Open Letter | 

It’s taken me years to figure out that it’s OK not to finish a book — like a bad marriage if it’s not working, just let it go

Good novels are impossible to put down, but it’s OK not to finish a tiresome tome too

Good novels are impossible to put down, but it’s OK not to finish a tiresome tome too

Roisin Gorman

I’M addicted to reading. As addictions go it’s somewhere below a sugar craving and above the need to endlessly rewatch Brooklyn Nine Nine, but a life without books is unthinkable.

I get jittery if there isn’t one ready to go after the current one, feel slightly deflated if the current one’s a bit rubbish, and have started having stress dreams about forgetting to bring reading material on holiday.

The pre-holiday stress dreams used to be about forgetting the passports, forgetting the children, or turning up at an airport with no trousers on. Now they’re about a forgotten Kindle and several carefully chosen paperbacks.

It’s important because holidays are the only time I do guilt-free daytime reading, when there’s no pressing work or domestic job which must be completed before indulging in personal pleasure.

With this year’s Women’s Prize for Fiction about to be announced I feel a small pang of guilt I still haven’t read last year’s but as a female reader we’re all about the diversity, with women’s reading split evenly between male and female authors.

For male readers it’s about 20 per cent leaning towards women writers, because you know, it’s all nail varnish and periods. If JK Rowling had been plain old Joanne her Harry Potters wouldn’t have got their hooks into readers just as quickly, and I’m not going anywhere near JK and her current views on people and periods.

Potter magic got reluctant boys to pick up a book and discover the empathy, brain-boosting, memory-enhancing, stress reduction and pure pleasure of getting lost in someone’s imagination.

Books are just bliss, from Terry Pratchett’s funny fantasies to Eleanor Oliphant’s struggle with the world and the simple escapist beauty of Where the Crawdads Sing.

Romance fiction with its tell-tale pastel covers isn’t my cup of steamy tea and Fifty Shades of Ladies who Lust can stay on the shelf forever. I’ve also successfully avoided self-help manuals which by necessity start with ‘find the money to buy my book,’ but everything else is fair game.

I did Dickens briefly, working on the theory that you should try most things once, but not in a Fifty Shades way.

I also love a bit of Stephen King, but occasionally wonder if his editors have lost their red pens. Not all stories need to be of Biblical proportions.

In a rare visit to non-fiction This Is Going To Hurt made me laugh, wince and cry, but mostly laugh.

Thrillers are a go-to when I’m lost for inspiration and the Six Stories series and almost anything by Belinda Bauer are a joy.

But just because I read everything doesn’t mean I’ll read anything. It’s taken me years to work out that it’s OK not to finish a book.

Marshall McLuhan’s page 69 rule is useful – go straight to 69 in a new book and if you like it, read it – but it’s not fool proof, or rude.

The surest sign that a book should be about to leave your life is that sinking feeling if an ending isn’t coming quickly enough

When the Kindle percentage is on the wrong side of 50 and you’re not picking up a book with enthusiasm, like a marriage that’s past its best-by date, let it go.

I plodded through half of Klara and the Sun, mined Google for the rest of the plot and ditched it without a hint of regret.

But I can’t sit about here all day, there are books to read.

roisin.gorman@sundayworld.com


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