For the third time in about a month I heard someone described their process of skimming a book. Seth Godin told Gary V he reads a book until he “gets the joke”, and then he puts it down. I heard someone else describe their process of reading the beginning, the one chapter with the meat, and maybe the conclusion. If you do this can you really say you read the book?
I have a point of no return with books. It’s somewhere around a third. If I’m a third of the way through and I realize I don’t like the book, I’m stuck. I’m in it until the end. In fact it’s rare for me to stop reading a book at all. I think I can name all of the books I’ve read only part of in the last ten years – A Game of Thrones, The Great North Road, and The Satanic Verses. When I gave up on that last one I tweeted, “I’m halfway through the Satanic Verses. It’s beautifully written. Every paragraph is like a poem. I have no idea what it’s about.”
I don’t normally read biographies but I picked one up because it was about a person I’m interested in and it’s by an author I know I like. I don’t know exactly when I started reading it but I know I’ve moved three times since then. I never read one book at a time so I’ve read a bunch of other books since then. I’ve read at least one other book on the same topic in that time. But this one is dragging on. It just won’t end. Sitting down to read it feels masochistic at this point. But I’m more than halfway through… just stick it out.
I mentioned this to Chrissy last night and she made a radical suggestion. “Stop.”
Well I’ve thought about it, and I decided to give myself permission to stop reading this book. I don’t feel good about it, but there’s a stack of books on the table I really do want to read. Time to move on.