Monday, June 11, 2007

Book pages

Nancy Pearl, the now famous librarian, offers this rule for reading.

Believe me, nobody is going to get any points in heaven by slogging their way through a book they aren't enjoying but think they ought to read. I live by what I call 'the rule of fifty,' which acknowledges that time is short and the world of books is immense. If you're fifty years old or younger, give every book about fifty pages before you decide to commit yourself to reading it, or give it up. If you're over fifty, which is when time gets even shorter, subtract your age from 100. The result is the number of pages you should read before deciding.

You may have seen on the sidebar that my current book, for a while now, has been Claire Tomalin's biography of Thomas Hardy. My scheme this year was to read it in the month of Hardy's birth (June). At first I was quite smitten, but as the days went on, I found myself less and less drawn to it. As I was reading the other day, my mind wandered to Nancy Pearl's rule. I looked down, and incredibly I was on the page number which one gets as a result of subracting my age from 100. That was a good enough sign for me to quit, at least for a while, and maybe permanently. I thought I was going to be fascinated with the subject, but I found it a bit dry. I got bogged down in details. I'd read for five minutes and then think of something else to do. Sometimes I think I'm just busy when I don't read much, but soon enough I realize it is the book not the time. There is always time to read, and when I love a book I can't stay away.


  1. Thank you for quoting Nancy Pearl - I knew I had read this quote and thought it had come from Sara Nelson's So Many Books, So Little Time.

    I love what you've said at the end here - I started a book last night and am already feeling lukewarm about it. It is probably a case of it not being the right book, as you say, and if I really wanted to get back to it, I would.

  2. Amen to Nancy Pearl. I live by that rule and love the fact that after 50, one should subtract from 100. As always the maxim is "too many books, too little time". Thanks for reminding us of this, Nan. When you stop a book it doesn't always mean not ever, just not now.

  3. I'm reading "Constantine's Sword" which has has not yet grabbed me by page 100. But, it is good for me!!! I will be so much more knowledgeable after I finish it!! I know I will....

  4. I agree with reading what you love! I am not quite reading as many pages as I should! By the calculation of reading 100-your age, I only read 25 pages - I am 8 pages short. I agree with Nancy Pearl
    I took a Great Books course for a few years. Some were good; some were awful. I quit, 'cause I decided that wherever I go in the after life, I want to be with people who have read and loved the books and authors I love.
    Life is too short to drink poor wine and read books you don't love!
    I agree with Kay - a book may become 'right' another time.
    Oh yes, there are a few advantages about aging - you can pick up a book, read over 100 pages, think it is familiar and then at about page 150, you realize you have read it before. I continue on from page 150 to the end, cause if I loved it before, I will love it again!

  5. I've never heard this quote and I'm glad you shared it. Now I don't feel so guilty about all those books I've started and never finished. Whew!

  6. I have subscribed to this rule for some time and I love it!!! I was reading a "work of literature" and then I went to a used book sale and got a "novel." Now, I can't wait to finish dinner and go upstairs and get back to this story......Curious? It is Happiness Sold Separately by Lolly Winston...funny, interesting, and a fast read that I can't wait to get back definition of a great book!

  7. Yum! This cake has my mouth watering. I love rhubarb!

  8. I thought it was funny that I had to actually learn that this rule of Nancy Pearl's was okay. I remember thinking years ago that I had to finish a book even if I hated it. It's quite freeing to just leave a book when you know it's a waste of time.

  9. I've been "reading" the Hardy biography for months and just this morning took it off my currently reading list. I've actually read beyond the page to stop when you subtract my age from 100 and was wondering why I haven't much enthusiasm for this book. I don't really want to give up on it as I do enjoy Hardy's books, but perhaps it would be better to stick to his books rather than read this biography!

  10. Wow! I think this may be the most comments I've ever gotten on a single post. It must really strike a chord.

    I love that adjective, Tara, "lukewarm." Are we ever in the mood for such a book?

    Kay, I may think now that I'll go back to this one, but most every time I drop a book, it is for good. I guess I don't change much in my reading taste. :<)

    Gail, I laughed at your comment. Just the title would be too much for me, I think. :<)

    Peg, your comment describes exactly why I don't join book groups. I don't want to ever "have" to read a book, even if I own it, even if I want to read it someday. I want to read what I want, when I want. I view reading as my great pleasure and joy in life and I will never let it be a drudge. I can't craft, I can't knit, I can't quilt, but I can read. :<)

    Catherine Mary, one should never, ever feel guilt about quitting a book. It's not going to hurt the author one little bit, unless of course the whole reading community does so. ;<)

    Laura, I just think of Popeye - "I am what I am." I read what I read. And you recommended to me one of the best books I've read called Girl With Glasses. I really should do a "book report" on it. :<)

    Catherine, thanks for stopping by. The dessert is great!

    Grace, I think there is that old notion of slogging through an unpleasant job, or book, or relationship instead of getting free!

    Books Please, I thought of you when I quit, and wondered what you would say. I'm amazed we both stopped. I wonder if it would work well as a reference book. Say, read Jude The Obscure and then check out what is written about it in the biography.

    Thanks to you for taking the time to comment. I loved reading them all.

  11. Hi Nan. It was amazing wasn't it. Yes, I think that's right about using the book for reference. When I finished reading 'The Woodlanders' I had a look at what Tomalin wrote. She gives info such as Hardy's experience of tree-planting etc. The biography's got a good index, which helps.

  12. Well, good, Books Please, that will make it worth keeping! I haven't read any Hardy in a long, long time and have never read The Woodlanders.


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