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Jul 30

Do I Have to Finish It? by Charlotte Helgeson

Posted on July 30, 2020 at 2:47 PM by Genesis Gaule

close up of a person in a pink t-shirt reading an open book

I’ve started thousands and thousands of books. I’ve finished the majority of them. What?!?

It’s true. I haven’t finished every book I started. They didn’t all hit the spot and there are so many fantastic books I want to read.

This is where the library offers one more advantage. If I check out 2 books at the library and find that the first one isn’t entertaining me or informing me the way I had hoped then I put it aside and read my other choice. Super great idea, checking out a variety to make sure I picked the just right title.

How to pick a book that will take me where I want to go:

  • Here’s my first secret. Read the first 13 lines. Right, a good author can easily catch a reader’s attention in just a few sentences. Often, the first line grabs me and I’m off into a great read!
  • My second secret, if those lines almost caught me then I open to a random page and read only a few lines. Dialogue is good if it is fiction. The end of a subsection if it is nonfiction. If it sounds real then the book will get more of my attention. Even nonfiction books don’t always sound real.
  • I know patrons who read the end first. I’ve never done that and have no intention of trying that approach. Endings can be magnificent, especially when I’m surprised!
  • If still uncertain, my third go-to is to look for other author’s comments on the book jacket. Do I recognize the author and if so, do I like that author’s work? That can sway me.

These guidelines help me choose books for my own reading. Selection of materials for the library’s collection involves quite a bit more work and isn’t nearly as fun.

So back to where I started. How do I decide if the book is going to get better or even amazing when the beginning is ordinary? Excellent question and one our staff discusses often. Some of us have the obligatory, “I started it; I’ll finish it,” mindset. Others go with the first chapter and hope there is a catch at the end that jumps the reader into Chapter 2. Then there is the 100 page trial--way too long for me. I go back to that jump start. If I’m not caught early on there is no chance I’ll push through to the end. My list of must-reads continues to grow at a rate that will outlast my longevity.

To have a public library to try different genres, authors, or formats is a wonderful advantage. Sampling a new book can be like test driving a car or trying on new clothes. Don’t settle for ordinary when there is extraordinary on another shelf!

I’d love to hear how you choose your books. Of course, our friends are a great source of recommendations for what to read next.

In the words of a 3-year-old patron, “I picked this one because it was pink.”


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