Tuesday, May 11, 2010

My Life in Books, Part the Third


I've realized that I can't write an autobiography via the books I've read, at least not in a few posts. There is not enough time to write it properly and it isn't quite the subject for a humor blog, at least as a subject in itself. There have certainly been humorous encounters with books and I'll blog about those once in awhile. I might even give a paragraph or two to a book that looms large in my past.

Take, for instance, "God Is An Englishman" by R. F. Delderfield. I picked it up from a .25 cart at a used-book shop in 1975. It seemed like a slam-dunk Good Read. I had read Delderfield's "To Serve Them All My Days" and enjoyed it. The setting was one of my favorites, Victorian England. It was the first of a series so I knew there would be tales beyond this book. I bought it. And gave up on it halfway through. It was a total snore.

So why is this book notable? It was the first book I didn't read all the way to the end. Until I encountered "God Is An Englishman," I had never given up on a book. Never. There were difficult books in my past but I had soldiered through them (and mentally added them to my Never Again list.)

I'm not sure about the origin of my personal rule, Thou Shalt Read Every Book All The Way Through. It may have started during my childhood in the hospital. As mentioned before, reading kept me going while stuck in a body cast/traction/wheelchair. I had a good supply of books thanks to mom and the hospital staff, but there was one time...I ran out of something to read. Desperation. So, reading every book to its end meant I wouldn't run out of something to read before the next stack arrived. This mindset must have carried on in the background long past my hospital days.

"God Is An Englishman" will forever be the book that broke my personal rule.

It was freeing, actually. I was able to bail out on a book easily after that and a good thing, too, because there are some wretchedly-written books out there. There are books that beguile with an intriguing cover or glowing reviews, books that don't live up to their promise. "The Island of the Day Before" comes to mind. Huge critical reviews. I couldn't finish it. It didn't mean the book was a total dog. It simply wasn't the right time for me to read it. Thanks to "God Is An Englishman", I could acknowledge that fact and move to another book.

A side note. I attended a Readers Advisory workshop at WLA several years ago. The presenter's opening line was "How many here will read a book based solely on the cover?" Whoa nelly. The discussion was lively. People were ready to take each other to the mat about it. It was a terrific workshop.

Overheard on Twitter: Today, the kid figured out how to work drawers. Let the finger-smashing commence.

Next time: a favorite humorous book. Stay tuned.

1 comment:

Thaydra said...

I had that same "must read it to the end" rule for a long time. It became particularly meddelsome when I started branching out of my comfortable genres into other topics. There were some that made reading become a chore, instead of pleasurable.

I can't tell you the book that broke my rule. I don't remember it. I just remember being in the midst of a horrible book, and looking over at my "to-be-read" list, and thinking... "Why am I wasting my time on something that is causing me so much discomfort, when I could be tackling that and enjoying myself??"

Now, I will still try and dredge through, because sometimes once you past the muck, it really is beautiful. But then again... if there is too much muck, then no beauty is worth it, and I take that next diversion!

Oh, and the reading a book because of it's cover thing... I totally do that. Or I won't read one because I don't like the cover. Horrible, I know.