“You think your pain and your heartbreak are unprecedented in the history of the world, but then you read.” - James Baldwin.Illustration by Maggie Appleton, via 22 Words and Going Beyond Survival in a School Library. She also created this graphic -
- which is more relevant to my age demographic. She adds these thoughts:
I am unsure who came up with this rule of thumb, but I know it’s one my mother likes — one of the benefits of hitting 50 is you get to give up on books earlier on. There has to be a balance between giving books a chance and hitting that point when you just ‘know.’ And it makes sense the more years you spend on this earth, the quicker you can figure out where your point of knowing is in a text.
It feels harsh to give up on books — the accomplishment of completing an entire book is so vastly impressive that I almost feel guilt for implying anyone might have screwed the gargantuan task up. It suggests a failure on a rather large scale. Each time I relegate another half-skimmed paperback to the shelf, I also feel I must be some sort of ‘bad reader’ for not giving this creation the due respect of finishing it. The only solace I have found in response to this problem was in Linda Holmes NPR piece, The Sad, Beautiful Fact That We’re All Going To Miss Almost Everything, which exactly articulates the need for all of us to Let. Go.
This idea was also mulling around as I read Tim Parks’ Why Finish Books? (a good essay if you have the time…), here’s a taster:
“One can only encourage a reader like this to learn not to attach self esteem to the mere finishing of a book, if only because the more bad books you finish, the fewer good ones you’ll have time to start.” – Tim Parks