October 15, 2012 by chriszumtobel
We’ve all struggled with a book before.
That book where each time you turn the page, you find your eyes wandering to the bottom corner and thinking, I’m only that far! I’ve been reading forever!, and then you look at your watch and realize it has only been ten minutes…
Or the one where you wonder how the author possible thought their story makes sense… Or their dialogue sounds remotely like real people… Or that a single page of the story was even worth writing… You know the book.
When is it time to put this book down and say, Okay, maybe later…?
Well I believe there are 5 basic criteria, which make a book reading worthy and if your book fits 2 or more of them you may just have to keep on plugging away at it.
I’m writing this post because I have just recently finished Slaughterhouse Five, and I have to admit, it really didn’t capture my attention early on the way some of Vonnegut’s other books have. But, luckily I kept at it and about half way through I realized how great of a decision it had been, as the story got more and more interesting page after page! It made me think about which books are worth the battle and which books should just become “maybe laters”…
1. Required Reading
Ok, so I started with the obvious one: If a book is required for a class, or a job, or even an ambition, that may be a good reason to read it. But is it enough of a reason to make yourself miserable. If the book you’re required to read for class doesn’t meet another of the requirements on this list, maybe just read the key passages or the Sparknotes, read at it a little bit, but don’t make yourself hate the class because you end up hating the book so much. (I’m going to add here: just make sure it’s not laziness that is the reason you’re not reading. Use the time: read a different book, focus on another class or maybe even another aspect of the same class.)
2. A Favorite Author
I say favorite, but it doesn’t actually need to be a favorite, but just an author whose work you have enjoyed in the past. This was the case with Slaughterhouse Five: at first, I wasn’t loving the book but I knew from other books that I really loved Vonnegut for his unique style and the opinions throughout his book, so I stuck with it and I was sure glad I did.
3. Recommended to You
If a book was given to you by someone you respect or care about, sometimes it is worth the extra effort to sit down each night and chip away at it. People and friends are important, and we don’t want to let them down by not even attempting a book they thought was worth suggesting to us. If it really isn’t a good book, then just try to learn something small from it (even if its just what not to read) or enjoy it in some simple way…
4. Regarded as a Classic
Some of these so called “Classics” can be absolutely grueling reads… but that doesn’t mean they can’t be amazing books with some equally timeless messages throughout. I haven’t yet read either of Tolstoy’s masterpieces, but just from glancing at the pages (and reading some of his lesser works) I know that those two beasts are going to be a challenge, but hopefully someday I’ll find that they meet a couple of the criteria on this list and I will get through them – because I really know it will be worth it.
5. An Easy Read
Certain books are just easy to read. They might not be the highest level writing you will ever see, but sometimes that makes them easy to pound through in only a night or two. If you’ve got yourself one of these books and it fits one more of the reasons on this list (say a friend gave it to you or it’s considered classic) I recommend just reading it. Why not right? One more book to knock off your list on your path to being “well-read”.
If you follow these guidelines, more often than not you will make the right decision when faced with whether or not to battle through the boredom of an unengaging read.
How do you decide which books are worth reading? Do you agree with these guidelines?