5 Bad Reasons to Read a Book
I’ve had reader’s block for the last couple months, and it’s gotten bad. Choosing a book to read when I have reader’s block is difficult because nothing seems interesting. And when nothing seems interesting, I find myself choosing books to read for really bad reasons.
Gorilla Beach by Snookie
I’ve never watched Jersey Shore, but I know who Snooki is. I wanted to read a book written by Snooki , but I wanted it to be an unedited book. An unedited book written by Snooki would have been hilarious, with grammatical errors and punctuation mistakes that could have provided hours of entertainment for a guy who has reader’s block.
It could have been educational too. An unedited book written by Snooki could have provided high school English teachers with a year’s worth of editing assignments. English teachers (who didn’t mind risking their jobs by distributing Snooki material) could have given their students unedited paragraphs written by Snooki and said: “There are 25 errors in this paragraph written by Snooki. Each error is worth 4 points. You have 10 minutes to edit this paragraph. Good luck.”
Student reaction: “Snooki only made 25 errors in a paragraph?”
I would have paid for that kind of Snooki book.
I don’t surprise people very often, so people would have been shocked if I had said that I’ve read Snooki’s book. I was kind of looking forward to seeing their facial expressions when I told them. But it is not to be. Unfortunately, Snooki’s book is really boring. It wasn’t even offensive (unless being boring is offensive). The shock value of saying that I’ve read Snooki’s book would not be worth the time required to actually read the book.
Maybe if I didn’t have reader’s block, I could have finished the Snooki book, but reading a book simply to shock friends is a bad reason to read a book.
THE NEGATIVE BOOK REVIEW
The Family Corleone by Ed Falco
As soon as I heard that a new Godfather book (not written by Mario Puzo) was coming out, I knew I needed to write a bad review of it. Nobody should write another Godfather book because it’s just not going to be the same, no matter how hard authors try. The Godfather Part III proved that the magic can’t be recaptured. So I borrowed a copy of The Family Corleone by Ed Falco from the library and read it, prepared to hate it. I thought it was a sure thing.
And it wasn’t that bad. I actually finished it (which is rare when I have reader’s block). I wouldn’t recommend it, but it was kind of entertaining, if you think of it as a book about mobsters who happened to be named Vito and Sonny and Luca Brasi. If you think of it as a prequel to The Godfather, you might not like it. Nothing can live up to The Godfather.
I could write a negative review, but my heart wouldn’t be in it (maybe because of my reader’s block). And reading a book just to write a negative review is a bad reason to read a book.
Decades ago I had a self-inflicted case of reader’s block.
THE BOOK HAS LOTS OF PAGES
Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand
When I read The Three Musketeers in 7th grade, a bunch of kids were impressed by how big the novel was and were really impressed that I read the whole thing (and understood it). Then I started reading Shogun by James Clavell (right before the television mini-series came out), and even more students were impressed that I had read it. Then I pretended to read a James Michener book, and students were even more impressed.
Keep in mind, this was before people said “Size doesn’t matter.” Back then, size mattered. And I was proud that when it came to novels, I always carried the biggest novel in the school. But each book had to be bigger than the previous one, and soon I was running out of big books.
After Atlas Shrugged, I was kind of stuck. All I had bigger than Atlas Shrugged was a giant Bible, and carrying a giant Bible kind of defeated the purpose of carrying around the biggest book in the school. People weren’t impressed with a kid reading a giant Bible. I had put myself in a bind.
Fortunately, in high school, we students received a bunch of really huge text books that made carrying novels with me from class to class impractical. Every other 10th grader complained about the giant textbooks, but I was secretly relieved. I no longer felt the pressure of reading really long, overwritten books.
I like it when somebody else accidentally solves my problems for me. And I learned that reading a book because it’s really long is a bad reason to read a book.
THE BOOK IS SHORT
All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
Kids (and some adults) that struggle with reading have a permanent case of reader’s block, and I feel sorry for them. When I was in school (especially in junior high) and the English teachers let us pick our own novels, the struggling kids always looked lost. So they usually chose books that were short, and every real reader knows that’s a lousy reason to choose a book.
Teachers would always get mad when struggling students intentionally chose novels that were short. Part of me says that’s the teacher’s fault for giving students a choice. The other part of me blames the students for not trying that hard.
When I was in school, I managed to convince a few of my struggling friends to choose really long books instead of short ones. I whispered to them that since they weren’t going to read the short books anyway (they would just stare at the pages and pretend), they might as well choose books that the teacher wouldn’t yell at them about. A couple struggling friends even chose books I had already read so that I could tell them enough for them to lie to the teacher. After a while, I realized this was really bad advice.
Then I discovered All Quiet on the Western Front.
All Quiet on the Western Front was a good short war book that a couple of my struggling friends pretended to read. This book worked on several levels. It was a war book, and it’s a straight forward story that my friends could follow. They told me that they actually read it, and they might have (that’s a bonus!). Most importantly, the English teacher didn’t give them grief about choosing that book, and he believed that my struggling friends were reading it (or pretended to believe it).
Choosing a book because it is short is a bad reason to read a book, but if you’re going to do it anyway, at least choose a good short book.
TO IMPRESS A POTENTIAL LITERARY GIRLFRIEND
The Mists of Avalon by Marion Zimmer Bradley
Interview with the Vampire by Anne Rice
I had two literary girlfriends in college (not at the same time), and all I had to do was read books. That was a great deal! I didn’t have to spend a lot of money (that I didn’t have), and I didn’t have to pretend to be a charming guy (that I’m not). The challenge was reading the books that the literary girlfriend wanted me to read.
The first literary girlfriend gave me The Mists of Avalon to read (she knew that I had read Le Morte D’Arthur and The Once and Future King, so at least she was thinking about my interests). While I was reading The Mists of Avalon, I commented to her that it felt like a girl’s book. She said she was “disappointed” in my reaction, and the relationship soon faltered. If a woman says she is “disappointed” too early in the relationship, it isn’t going anywhere.
But I learned. My second literary girlfriend gave me Interview with the Vampire (if you’re tired of the sensual vampire craze, blame Anne Rice). This time I called it a woman’s book instead of a girl’s book, and she discussed it with me rather than being disappointed. This relationship might have gone a lot further, but she couldn’t understand my obsession with football. Football is non-negotiable with me, so that relationship didn’t last long either. I had already given up watching professional wrestling for her, but that wasn’t enough.
I eventually found a literary girlfriend who liked football, and we got married, and we’re still married. But she never offered me any books to read, and I never asked for suggestions.
I’m confident that I shall overcome my case of reader’s block. I am currently reading A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan simply because it won a Pulitzer Prize for fiction. I’ll know in a few days if reading a novel simply because it won a Pulitzer Prize is a bad reason for choosing a book.