Amy

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five verdicts

If you start a book, how likely are you to finish it?

If I actually start it, not just check it out from the library or buy it, but read beyond the first page, I’m about 99% likely to finish. I don’t know why I feel such a commitment to a book when I start it.

The few times I have started a book and quit reading before I finished, were liberating. As I’m sitting here analyzing my reading habits, I think that for the most part, I’m fairly picky when it comes to books. So, in fairness to me not being a completely anal reader, most of the books I choose are either:

1. Been recommended by someone I value

OR

2. A book club read, so for the sake of a good discussion, I’ll finish it.

I recently discovered this insightful quote by W.H. Auden when it comes to readers.

“As readers, we remain in the nursery stage so long as we cannot distinguish between taste and judgment, so long, that is, as the only possible verdicts we can pass on a book are two: this I like; this I don’t like.

“For an adult reader, the possible verdicts are five:

1. I can see this is good and I like it.

2. I can see this is good but I don’t like it.

3. I can see this is good and, though at present I don’t like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it.

4. I can see that this is trash but I like it.

5. I can see that this is trash and I don’t like it.

So, helpful, yes?! I have to chuckle when people post on Facebook something along the line of “adulting is hard” and then list a tedious task that adults need to do like wait at the DMV, do laundry, or pay taxes.

The same could be said for being a reader. It is easy (Auden would say childish) to reduce a review of a book to “I liked it” or “I didn’t like it.” You know, as I write this, I’m aware we all have our areas we care about. With music and food, I’m more of a “I like it” or “I don’t like it” kind of a person. When I listen to my oldest niece, her mom, and my mom talk about food, I can see how I could improve my way of thinking about and, therefore talking about food.

But hey, we have to start somewhere in being discerning. I’m going to use the five verdicts for books, if you want to use them for another area, go for it! We can all learn from each other.

1. I can see this is good and I like it. Last week I read a biography of Hannah More, a contemporary of William Wilberforce and it was both well written and the subject was engaging. Fierce Convictions: The Extraordinary Life of Hannah More—Poet, Reformer, Abolitionist by Karen Swallow Prior.

2. I can see this is good but I don’t like it. The Complete Persepolis by Marjane Satrapi. For this summer’s reading challenge (and for a book club), I read this memoir told in graphic novel form. I realized, I like graphic novels! That’s good news. What I don’t like are unengaging memoirs of people I find tedious.

3. I can see this is good and, though at present I don’t like it, I believe that with perseverance I shall come to like it. This is how I felt about Anna Karenina. I’m so thankful I persevered.

4. I can see that this is trash but I like it. Hello John Grisham, I see you. Maybe trash is a bit harsh, but there is nothing better than getting lost on a Saturday in a Grisham novel. I know his books won’t change the world, but they sure are fun to read. NOT his non-lawyer that books. See below.

5. I can see that this is trash and I don’t like it. Playing for Pizza: A Novel and Skipping Christmas: A Novel let me appreciate that Grisham is willing to take risks and made me braver because if he was willing to add such inanity to the world, I really can’t add much worse. Right? Also in this category, I’m sorry to say, Cat Mysteries. I’m sorry, cats are great, but they can’t solve mysteries.

Over to you! Between food, music, or books, what are your verdicts?

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  1. Anna July 13, 2016 at 3:32 am - Reply

    I used to have trouble not finishing a book. Now there are so many books that I want to read that I find it easier. If I’m not really enjoying something, I can quit knowing that there is something else I want to read.

    I have heard the 5 types of books Auden listed on a podcast from http://modernmrsdarcy.com. I think that’s a great way of describing them, and I want to teach that to my kids. :)

    I also have my fluff books that I like to read. Cats solving mysteries would be more my thing than John Grisham. I like the genre of cozy mysteries, and they are my go-to for relaxing, entertaining reading. I tend to read the ones where there is a woman who owns some type of store- often related to food- and then solves mysteries.

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      Amy July 14, 2016 at 6:31 am - Reply

      Anna, so fun to chat books! What I love about reading your list is the reminder how wonderfully different tastes can be. I’ve listened to The Modern Mrs. Darcy podcasts a few times and have gotten a few of the books she recommends . . . I’m finding her taste and mine are different :). I’m reading a book right now (just started it last night and it is upstairs and I forget the title), that made me think of her. It’s about a book owner in Paris who “prescribes” books for his customers. I love how seriously the main character takes recommending books for people! :)

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