One of my favorite terms to come out of Internet TV criticism is hate-watching — which obviously describes the syndrome of compulsively watching a TV show that annoys you. I’ve found a similar syndrome with books: hate-reading. I don’t do it much, because why would you, especially when you no longer work at a library where you may be called on for your assessment of Fifty Shades of Grey or the latest Dan Brown? Though I recently had an unhappy experience with an audiobook on a road trip that could be called hate-listening. That’s particularly bad because you can’t skim, which is what I’ve done when hate-reading titles like Angels & Demons or Fifty Shades of Grey. With an audiobook, in a car, your choices are to give up or to keep suffering so you can find out what happens in this crappy book that you’ve already given your attention for way too many hours.*
Lately, though, I’ve been trying to just quit reading books that annoy me. Like The Marriage Game by Alison Weir. (Dear Alison Weir, you are such a good writer of history. Please stick with nonfiction.) The Nancy Pearl rule is a good one — give every book 50 pages and then you can quit. If you’re over 50, subtract your age from 100 and that’s the number of pages you have to give it. I aspire to the Nancy Pearl rule.
Except … it doesn’t really help in the situation I recently found myself in, which can only be described as meh-reading. It was especially uncomfortable since it was a digital advanced review copy that I had requested. I gave it an honest and not malicious review on the site that gave me access to it, which I think is your primary obligation. And I don’t think it was a bad book. It wasn’t one of those cases where it may well be a good book just not to my taste. It was an OK book, just good enough to keep me going but with enough drawbacks that I was kind of annoyed with myself for devoting the time to it.
I suppose this is no worse, and possibly better, than spending the time watching sports or TV re-runs or whatever other ways we waste our time these days.
The book, in case you’re wondering, is Newport by Jill Morrow. Historical fiction, which is my most-read genre these days. But it just didn’t pass the plausibility test for me, and I’m a pretty generous suspender of disbelief in fiction.
*The audiobook that tortured me on my recent road trip was The Hypnotist by Lars Kepler. Don’t do it! There is so much better-written crime fiction, even specifically Scandinavian crime fiction, out there. This one was just ridiculous. Stieg Larsson, if you weren’t dead you’d have a lot to answer for …