Commitment to Reading

Not all books are created equal; some take far longer to read than others. How much time can you invest in a book before the gains of reading it are lost? If you’re like me and have a stack of books waiting to be read plus a list of books waiting to be added to the stack, do you have a cut-off point at which you abandon one book in favor of another? I’m currently reading The Golden Bough by Sir James George Frazer, a book that spent about a year in my stack prior to reaching the top. Now that it’s there, I’m wondering how much more time to put into it. It’s a slow read – I’ve made it through 175 pages in about ten days – and, at 825 pages, it’s a formidable read at that. It is an interesting book, along the lines of The Hero with a Thousand Faces by Joseph Campbell and The Histories by Herodotus, but it isn’t much of a page turner. I know this book has an intrinsic value, but is it worth the time I’m committing to it? I took a full month one summer to read The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky, and I wouldn’t trade that reading experience for four of lesser quality. I didn’t feel bad about putting down The Host after the first 90 pages, but it hadn’t been on my list for more than a year like The Golden Bough has been. I’m the type of reader who feels committed to the book at hand, even if there are other worthy selections waiting in the stack. Is reading a mental exercise, with some endurance training necessary, or is it an economic transaction, with a balance of time and money invested compared to the benefit yielded? Or is it more simple than that – if you don’t feel inclined to continue reading a book, should you?


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