Life is too short to read only sure things
“Life is too short to read bad books.”
I hear people say that, but I never quite get it.
First, while there are certainly books I like better than others, I’ve mentioned before that I don’t think I’ve ever read a book I regretted reading.
Even when I recently gave a book a 1-star review on Goodreads because I found it offensive (it could have been much better with some character change), I still think there was value for me in having read that book.
So, I’m not sure there are “bad books”.
Second, it gets to the heart of why we read, and that may be different for different people.
Do you read for entertainment, or do you read for enlightenment?
Obviously, you can do both…I have absolutely been entertained and enlightened by the same book!
I think, though, that you can strive for one without the other.
It’s a bit like when you go on vacation: are you going to go somewhere, or to get away from somewhere?
The latter folks are fine with just sleeping on the beach all day, or staying in the hotel room and reading.
The former want to go, go, go and see all the sites and take in the local culture.
I like different cultures, but I’m also fine with just reading on a vacation. 🙂 I don’t want to be more tired when I get back than when I left…
For me, one of the main reasons I read is to expand my mind. Reading is as close the Vulcan mind meld as we have on this planet. You see things as the author does, as the characters do, and, importantly, as other readers do.
I’m a big fan of enthusiasm. 🙂 I want to read something that other people love, even if the idea doesn’t at first appeal to me. I want to understand that, to see why it brings out passion in people, even if I don’t feel that passion myself.
This post came about because of a thoughtful and thought-provoking comment from Amy, one of my readers (thanks, Amy!).
I’m sort of finding myself lately in the role of a defender of or perhaps advocate for
That’s Amazon’s subser (that’s my shorthand term for a “subscription service”), where you pay $9.99 a month for access to more than 800,000 books (you can have up to ten at a time borrowed).
I do happily subscribe to it, and I think my “defender” position started because I thought people who would get it as a gift or get a free month might run into people who would try to diminish their joy about it. I wrote a post about a week ago comparing it to using the public library: Why pay for Kindle Unlimited when the library is free? I’ll tell you.
Amy reasonably said, “Life’s too short not to read the books that you most want to read rather than what’s available on KU.”
There was a lot more to the comment than that (including pointing out that how many books you read in a month matters, and that $9.99 is a not inconsiderable sum in today’s book market).
We had a nice exchange on it, and that got me thinking.
Let’s say I had unlimited access to read any book in the world. I was originally going to say, “unlimited funds”, but unlimited access is a better picture here.
I could probably select books which I would know ahead of time I would think were great and important. I could just about guarantee that I would only read “good books” for the rest of my life.
However, for me, I want to take a chance. Some of my favorite books I found serendipitously.
Regular readers know that the pulp character, Doc Savage, is one of my literary heroes. In a non-canonical oath (it doesn’t appear in the 181 original adventures, all of which I’ve read), Doc says in part, “Let me strive, every moment of my life to make myself better and better, to the best of my ability, that all may profit from it.”
I try to make myself better for the benefit of others, not just me…and Doc is part of that.
I probably wouldn’t have read Doc Savage except, as I recall, it was the only available when I was in the Anchorage airport…there was a small spinner rack. I’d read everything I had brought with me (I used to travel with a separate suitcase just for books…the Kindle changed that), so I grabbed some of the Bantam reprints.
If I only wanted to read books I knew were “good books”, I wouldn’t have found Doc Savage.
When I was a brick-and-mortar bookstore manager, I encouraged my employees to read one book from every section. I suggested they ask a regular customer for a recommendation.
I did that myself.
While you might expect that to just be a shoot ’em up, I was quite surprised to find one of the best plot points I’d read in any story (it wasn’t in the first book in the series).
I want to be clear: I don’t think Amy and I are on “opposite sides”…there are some people, though, who would rather not take the kind of chances encouraged by something like KU. I know of a person who only reads two books: Helter Skelter and Gone with the Wind, and just alternates them. Finishes one, starts the other, finishes that one, reads the first one again, ad infinitum.
I should also clarify: I could probably read just “good books” in KU. There are plenty of well-known books there, even lots of former New York Times bestsellers.
What you won’t find well-represented right now are current mainstream bestsellers, since the Big 5 publishers haven’t joined KU (yet).
Of course, having KU doesn’t meant that you can’t buy other books, too…although I’ll admit that having KU means I am less likely to do so (interestingly making it easier for other people to buy me books I don’t have).
My point is that I want to read books which are gambles for me, books which I’m not sure I’ll like. I think that can be more of a growth experience for me…and I have found some great things that way!
What about you? What’s the best thing you’ve ever gotten out of a book you didn’t like? How hard do you try to pre-qualify a book before you buy it/read it? Should someone try to read only “good books”, or is reading a value unto itself? Feel free to tell me and my readers what you think by commenting on this post.
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* I am linking to the same thing at the regular Amazon site, and at AmazonSmile. When you shop at AmazonSmile, half a percent of your purchase price on eligible items goes to a non-profit you choose. It will feel just like shopping at Amazon: you’ll be using your same account. The one thing for you that is different is that you pick a non-profit the first time you go (which you can change whenever you want)…and the good feeling you’ll get. Shop ’til you help! By the way, it’s been interesting lately to see Amazon remind me to “start at AmazonSmile” if I check a link on the original Amazon site. I do buy from AmazonSmile, but I have a lot of stored links I use to check for things.
This post by Bufo Calvin originally appeared in the I Love My Kindle blog. To support this or other blogs/organizations, buy Amazon Gift Cards from a link on the site, then use those to buy your items. There will be no cost to you, and a benefit to them.