Do you feel obligated to finish a book once you’ve started reading it? It seems that I do.
A few weeks ago, I’m not even sure how many now – 3, maybe 4 – I went to my local library and checked out a few books. I picked out 4. Granted, that was a bit ambitious for a 2 week period, but hey, dream big right? Anyway, I tend to pick up books that I’ve never heard of. Ones that either the title sounds interesting or the cover art jumps out at me. Sometimes I’ll read what they’re about, but usually I just grab them. Some of the best books I’ve ever read are ones I’ve found this way. So, on this particular library excursion I used my same technique……except for one slight deviation. In my stack I chose one book, one “classic” that I have never read. Jane Austen’s Persuasion.
I dove into this Austen novel with excitement. I love Pride and Prejudice and Sense and Sensibility. I was certain I was going to have the same type of emotional attachment with this gem. The first few pages were slow-moving but I didn’t let that dampen my spirits. By page 25 it felt like I was sinking in quick sand. So, I put it down.
I picked up one of my other choices and finished it a few days later. I tried the Austen novel again. A few more pages in and really I was just sad. I wanted to love it, but every page just left me more disinterested than the one before. It didn’t help that I felt very un-scholarly (if that’s even a real word). Aren’t educated people supposed to enjoy and appreciate all the classics? Aren’t we supposed to read them and discuss them over tea and biscuits and relate them to today and predict what our future will hold based upon the startling revelations we have whilst reading them? Yeah, well that wasn’t happening.
Book number 3 was started and finished in the same fashion as number 2. So, I tried the Austen novel one more time. You guessed it, half-finished and I gave up. I gave up!! I put it away, I finished number 4 and I returned them all to the library.
Here’s the thing. When I dropped them into the return bin, I felt guilty. And I mean, not just a little guilt……straight up, hardcore, wicked guilt. Why didn’t I love it? Why couldn’t I at least have finished it? It’s the first time I can ever remember not finishing a book I’ve started. That book defeated me.
So, with a bit of trepidation I went up the stairs. I slipped into the aisles. I ran my hands along the bindings of hundreds of books. I relished the silence and the smell. I found myself in the A’s staring intently at Austen’s other works. It was almost as if they were taunting me. Someday I will try it again. I’ll settle into a quiet spot and try to step into Anne’s shoes. I won’t give up. But as for now, I’ve fallen back into my old pattern. I brought home one book with a great title and another with an absolutely gorgeous cover.