Do Books Deserve Second Chances?
Recently, I asked for your opinions on abandoning books. Many of you agreed that no one should be expected to finish every book they pick up. From within the back-and-forth comments about whether book abandonment is acceptable, another issue arose, one that I had not considered before. Put simply, it's the idea that we don't necessarily dislike books, but that we may just be reading them in the wrong state of mind. Here are the specific comments I'm referring to; perhaps reading them will clarify what I mean.
I noted then and believe even now that this willingness to go back to an abandoned book is very gracious. It's something I'm not wont to do, although I see the value in this sort of attitude. I guess, for me, if a book is bad enough for me to put down in the first place, I'm not motivated to give it another go. Are you?
This also raises another question: Are we, as readers, obligated to give books another chance? Is every book worth reconsideration, under different circumstances or at a new time? Melanie's comment in particular — about owing it to herself and the author to read the book when she's ready to do — is so generous, but after thinking on it more, I can't help but disagree a bit. If the first chance I give a book is an earnest one, I consider my duty to the author fulfilled. But going back to it later...that has to be driven by my own desire or necessity to read the book, not debt.
There is no doubt that certain books are received better at specific times in our lives, owing to our particular circumstances. That said, I'm not likely to set aside a book and think, "I should pick this one up again when XYZ thing finally happens to me." I don't hang on to the desire to read any specific books for that long. More likely, I'll move on to something else and forget the abandoned one for good.
Let's attempt to bring this full circle. If you subscribe to the belief that a book you're abandoning now may be better received at some future date, aren't you acknowledging that it's probably a good book? And, if so, should you really be putting it down in the first place? Maybe it would be better to just put your head down and power through. For my part, I stand by my original sentiment, that a book relinquished once is unlikely to be attempted again — because it didn't engage me, I didn't like it, or it was just plain bad. And I think that's okay.
Now, you tell me: Am I wrong?