Do you ever start talking to an incredibly boring person at a party and say to yourself, after five minutes: "Well, he's incredibly boring, but I'll talk to him for another 30 hours. He's bound to get better." Or, when you've finished with a newspaper you've enjoyed, do you ever put it on a shelf on prominent display so that you can admire it from a distance and never read it again?
I admit that this used to be me - if I started a book, I had to finish it, no matter how painful and debilitating this was. What cured me? My daughter's fourth grade English teacher. We live in Israel and my daughter was in the native English speakers' English class. When it was time for their first book report her teacher gave out guidelines which stated that one section of the book report needed to be "why I liked this book." The teacher said: "Do not say I did not like this book. Reading is for enjoyment. There are enough books to choose from. If you don't like the book, put it back and choose another one." WOW! So simple and yet it was like an epiphany for me. Why didn't I ever think of that myself? I do not have to read every single book ever published. My tastes change over time and are influenced by many things. Today I try genres that I was never a huge fan of before. And if I hate the book and can't get through it, so be it. I have enough books on my TBR list that I WANT to read. Sometimes I will listen to a book on audiotape if I think it is something I should read but don't think I'll be able to get through it. Sometimes it works out okay - Steinbeck's Cannery Row which I listened to after visiting Monterey was boring but bearable and other times, the audio can be agony as well (I abandoned Reading Lolita in Tehran in the middle but suffered through six hours of The Road).
Now thanks to Harry Mount's article I no longer need to feel guilty for being the worst read English major or for the fact that try as I might, I just CANNOT make it through Moby Dick (thank you Mr. Cliff).