The Book Pages: When should you stop reading a book?

Wendy Thomas Russell of Long Beach's Brown Paper Press at the LitLit book event. (Photo by Erik Pedersen)

This question tends to divide readers: If a book doesn’t grab you, do you stop – or keep going until the end?

I was talking to Wendy Thomas Russell of Long Beach’s Brown Paper Press, who I met at last weekend’s Little Literary Fair. I’d mentioned a book I’d had problems with, but I’d read to the end (largely because it was short).

A journalist turned publisher, Russell said she used to feel like she had to finish every book she started, but not any more. She changed her mind after her friend, journalist Valerie Takahama, explained her strategy. (Takahama also used to do arts reporting at the Orange County Register.)

“She has no problems at all with stopping, with not finishing books,” said Russell of her friend. “She said that whether she is a chapter into a book, or nine chapters into a book, or literally one chapter away from finishing the book, if she loses interest in that book, she sets it down.

“She took control of the whole experience. You know, the book is not in charge, she’s in charge. And if this book is not right for her at this particular time, or if it’s just not right for her at all, period, she’s the one who gets to decide no,” said Russell. “That was very freeing to me to hear her say that. And I have taken that to heart very much since then.”

Wendy Thomas Russell of Long Beach’s Brown Paper Press at the LitLit book event. (Photo by Erik Pedersen)

Just as you’d turn off a movie or TV show that doesn’t appeal to you, Russell asked, Why stick with the wrong book when there are so many others to read?

“It’s overwhelming, how many great books there are out there,” said Russell, adding that she’d rather give more books a chance and finish fewer of them with the limited reading time she has. “It’s just depressing to think how few of them you will actually get to read.”

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Where do you come down on the subject? I’d be interested to hear from readers. I can think of books I probably should have set aside, and some I’m glad I stuck with. I made several attempts on William Faulkner’s “The Sound and the Fury” before I got through it. That’s probably more the exception than the rule, though.

Still, probably every reader has had this happen: You have a much-anticipated book lined up to read next…only for you to bypass it in favor of something that you impulsively picked up at the bookstore or a Little Free Library.

Sometimes, you just need to read what you want to read.

For more about Brown Paper Press, which published “Hidden: Life With California’s Roma Families” by Cristina Salvador Klenz earlier this year and has Cheryl E. Klein’s memoir “Crybaby” coming next month, check out the website.

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Source:: Los Angeles Daily News

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