I can come to your library, book club meeting, or conference to talk about how to help your readers find their next good read. Click here for more information including RA for All's EDI Statement.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Call to Action: Start a Book and Don't Finish It

To end this week I wanted to have a Call to Action that requires you NOT do something for a change.

Consider this post your permission to stop reading any book, ever, that you are not personally enjoying. Just put it down. Right now. Seriously. Stop and back away from the book.

I am not sure when it became a badge of honor to finish a book you aren't enjoying. People complain when they are slogging through something, and then pat themselves on the back when they finally finish it, like they deserve recognition or a medal.


We should read widely to help the greatest number of patrons. Yes, this statement is true. But, we also have a limited amount of time to read. It is actually just as important that we spend enough time reading what we want to, for fun, because that is what keeps our passion for what we do alive. How can we help match people with the books they will love if we aren't in touch with what we love and why? You use the same skills and enthusiasm to help others that you gain from your own experiences. You might be suggesting different books, but the sentiment and the goals are the same. You want to capture for the person in front of you, the joy and pleasure of a good read, by suggesting the perfect book for them, but if you don't have your own joy of reading and an understanding of what you love and why as a basis, you cannot begin to help others.

This is the basic principle to all of my RA training sessions by the way. I spend most of the time allowing the group to reconnect with a favorite book and fall in love with it all over again. We don't even worry about helping others find a good read, rather we focus on each individual being able to share their book to others.

This strategy is a huge departure from the way RA Service is usually taught, and I can tell you first hand, it works.

But back to the issue at hand today-- not finishing a book you aren't enjoying.

As I say in my 10 Rules of Basic RA Service:
5.   Read widely (at least speed read widely)     -- reading ABOUT books is just as important as reading the book
I stand by this. If you aren't enjoying a book personally but feel like you either should know about it because it is an area you don't normally read in OR you think you have patrons who will enjoy it, read about it. Go to NoveList and Goodreads in particular to see reviews and actual reader comments [5 star and 2 star are the best]. Go to my 10 Rules page and scroll to the bottom for more resources.

The point is, there is absolutely NO REASON you have to finish a book you are not personally enjoying....ever. Well, there is one reason: if you are leading it in a book club. But other than that, you can stop.

I am making this a Call to Action though because when we refuse to stop books we aren't enjoying, we make it harder for our patrons to also do this. We tell them to stop after 50 pages if they don't like it. We tell them it's fine, we didn't write the book, why do we care if they read the whole thing and like it. We tell them to come back and try something else instead. But our actions speak louder than our words.

If we make a big deal about slogging through books we hate, they will be embarrassed and ashamed if they stop. I stopped reading books I didn't like personally years ago. I still have former patrons who tell me that the best thing I ever did for them was give them the freedom to do the same- by my words and my actions.

So for today's Call to Action, let's all start a book and not finish it. Let's make sure we let others know we did it too. Be proud of the DNF designation. Don't be ashamed. Let's admit that there are books we didn't finish just because we didn't want to. And let's remind ourselves, our coworkers, and our patrons that this act of not finishing a book is not only okay, it is good for us all. It frees us up to rekindle our joy of reading a good story, which in turn will make us better at matching patrons with their perfect read.

Let yourself off the hook. It really is no big deal to start a book and not finish it. I promise you because I do it all of the time and the library police have not put me in jail. This is not life or death here. It's reading. And yes, it is my career and I am very serious about it, but I also know there are no consequences from NOT finishing a book, but there very well could be some negative ones if I did force myself through it.

For past Call to Action posts [but be warned most ask you to do something] click here.

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