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Thread: Reading Literature You Don't Like

  1. #1

    Reading Literature You Don't Like

    Hello, all!

    I've recently encountered a difficulty in my "literary endeavors" (a silly way of putting, I know). Ordinarily I enjoy reading a great deal -- but only as much as the literature permits. Although I may be enamored with one book or author, I'll find another to be an insufferable tedium.

    My question is, how do you force yourself to read a book that you don't want to? I'm not currently enrolled in any English courses, so it's not a pressing issue. Nevertheless it's a skill I would like to cultivate for when I'll need it later on in college.

    How do you find the resolution and concentration to continue reading, when you're on the verge of slipping into a coma? There are a great many books I dislike, but that I want to learn to appreciate.

    Any thoughts?

    P.S. Please excuse my poor writing. English isn't exactly my forte!

  2. #2
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    Personaly If I dont like it I dont read it. For me literature is not knowlege or an academic pursuit, it is simply and purley pleasure. I dont drink wine I dont like, I dont sleep with girls I find unatractive and I dont read what doesnt appeal to me.

    Though it is not the best aproach at university as my poor grades reflect, I stick with it.

  3. #3
    Registered User Desolation's Avatar
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    Life's too short to spend with people and books that you can't stand.

  4. #4
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    Quote Originally Posted by DystopianGypsy View Post
    Hello, all!

    I've recently encountered a difficulty in my "literary endeavors" (a silly way of putting, I know). Ordinarily I enjoy reading a great deal -- but only as much as the literature permits. Although I may be enamored with one book or author, I'll find another to be an insufferable tedium.

    My question is, how do you force yourself to read a book that you don't want to? I'm not currently enrolled in any English courses, so it's not a pressing issue. Nevertheless it's a skill I would like to cultivate for when I'll need it later on in college.

    How do you find the resolution and concentration to continue reading, when you're on the verge of slipping into a coma? There are a great many books I dislike, but that I want to learn to appreciate.

    Any thoughts?

    P.S. Please excuse my poor writing. English isn't exactly my forte!
    You don't learn to appreciate what you don't like other than you already did. You appreciate it and run away from it.
    It's hard to answer your question without knowing if you dislike or fail to like. Anything said in that regard without knowing you better would be pointless.
    But assuming that you are mature enough to read well, I would recommend critique of what you don't like. Any english course most likely will give you choices, but again, learn how to critique to contribute what you have to say.
    Giving a finger sometimes is a form of critique if a more civilized one doesn't work. Ha!
    Last edited by cafolini; 11-13-2011 at 04:46 PM.

  5. #5
    Registered User Aylinn's Avatar
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    I don't think reading books I don't enjoy will do my any good, so I don't force myself and leave them for some other time.

  6. #6
    Bibliophile Drkshadow03's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by DystopianGypsy View Post
    Hello, all!

    I've recently encountered a difficulty in my "literary endeavors" (a silly way of putting, I know). Ordinarily I enjoy reading a great deal -- but only as much as the literature permits. Although I may be enamored with one book or author, I'll find another to be an insufferable tedium.

    My question is, how do you force yourself to read a book that you don't want to? I'm not currently enrolled in any English courses, so it's not a pressing issue. Nevertheless it's a skill I would like to cultivate for when I'll need it later on in college.

    How do you find the resolution and concentration to continue reading, when you're on the verge of slipping into a coma? There are a great many books I dislike, but that I want to learn to appreciate.

    Any thoughts?

    P.S. Please excuse my poor writing. English isn't exactly my forte!
    I agree with what everyone else said so far. Life is too short. There are too many books. If you don't like it, don't waste your time.

    However, I would modify the advice a little. I have had books I hated or couldn't stand the first time around. I think there is something to say for trying again after you get older or at a different point in your life. I've found that a lot of books I disliked the first time I really enjoyed at a later period, either because I was older and had newer experiences so I could relate better to the book, had read other books that helped me understand the perspective of the original book that I struggled with better, or I just read it in a different mood (like not being busy with my job).

