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500 Words

Spencer Hays asks:

What do I do if I’m just … not feeling a book? Do I try to push through, despite the fact that I’m not really enjoying it? Or do I drop it (my current strategy)? Does this change if it’s a Culturally Significant Book™?

Mallory: Before I type the following sentence, pretend that I am yelling through a megaphone while simultaneously setting off fireworks over an erupting volcano. DUMP THAT BOOK! Spencer, I hate to break this to you, but someday you are going to die. Please don’t waste any of your precious life on a book you aren’t enjoying. It’s never worth it! Even if someone you love wants you to read it. If they really love you, they’ll want you to be happy and not miserable reading a book you don’t like!

Brea: Totally agree with Mallory here. I have a pretty strict if-it’s-not-good-within-100-pages-or-less-then-I’m-giving-up policy. I think pushing through means you are subjecting yourself to torture and will most likely just take forever to finish the book. You know those people who are like, “I’ve been reading the same book for a year.” It’s because the book is no good! It’s pointless to read a bad book when a new, great one is printed every month!

Mallory: Unless you are reading a Culturally Significant Book™ for a class that you must take, a book is usually never important enough to finish if you don’t like the reading experience. If it is a significant book and you want to know what happens, read the Wikipedia entry. Buy the CliffNotes, ask a friend who has read it, talk to a librarian. Honestly! There’s absolutely no shame. I personally have never read the Bible, a book that is constantly referenced in literature. So, I took the time to look up some major points on Wikipedia to help me understand the references. Now I can mostly keep Noah and Moses straight and I didn’t have to drag my brain through the entire Bible!

Brea: I understand the want to be involved in the conversation, but there are actually a lot of CSBs. I think new ones come out every year. For example, I think we will be talking about Angie Thomas’s The Hate U Give for years to come. And while you may not be reading Common Sense or Canterbury Tales, you are reading something that is culturally relevant now. So, unless you are doing research and feel you need to really be well-versed in something, you should keep in mind that reading should be fun. And forget about what is significant.

Mallory: Brea makes a great point. Cultural significance isn’t totally objective! Just because a thousand different school boards have decided to force John Steinbeck’s The Pearl upon millions of high schoolers doesn’t mean that it is more culturally important. Harry Potter is far more culturally important these days! We all know that recommended reading lists in schools tend to leave out lots of women and writers of color. Choose your own Required Reading list and don’t let anyone judge you for not reading Dostoyevsky.

© Brea Grant and Mallory O’Meara

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