Failure, too, I suppose.  And perhaps at this point in my reading life, I’ve finished (and more than that, really ingested into my mind and emotions) enough books so that I feel a little freer in exercising the right to choose how to invest my reading time and energy; to veer from the Canonical Path – if such a thing actually exists anymore – and forge my own highly specific map of literary experience and influence. "
 So go forth and be choosy!

PS: Also check out Debbie Stier's thoughts on not finishing Commitment by Elizabeth Gilbert.


  1. I like that rule!

    I too hate the idea of giving up on a book. I used to never do it, but I do now. I recently tried to read Candy Spelling's memoir after enjoying Tori Spelling's. I couldn't read it and put it down shortly after.

  2. Haha!

    I think you can cut yourself a break on that one. Thanks for reading!


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