Friday, October 15, 2010

To Finish or Not to Finish

A fellow blogger recently posted a link to a blog entry from the ALA (American Library Association), which had reprinted the Reader's Bill of Rights. Taken from a 1996 book by Daniel Pennac called Better Than Life, the ALA printed it in conjunction with a wonderful list of tips for librarians, parents, and teachers to encourage reading. 
And what better way is there to encourage reading than to make sure that the prospective reader (especially a young reader) knows that there's no bad reading? If you like it, you should read it. And as we all know, a bad book can often be the gateway drug to great literature.

The right to not read.
The right to skip pages.
The right to not finish.
The right to reread.
The right to read anything.
The right to escapism.
The right to read anywhere.
The right to browse.
The right to read out loud.
The right not to defend your tastes.

It was twenty years ago (maybe twenty-five...blocks of time seem to blur at the edges a bit when you're looking at increments of multiple decades) that I realized I didn't have to finish every book I started. What a liberating moment that was! Up to that point, I would slog through a book, regardless of its merits (much less of my own enjoyment or lack thereof).  As a consequence, although I read extensively, still, I didn't venture as far afield as I might have.  An author new to me would have to come pretty highly recommended before I'd give him a shot...who wants to invest twenty hours in a book they don't enjoy a whit? After I had my bookish epiphany I started to read authors and genres I'd previously been hesitant to try. And, though I'd always read "classics," I ventured more difficult and challenging titles (Gravity's Rainbow anyone? In Search of Lost Time?) than I'd previously attempted, because I knew I could set them aside if it wasn't meant to be. Some of these titles became lifelong favorites, that I've gone back to more than once.
Which brings me to the next item in the ALA list that speaks to me, namely, The right not to defend your tastes. You hear the term "guilty pleasure" a lot, and that makes me sad.  Why should something that gives you pleasure--especially if that something is a book or a song or a movie--make you feel guilty? As long as it doesn't hurt anybody, I say enjoy away, guilt-free! I like cozy mysteries by Joanne Fluke and urban fantasy by Rachel Caine. I like Beverly Hills 90210. I like Revenge of the Nerds. I like Herman's Hermits. I know that none of these things represent the epitome of literature or TV or movies or music, but who cares? 


Straylights said...

I agree. I don't feel guilty about any of the books I read. Even if it is a ridiculous book like Night Prayers by P.D. Cadek that was so horrible it was funny!

Hop on by! :D

It's a Book Thing said...

couldn't find your blog hop post but leaving my mark anyway - Love the take on bookshop and book blog! behind the scenes...

Stray said...

hi, thanks for following my blog, this is me returning the favor ^^ have a great weekend!

Katie Edwards said...

Hi, thanks for coming by my blog. This is a well thought out post, and it's very true. Although I feel I ought to finish books whether or not I like them, it's true I'm under no obligation to read for pleasure something that DOESN'T give me any pleasure. So many books, so little time - so why do so many readers feel obliged to plod through the ones that they consider a waste of time? I'm speaking about myself here, too, and it's a question I don't have an answer for.

Lorren Lemmons said...

I love the reader's bill of rights, especially the right to reread. My husband is always laughing at me for reading books over and over, but I say, if you love the story, visit it as many times as you want! Thanks for the blog visit!

Pris said...

Thanks for stopping by the Benterud Bookshelf! No, I have not read Atwood's "The Year of the Flood" but I am looking forward to it! I'm already a follower... happy weekend!

MJ said...

Thanks for visiting my blog. I had never read the readers bill of rights before. Thanks for sharing it!

Chrystal said...

Great post. I loved this! I always felt the need to finish a book, but I am learning to pass over it and find something I enjoy instead.

Hopped over from Follow Friday.

Bookwoman said...

Thanks for posting that. I think I need to make a poster and post in my office. And thanks for stopping by my blog earlier. I'm adding yours to my daily read.

Vicki said...

Hopping through - what a great outlook! I've heard of the reader's rights maybe once before, but I think I'm going to print them out now.

I only discovered I wasn't obligated to read everything I started...oh, 4 years ago? And unfortunately that was required reading for college. Oh well, I still graduated ;)

I'm a bit jealous of your confidence. I don't feel guilty from books or movies, but some of the TV shows (cartoons) I like still have me blushing a bit. Hopefully my 'guilt' will dissipate with age/time.

The Wolf's Den

Emma Michaels said...

Happy Follow Friday!!! Hope you will stop by my blog too! My publisher and I are looking for a group of bloggers for a huge blog tour next year before the release of book two in my 'A Sense of Truth' series! We will be giving out a few more copies of The Thirteenth Chime (we can only give out so many, being open to e-books gives an upper hand) and are still open to all interviews and guest posts. We want to fill up the Amazon page with reviews and try to reach as many people as we can!!! Hope you might consider being a part of the team! Thank you either way!

Emma Michaels

Dizzy C said...

like the readers bill of rights :)

now following.

enjoy ur weekend!

carol said...

I love these rights - so true. I especially defend the right to read anywhere - that includes on the tube in the morning when there isn't really any space for me to do so ;)

Heather said...

I really love this Reader's Bill of Rights... I skip pages and paragraphs all the time... because honestly, there is often a lot of drivel... and I feel soooooo guilty about it, LOL!

Check out my Blog Hop and Follow Friday HERE!

I Read Banned Books said...

Thx for the blog linkage, and I'm glad you liked reading about the ALA Reader's Bill of Rights! I agree with you on - there is no room for guilt when reading. I was at a signing last night and we were all naming books we hated and then surprisignly loved. Many bloggers were saying, "Don't laugh, but I love...." or "My guilty read is...." I think everyone has a book series that reads like a soap opera. My friend loves the Vampire Academy books, and says she feels guilty for loving it. Crazy! Tons of ppl love that series.

Glad to follow you back!

I Read Banned Books


Jennifer said...

Hopping by late from the hop and ff. New follower. Thanks for visiting my blog.