I caught this provocative essay during my vacation and wasn’t able to respond to it, but since the fine folks at Book Riot are still talking it I figure I am fair game to weigh in, even a few days late.
The question: must you finish every book you’re reading? The arguments Juliet Lapidos presents in the ‘yes’ camp are briefly, that finishing every book you read teaches you fortitude, persistence and respect. How can I rebut against that? With three words: life is too short.
That’s it. That’s my answer. Life is too short to read bad books. On the ‘fortitude and persistence’ front, I can learn those skills in other ways. Going to the gym, for instance, is not pleasurable to me. But it is a way to practice fortitude and persistence that offers me tangible side benefits as well, such as improved health and smoother mental functioning. I get those, and I get the fortitude and persistence too. Taking a class is another one. I can be persistent and show fortitude, and come out with a skill to boot.
As for the respect thing—well, Lapidus talks about this in the context of respecting art as a thing, and respecting the work authors did. On the ‘art as a thing’ front, I say that I would rather respect people than respect abstract concepts. If finishing that dull clunker is time I could better spend with the Beloved and our growing family, how can I tell them they can’t have me because I am busy finishing a book I don’t even like?
With that said, I do respect art and I do respect authors. I’ll put that clunker away and take out a good one—that’s respecting an author too…