Finish What You Start

I used to be the kind of person who could not start a book without finishing it.  This was a compulsion I developed in graduate school, when I was expected to learn the contents of several hundred books and be able to speak cogently about them in a three-hour oral exam, and carried through my life as a book reviewer.  No matter how long, boring, or frustratingly obfuscating I found a book, I could not “skim ahead” or set it aside until I had given every word equal scrutiny.  My belief was that someone had probably taken a long time to write that book, and someone else had taken a long time to edit it, and it was my duty as a reviewer to put the same effort into the equation.  I was even so meticulous (some might say “nerdy” or “neurotic” which I’m totally fine with) as to keep a log of everything I’d read, which I came across last night when tidying up my teetering nightstand pile.

The log ends abruptly about a year and a half ago, which was around the time I moved into the books world.  This is one of the differences between working in magazines and books, I’ve learned!  In magazines a long article might be 20,000 words, but a typical book manuscript can be 100,000, and you might have five or ten or fifteen of them to consider in one night.  You have to steal “pleasure reading” in snatches, and so the bar for what will keep you coming back across week and month (and, ok, even year) long interruptions is higher.  So although I finish fewer books now, I’m happy to say that the ones I do finish are books I find really, really good, and that I enjoy each one of them a lot more. The newly organized nightstand pile are the ones that have kept me coming back, and will definitely make that cut.

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