Skip to content

5 Bad Reasons to Read a Book

June 18, 2012
Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi attending a ...

I don’t mind a woman with an orange tan, but I still cannot think of a good reason to read a Snooki book. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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. 

SHOCK VALUE 

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 

English: Description: Low-resolution image of ...

I’m not saying war is good for anything, but a struggling male reader is probably going to read a short book about war, especially if there’s a movie about it too. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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 Death of King Arthur”

This scene is in a lot of King Arthur books, but I’m not sure it’s in The Mists of Avalon because I… didn’t get very far. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

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.

26 Comments
  1. i loved your post. starting out with snooki. jersey shore has never crossed the vision of my eyes. while reading the first section of your post out loud, and i did it rather well, i couldn’t stop laughing. it was brilliant. the whole concept of your post was brilliant. other than snooki’s book & the godfather want to be, i think i read all the others. but i liked that ” this is not a good reason for reading a book.” you did miss out on Mists of Avalon. well, marion zimmer bradley is a magnificent writer. it was a sad day when she died. but you are correct. she does tend to write “chick books” but extremely well written ones. thank you for improving my spirits. wordpress is malfunctioning on me. i just finished composing a post and tried to preview it and got the message NOT FOUND with our apologies. it really does exist. its sitting there in the post dungeon file with the label DRAFT on it. i was smart and copy/pasted to word in it’s HTML form along with cats & tags. what to do next? haven’t figured that out yet. so, anyway, thanks for the wonderfully funny distraction. i truly enjoyed every moment of your writing. i will be back to read more in the future. you are quite good. jen

    • Thank you for your comments. It looks like you figured out your blog (at least it looked great when I checked it out). I intend to read Mists of Avalon again (but not while I still have reader’s block).

  2. Perhaps Interview With the Vampire wasn’t to your liking. Did you read any further into her vampire books? I did…enough to know that if I ever visit New Orleans I will never venture out after dark!

    • If I remember correctly, I actually liked Interview with a Vampire but didn’t care for the 2nd one (Vampire Lestat?), but this was almost 25 years ago (I think). Would that make sense?

  3. It’s the first time I ever hear about reader’s block, but I see the potential to fall there if you haven’t defined what your favorite kind of reading is and whether you are actually reading for pleasure. In my case, since I write novels, I enjoy books but I also study them to learn more about my craft.

    One book almost gave me a case of reader’s block tho, and it was Hannibal Rising by Thomas Harris. That book was so poorly written and filled with all kinds of cliches that it was impossible for me to enjoy it –with a straight face, at least–.

    • I think I’ve heard that Hannibal Rising was pretty bad. Maybe Silence of the Lambs (I thought the book was pretty good) is kind of like The Godfather in that you can’t quite recapture the magic of it. I don’t know if that’s a good comparison or not.

      • A lot of hardcore fans defend Thomas Harris saying he was pressured into writing that book, that the movie producer demanded he write both the screenplay AND novel or he’d get somebody else to do it.

  4. I HATE reader’s block because there’s no way to cure it except to make yourself read even a not-so-good book until you find a magnificent book. I’m sorry to say, in my personal opinion, Goon Squad will NOT cure it. I really loathed that book.

    • Ouch! I’m about half way through right now, but I want to wait until I’m done to comment on it. I agree with you about the reader’s block. It’s frustrating because I have a little more free time than normal right now, and I feel like I’m wasting it with my lack of interest.

  5. your blog makes me smile so I have nominated you for an award. (hope it doesn’t take up too much of your time :o) ) more details here: http://howtoonlinedate.wordpress.com/2012/06/18/for-muah/

  6. I like your take on Reader’s Block. I never met anyone else who experienced that besides me. I used to get over it by reading my old favorites, but it doesn’t always work. I never thought about reading books to impress people by the size of them. I’ll have to try your method of choosing books.

    • Sometimes the old favorites work with me too, but not this time. I don’t know if you really want to try my methods, though the verdict is still out on the Pulitzer Prize winning book..

  7. I love “to impress a literary girlfriend”–haha, this is a really great idea for an article!

    Cheers,
    Courtney Hosny
    http://www.oneweektocrazy.com

  8. I’m guilty of every one of these. Usually it’s the nonfiction books I try to read that give me readers block.

    • I’m glad you mentioned nonfiction. I had a mild case of reader’s block last summer, and some narrative nonfiction got me out of it. Thanks!

  9. I bet Snooki appreciated someone buying her book. OH gawd, you didn’t buy it did you?! The Godfather prequel is an abomination just like that sequel to Gone with the Wind. That ain’t right. I loved Once and Future King. Try Family Fang, it’s a good read, fast and funny.

    • No, no, no, I didn’t buy Snooki’s book (I hope my judgement never gets THAT bad). I checked it out of from the library (the library’s judgement was that bad). It’s going to be overdue in a couple days, so I’d better get it back. I’d hate to get fined for a Snookie book. Thank you for your book suggestion. I’ve never heard of it, but I’ll look into it.

  10. I loved Mists of Avalon, but not when I first tried to read it. I’m still stuck in Atlas Shrugged and lord knows if I’ll ever get out. I bought that Godfather prequel book and then returned it because I the thought of a book about the Godfather (not written by Mario Puzo) was a travesty. I tried to read Once and Future King (it’s still on my shelf), but I got stuck near the beginning when someone was turned into a fish or something. We’ll see if I ever finish it.

    • If you ever try Once and Future King again, the 1st part (The Sword in the Stone?) is by far the least interesting section (in my opinion). Once Arthur becomes king, the book gets much better. I’m going to have to try Mists of Avalon again. Good luck with Atlas Shrugged. You can do what I did and carry it around with you and everybody can be impressed that you’re reading such a big book (but nowadays somebody is liable to pick an argument with you if they see you carrying it, so maybe that’s not good advice either).

  11. Mists of Avalon has a slow start, I think, but once you get into it, it’s pretty good. At least I can hit people with Atlas Shrugged if they start an argument with me.

  12. Here’s one for you: The unabridged Les Miserables. I had read abridged versions when I was a kid, but the unabridged novel is over a thousand pages. And it’s maybe the greatest novel anywhere. I can’t recommend it highly enough.

  13. Le Morte D’Arthur is a hard book(s) to read because it gets so repetitive

  14. I loved Mists of Avalon. I have never given it to my husband to read. I suspect that’s why we’re still married.

  15. I used to be able to read multiple books a month, but for a while now I will go to pick up a new book or even an old favorite and whammo nothing. Reader’s Block sucks. Almost as bad as Writer’s Block.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: