"There's no thief like a bad book."
Quoted in 1,911 Best Things Anybody Ever Said
Selected and Compiled by Robert Byrne
Often people have the belief that once one reads the first page of a book it is somehow "The LAW" to read the rest of the book. Wow! Doing that would mean that I would miss reading bunches of books that I truly enjoy. There are too many good books to read. Why waste time on something that bores or scares or confuses you?
Nancy Pearl, the Seattle librarian who gained fame by talking and writing about her favorite books, has a rule of thumb that appeals to me. With the exception of books assigned as classwork, there is no book that you HAVE to read. (It is good to try to finish a book for a book club, but sometimes you can add to book club discussions simply by telling the group why you simply could not finish the book.) Pearl suggests that you read fifty pages of a novel. If you don't like it by then, quit and find a book you do enjoy.
I would augment this idea in a couple of ways. If you are reading a book of less than 200 pages, read about a quarter of the book before making your decision about finishing the book. Further, if you really, really dislike the book after even fewer pages, don't waste your time unless two people tell you that they were glad they kept going and finished the book.
Remember that this is different from selecting a book using the famous Five Finger Rule . Simply put, the Five Finger Rule suggests a simple check to see if the reading level of the book you are considering is just right for you. Open the book to a random full page of text. As you read, hold up a finger every time you find a word or concept that you don't understand. At the end of the page, if you have 4 or 5 fingers up, you may find that this book is more difficult than you want. This doesn't mean that you can't read the book, but it does suggest that you have a found a book that may not be much fun to read if you are struggling with reading it. If you only have one or two fingers up, the book may bore you because it is so easy. Of course, sometimes we all want to read a nice, relaxing book, so don't toss the book aside if that is just what you are seeking. If you have put up 2 or 3 fingers, this book may be the perfect degree of difficulty for you. It will have enough difficult words and ideas to challenge your thinking but will still be an enjoyable read. Some folks call this the Goldilocks part of the rule. If you have 2 or 3 fingers up, the book is not too easy. It is not too hard. It is just right.
If you have other ideas for selecting a book, please let me know. We could create our own rule.
The Emerson library has one of Nancy Pearl's books in the collection. Book Crush: For Kids and Teens--Recommended Reading for Every Mood, Moment & Interest can't please everyone. Avid readers will find many favorites missing and will question why some of the titles got into this extensive list. It can offer a jump start to thinking of new books for you to read. Many of the suggestions are exactly the same the I or your parent or your best friend will give you. Maybe with the word of an "expert" will convince you to try.
The library also has another item for which Nancy Pearl has become known around the world. Ask me to show you my librarian action figure which supposedly looks just like the real Nancy Pearl. There were many people (mostly stuffy librarians, I suspect) upset about this figure because, with the push of a button, it raises its hand to say "Shhhhh" . Most of the world's librarians want folks to think of libraries as welcome and open to a little talking and a lot of happy looking. I know that is how I view the library. (I do enjoy watching my action figure though.)
How quiet do you think a library should be? Should I say "Shhhh!" more often?