I love to read. I'll read magazines, leaflets, even magazines that don't belong to me and could be about anything, for example, barges or chartered surveying. I'll read other people's newspapers over their shoulders if the opportunity arises and I love a good poke around in someone else's bookshelves. I belong to a book group (more later) and one of the main reasons I decided to do a degree was the reading opportunities it offered in the very good library at Swindon College (I know, you didn't know it was there, either).
What I'm not very good at is reading things that don't interest me straight away. I'm a skimmer, a picker-outer, a nugget seeker. I can happily read an article on the bio-whatsits of frog faeces if I'm engaged with the writing and think I might be learning something. However, give me a book that has a boring blurb or a first page that either dulls my senses or (at the other extreme) is too complicated and high-falutin' for my particular brain cells and I won't read it.
Libraries were made for people like me. I have trained myself to use the library for potential books, especially where book group goes. Our book group takes it in turns to choose a book for each session, we all read it and then discuss it when we've stopped talking about everything else in our respective lives. We've discovered some real gems along the way and everyone takes care to choose something they think the group might enjoy or that they want to share. Most people are very loyal and read the entire books. I have become non-compliant and, if any of them read this, which I know maybe one or two do, I fear that one day there will be a book club cull and I will have to answer for my actions.
My problem? I truly believe that life is too short to read a book that I don't enjoy/doesn't inspire me/doesn't teach me anything and I'm not prepared to invest time that I could be using to read a book that does tick all my boxes to gamble on a book that might or might not beyond page 10 or 12. Is that a terrible confession? Should I add this to my list of failings? Please forgive me oh patron saint of book reading, I cannot read a book just because one of my friends has recommended it? Should I concentrate on doing the right thing and reading the book my friend recommends just because they're my friend? I contemplate this question every few weeks, about 24 hours before book group when I have to admit to myself that I've ignored the proposed book for something else I've chosen.
This year's book group reading so far has been scuppered by Jonathan Franzen. I received 'Freedom' for Christmas and then immediately bought 'The Corrections', his previous novel to go on to. I've loved them both. Love his language, love the dysfunctionality in it all. Love his point of view on most of what he writes about. I only read before I go to sleep so I can't read more than one novel at a time. That would be too confusing and have unpredictable effects on my dream patterns. I have about 50 pages of 'The Corrections' to go and our next book group book 'A Fraction of the Whole' on order at the library. I'm going to have to time it right and make sure I have AFOTW right there when I finish Franzen, otherwise I'll be on to Rohinton Mistry's 'A Fine Balance' before you can say 'you shouldn't judge a book by its cover'.