Repeat after me.
It's OK …
If I stop reading a book …
Before I've finished it.
If my informal survey of people I run into on a weekly basis is accurate, then 70 percent of you are reacting in horror, 20 percent are nodding in agreement, and 10 percent are asking, "What's a book?"
I used to be one of those people who refused to give up on a book. Even in college or graduate school, if I fell behind the reading pace in a literature class, I'd circle back and finish what was assigned, not quickly enough to always save my grade, but what are you going to do?
Mrs. Biblioracle is still this way. There are times where I see her reading, and it appears that she's experiencing a low-grade physical pain. I know she is not enjoying her current book. I will ask her how it's going, and she will grunt like someone lifting a heavy object.
But she will finish what she starts — always.
This quality makes me feel good about my marriage.
However, I am now a comfortable book dumper. I will cast aside a book mid-sentence without a moment's hesitation and feel good doing it. I do not mean to suggest that I am fickle, that a single flaw will bring about a separation between me and my book, but no longer am I willing to endure pages of unhappiness for the marginal payoff of reaching the end.
I enter new books with the highest of hopes because I employ Ford Madox Ford's "page 99 test." Ford believed that you could "open the book to page ninety-nine and the quality of the whole will be revealed to you." The theory is that anyone can write an arresting first paragraph or two, but only the true pros are still on top of their games by page 99.
Ford's method tends to work pretty well at providing a brief insight into the future the book and I may have together. Reading a book, after all, is akin to the arc of a typical relationship: the initial rush of something new and exciting, which gives way to a kind of comfortable pattern, before ending either in happily-ever-after glory — or bitterness and defeat .
But just as some human relationships fizzle, so too can our experience with a book. I think most of us enter into a new book with hopes high, but sometimes those hopes are betrayed, and we lose that loving feeling. Often, it's not even the book's fault. It's a plenty good book; it just turns out you and that book weren't meant to be together long enough for you to finish it.
Here's the key to breaking up with a bad book: Treat your books the way Donald Trump apparently treats his wives. Even when you're attached to the current model, make sure the next one is at the ready.
(Personal note to Mrs. Biblioracle: This applies to books only, not wives.)
Even as I am deep into one book, I take time to start another, reading enough pages to get a feel for whatever chemistry we might have together. If I find myself thinking of the replacement book too often, I know that me and my current read are not long for each other. With each page, I will grow firmer in my resolve until I reach the inevitable point where I can look that book in the eye and say, "It's not you, it's me," and pick up my newest mistress.
Biblioracle John Warner is the author of "Funny Man." Follow him on Twitter @Biblioracle.
The Biblioracle offers his recommendations
Here's a little twist for this week's recommendations to increase the difficulty for yours truly. For each individual, I will choose a book from the list of one of the other readers selected. See what you think.
1. "Wicked Autumn" by G. M. Malliet
2. "Winter of the World" by Ken Follett
3. "The Casual Vacancy" by J. K. Rowling
4. "The Racketeer" by John Grisham
5. "Mad River" by John Sandford
— Melissa K., Libertyville
For Melissa, I'm choosing from Carol D.'s list, and out of that grouping, she should read, "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" by Rachel Joyce.
1. "11-22-63" by Stephen King
2. "The Flight of Gemma Hardy" by Margot Livesey
3. "How it All Began" by Penelope Lively
4. "The Art of Fielding" by Chad Harbach
5. "People With Dirty Hands" by Robin Chotzinoff
— Anne O'D., Buffalo Grove
For Anne, I'm picking from Melissa's list above. She should give a J.K. Rowling's "The Casual Vacancy" a shot.
1. "The Book Thief" by Markus Zusak
2. "The Space Between Us" by Thrity Umrigar
3. "I Remember Nothing" by Nora Ephron
4. "The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry" by Rachel Joyce
5. "Radioactive" by Lauren Redniss
— Carol D., Delavan, Wis.
And for Carol, I'll be picking from Anne's list. I believe she will enjoy "The Flight of Gemma Hardy" by Margot Livesey
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