My 50-page Reading Rule

As a rule, I will give a book 50 pages to prove to me it's not lame. I mandated this practice after reading 350 pages of a 1400-page version of War and Peace. I never made it through that "masterpiece" and for good reason: every time I sat down to read it I either passed out (although it help to cure my insomnia at the time, so thanks Tolstoy, I guess) or I got completely lost/bored with the long, long list of characters and web of Russian politics. I really don't know what I was thinking. I was young.

After many years of being in school and reading textbooks (hardly the best pleasure reading material) and coma-inducing research articles, I promised myself that I would reserve my post-graduation reading for things that grab my attention and fascinate me. I wanted stories that tickle my imagination, characters that I love/hate, plots that kept me guessing, non-fiction that made me say "wow" or "I'm contacting my Senators and Representatives RIGHT NOW." I just want things that nurture my intellect while keeping me engaged, not ones that tuck me in to sleep.

These titles did NOT make it passed the 50-page reading rule because they were painful to read:
  • Electric Acid Kool Aid Test by Tom Wolfe - OK, so I lie. I actually got through like 70 pages of this book because I thought the hippies were going to get busted by the feds. They didn't and I quit due to disappointment. If you love stupid hippies, run on sentences, mindless acid-spawned blather and a book with no plot, then this one's for you.
  • House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros - I thought I'd like this book for two reasons - it was on the "Summer Reading" list for SPL and it was super short. Well, it wasn't short enough. I made it to about 20 pages of a book with HUGE writing on small pages. Terrible.
  • How did I get so busy? by Valorie Burton - One breeze through this book and I thought, "Wow, is it really this easy to write a book?" If you have little to no common sense, this title might be worth your while, but I picked up nothing new.
  • 4-hour work week by Timothy Ferriss - The title should give you a hint that this is too good to be true. Basically, this guy is a pseudo-con artist. He doesn't hurt anyone, but he finds all these super lame ways to get what he wants. Example: he wins a martial arts contest by pushing his opponent out of the ring, winning on a technicality rather than by kicking ass. Plus, he's preachy. Plus, there's little to no chance of any of us having the luck that he has. If you've got nothing to lose, you might find something worthwhile in this book. I'm just kidding - you won't.
  • Atlas Shrugged - Not being able to get through much of this one saddened me. The Tamil Punkster, my favorite punkster of them all, recommended this. I respect her as a friend and an intellectual, but I just couldn't get into this book. It's like a million pages, too, so I didn't want to repeat my War and Peace fiasco.
Books that I should not have finished, but did:
  • Bad News by Tom Fenton - Bah! Dang TV people can't write worth a damn and this is proof. It was full of good information, but you can look at my review on it.
  • Chasing the Flame - Yeah, I'm still reading this one. Started this baby in April and after many torturous months I continue to struggle with it.
  • Confessions of a Video Vixen - Well, I'm not a big on the floozies, but my patrons were CRAZY about this book (and her follow up Vixen Diaries as well). Hence, I chalked reading this book up to "research." Very fast read and a waste of time. Bawdy jades are all the same - gross.
Books that should make it passed the 50-page rule, but I can't get into them, but I love the author or topic, so I just put them aside and SWEAR that one day I'll read them all the way through, even though I know damn well I won't:
  • Loathing the Campaign Trail '72 by Hunter S. Thompson - I am a political junkie, but this is just a bit too out of context for me.
  • Pentagon Papers - I got through a lot of this actually, but it's raw government report data and although it was appalling, it was boring, too.

One book that I am totally ashamed for not finishing because it was fantastically interesting, but mega-long (what can I say - I was an undergraduate) was a biography on Al Capone by Laurence Bergreen. Very engaging, packed with gritty detail, about a REAL gangster and placed in this lil' town I love called Chicago. Someone asked me, "So was he misunderstood or genuinely evil?" Even though I didn't make it all the way through the book I knew the answer was the latter.


Christine Ayar said...

The only reason I got threw "Grapes of Wrath" was because I had a 12th grade English teacher who ensured I did so.

I mean honestly, I could have walked to California more quickly.

Anonymous said...

I read "Texas" by James Mitchener. It took me over a year.

After about 700 pages, I was already sick of it, and was only half done.

I put the book away for a long time. Many months later, I picked it up again and forced myself to plow through the rest.

Boy...THAT was painful.

- Friar