It’s Okay to Dislike a Book

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I finally finished The God of Small Things. Spoiler alert: I did NOT like it. I tried to be very gentle in what is a strongly negative review, because apparently, a lot of people really, really like this book.

Since I’m an English teacher, there’s often this assumption that I like books and I like reading. Well… it’s kind of like music. I like some music. I would guess that I might even like most music. But there’s some that’s repetitive or dissonant and I just don’t like it.

And that’s okay.

It felt a lot like the writer wanted to do Something Different. What, exactly, was she trying to do? I don’t know. I’m not sure she knew. Because it doesn’t exactly seem to do … much. It’s very descriptive, and some of that description is vivid and evocative. It absolutely does the trick of helping me imagine what she’s describing, and to imagine it in different ways than I might have on my own.

But there doesn’t seem to be any purpose to it. It comes across as self-indulgent and pointless.

Since I read a fair amount, I’m usually pretty gentle with allowing myself to drop books that I really don’t like. However, I finished up my previous book right before our school closed, and so I got in touch with my younger brother, who also reads a lot, and suggested a group read. And then my parents joined in, and some other relatives, and a friend of my brother’s, and a colleague of mine…

So by the time I was halfway through the first chapter (which is so long) and ready to give up entirely, it was too late.

On the other hand, though, what this shows me is that having other people to talk to about the reading creates an additional incentive. I’m completely certain that I wouldn’t have finished if I didn’t feel like I had an obligation to people that I cared about.

In a way, that was a mixed blessing. I was regularly frustrated with slogging through something that I really, really didn’t want to do. The deadlines created by our online discussions were stressful for me, and I felt guilty because I felt like I was pretty far behind everybody else.

But at the same time, I am absolutely certain that without that obligation, I wouldn’t have bothered to finish the book. So if you do have something that you absolutely MUST do, and you really don’t want to do it, see if you can team up with others for accountability. Even if it’s just one other person – someone who can help you plan and set goals, cheer for you when you make progress, and encourage you when you drag your feet.

Have you ever forced yourself through something you didn’t want to do? How did you manage it? What was it like?

3 thoughts on “It’s Okay to Dislike a Book

  1. You know, reading this has actually given me great advice. I have been trying to push myself to do a lot of things I used to enjoy but don’t anymore (reading, exercising, writing), but I really hate doing those things now (well, I don’t hate writing, I’m just insecure about it). Recently, I teamed up with a buddy and we either FaceTime or send pictures/videos of exercising. Even though exercising is pure torture to me, I also make it very publicly known that I’ve been exercising, so I feel that small bit of extra pressure to keep doing it. So far it’s been working. But I still hate it, and would NOT be doing it if I hadn’t gotten others involved. Hope you’re well, Ms. Cole!

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