    It really depends what your goals are.
    "You understand well enough what slavery is, but freedom you have never experienced, so you do not know if it tastes sweet or bitter. If you ever did come to experience it, you would advise us to fight for it not with spears only, but with axes too." - Herodotus

    https://consolationofreading.wordpress.com/ - my book blog!
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  7. #7
    Registered User Emil Miller's Avatar
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    If, as part of your studies, you are required to read a book that you don't like, you will just have to grin and bear it. However, apart from that, simply avoid books that you don't like. The moment I feel that I ought to read a certain book, it's dead in the water. Reading should be instructive and a pleasure rather than a chore
    "L'art de la statistique est de tirer des conclusions erronèes a partir de chiffres exacts." Napoléon Bonaparte.

    "Je crois que beaucoup de gens sont dans cet état d’esprit: au fond, ils ne sentent pas concernés par l’Histoire. Mais pourtant, de temps à autre, l’Histoire pose sa main sur eux." Michel Houellebecq.

  8. #8
    riding a cosmic vortex MystyrMystyry's Avatar
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    For general reading they're called chapters, shelves and bookmarks, and I think it's why they were originally devised. I believe an effort should be made on all the works regarded by others as 'great' and 'classic', even if they aren't your bag of fresh strawberries. You read a bit and put it down for a few days - or weeks - or months - or however long, until you're in the mood to tackle another chapter.

    There are a lot of books that don't do it for me on initial embarking, and a number that only grow in intensity toward the end - making what has come before just the background to the climax. But read the climax without what came before and you'll get neither the impact nor the point.

    There are many books that only really seem to make sense on the second reading (though it may be due to how attentive the reader was the first time), but that also depends on the author's ability to maintain your interest.
    There are any number of 'classics' that are only vaguely deserving to be called that to any individual reader - especially really long and unyielding nineteenth century yawnfests - Damn you to Hell, Arnold Bennett!

    Perhaps just listen to the audiobook in the hammock or bath if it's a required college text that you know you're not enjoying, and read the important parts again later (just in case they've been abridged).

  9. #9
    Registered User billl's Avatar
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    Since you're apparently in high school, I think part of the problem would be a naturally-short attention span, maybe. Maybe that isn't it exactly, but I think high schoolers are naturally more ready to find something tedious. I think, then, that the best advice might come from looking back to what it was like reading stuff during high school.

    Like the OP, I found some books basically impossible to read the whole way through. The books I had the easiest time with were brief and/or fast-moving. However, I sometimes enjoyed longer books, or slower books.

    I remember I ended up enjoying The Red Badge of Courage (a book that initially bored me, and sort of smelled bad as I remember) because I had nothing else to do (I was visiting a relative's house), and so I eventually began to visualize elements and get interested in the story. I also remember a Dickens novel became pretty interesting to me, because the characters and the setting were so richly developed--it might've been long and less-than-action-packed, but upon reflection I found that there was a lot to think about, and the characters were interesting enough to care about moving forward. It took longer, but it was like a good movie, I guess.

    Basically, my advice would be to maybe take some time after you've read a chapter or two, and see if thinking about what happened during that particular section is at all interesting. If it isn't interesting, maybe try to see why other people might have found it interesting--if you can get interested in those things, that might be a kind of growth. Of course, copying the tastes of other people isn't to be too strongly recommended; but especially early on in appreciating art/music/lit (and in life in general) people tend to learn from and adopt (and adapt...) the tastes of others.

    I don't think you need to worry too much about finding some famous literary works boring--you will always find some to be like that, but more and more will become interesting with time probably. At the moment, the amount of different things out there for you is maybe making it hard to stay with just one for a long time, I'd guess. But sticking with things and thinking about them can be more interesting than finding new things right away--some long and slow books you might want to never end (perhaps that's happened already).

    Anyhow, to summarize:

    1. Try to find what is interesting about the book. After you've read a bit, think back to what happened. Is it, in fact, more interesting than the process of sitting down and reading page after page (which is what you've been dong, and getting tired of)? Try to get excited about moving forward and seeing what happens next.

    2. Also, sometimes language is pretty interesting in itself. I mention this because it seems in your post that you (the OP) might like writing. Different writers have different styles. Some, you might love right away (and the style might be what makes the book easy to read), but other ones might take a while to get the hang of. Some, you will probably NEVER like. But, again, if you can "crack the code" of how some other people like something, it might make the books more enjoyable, and might give you interesting ideas about writing.

    And here, I want to say that any study of writing by a young writer can lead to imitation. There's nothing terribly bad about that, it's experimentation--but try to be aware of it, and move on to your own style. It's good to appreciate more and more different things, but originality is a lot more interesting, as far as it can be accomplished. In the end, you should read what you read because you like it--and write what you write they way you see and say it.

  10. #10
    The Poetic Warrior Dark Muse's Avatar
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    I do not know if there truly is a way to acquire a taste for reading something you are simply not enjoying. I was lucky that most of my assigned reading I did acutally enjoy, but there were some of which I did not care for that I had to read, and ultimately you simply get it done becasue you have to do it. You just have to keep plowing your way through the book.

    Some things which may help make the task more bearable is to try and find at least some aspect of the book which you might like or at least tolerate. Is there at least one chrachater who you kind of like or interests you in some way? Or are there certain passages in the book that you acutally enjoy? Try to find at least one positive thing, or one tolerable thing in the book that you can focus on.

    And on the occasions when I did have to read a book which I found particularly difficult to get through it might help to take it in small amounts, when you do find you are at the point of wanting to shoot yourself in the head rather than read another page, than put the book down and do something fun, than try and come back to the book again later.

    Reading background material on the author, if you know about the author's life might also help give you a new perspective upon the book. If you find out something really interesting about the author it might make you more inclined toward reading the book, or if you know more where the author was coming from you might better understand why they may have written the book the way they did. You can begin to make connection between the book and the authors life and experiences.

    It might also help if you can get together with a small group of fell students and discuss the book while reading. In one of my classes a group of students set up a discussion online where we would talk about the book while we read, and sometimes we would just rant about things, talk about the things we did not like and it did make the reading experience all in all more enjoyable.

    Deep into that darkness peering, long I stood there, wondering, fearing, doubting, dreaming dreams no mortal ever dared to dream before. ~ Edgar Allan Poe

  11. #11
    Registered User My2cents's Avatar
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    If you read a book you detest from cover to cover giving it 75-80 % level of your attention, I think it gives you a psychological justification to disparage it. Really that's about the only benefit that I can think of in forcing yourself to read a book that you don't have to. I've done it a few times, and in my case it was because I couldn't stand the thought of having bought books only to let them sit on the shelf gathering dust.

  12. #12
    Registered User Calidore's Avatar
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    If the book's assigned and you have no choice, try asking the professor to clue you in on either what he likes about it, or, if he doesn't like it either but thinks it important, what he wants you to look for in it.
    You must be the change you wish to see in the world. -- Mahatma Gandhi

  13. #13
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    As others have suggested, as a student you will probably need to simply buck up and read a lot of stuff you might not initially love. Recognize that at your age it is quite likely that what you like is going to be greatly impacted by your lack of experience with given forms, conventions, and even uses of language or vocabulary. Be open enough to give everything an honest effort. I'd also suggest you recognize that some works which you find do not click with you now may really grab you years later so don't write anything off completely.

    At this point in my reading I'm closer to sharing the opinions of Alexander and Emil. I read for the pleasure it brings me. If something doesn't bring me pleasure I will look elsewhere. This need not mean sticking with the simple and easy pleasures. After a certain degree of experience those works which are too "easy"... too cliche... too pandering... can fail to please, while works which challenge... which approach things in an unexpected manner... can become imminently pleasurable.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
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  14. #14
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    What's to say? Why give valuable time in your life to books you don't like?

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    Voice of Chaos & Anarchy
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    I enjoy reading good literatue, and I do not enjoy reading bad literature. Therefore, if I co not enjoy reading ssomehing it is not good literature, and I feel no reason exists for me to read it.

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