Giving Myself Permission To NOT Read

I normally find that November is one of those months that passes very slowly, as though the Universe is giving me a chance to catch my breath before the insanity that is December. This is usually a great time of year to catch up on reading, to read some of those books that I’ve been thinking about for eons.

But this year, not so much; for the first time in my life, November is going by really quickly and with no signs of slowing down, I thought that today I would post about books that I’m probably never going to read.

These are the books that I want to read, that I feel like I should read as part of that endless quest to be a well-rounded reader. But these are also books that I can give myself permission to let go of because let’s be real – there are PILES AND PILES AND STACKS AND ROWS of books out there that I actually want to read and I don’t have space or time for them all. Cuts must be made.

liz lemon

Clarissa or The History of a Young Lady by Samuel Richardson. I’ve wanted to read it for about a decade, ever since I read Fanny Burney’s Evelina in university. But every time I come across it in the library, it sits there in its THREE volumes and I always walk by, pause, think about it and ultimately keep walking. Because seriously, that book is broken up into three volumes and as much as I think I will like it, I’m not sure I can spend the time trying to find out.

Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes. I tried to read it once when I was about 16 and I could not get into it (probably partly because I was 16). Another book that would require a serious time commitment and I don’t think I have it in me. Plus, books that centre on misguided men aren’t generally my favourite.

Hitler: A Biography by Ian Kershaw. I have actually tried to read this twice. The second time I almost made it all the way through and then evidently got distracted by something shiny. Maybe I could go back and just finish it but it’s been years. The thing is, Hitler is kind of a dickbag and spending so much time with a dickbag is not high on my list of things I’d like to be doing.

Steve Jobs by Walter Isaacson. Even though I generally abhor the idea of seeing a movie without having read the book, exceptions can be made. I understand that probably no one has had more of an impact on the way we live now than Steve Jobs and that he was all kinds of brilliant but I also understand that he wasn’t the greatest person. I don’t tend to read biographies about men on purpose so maybe I should just allow myself to return this one to my father-in-law and stop pretending like I’m going to read it.

The English Patient by Michael Ondaatje. The movie is one of my husband’s very favourites (pretty much anything with Ralph Fiennes will do the trick) and I have watched it because he made me. I’m not going to sit here and say I didn’t like the movie because that would be a lie. I did. But now I’ve watched it, it takes away the impetus to read the book (in my defence I didn’t know it was a book before I watched the movie. I KNOW.). I can have it on my list, but I also know I probably won’t ever read it. And I’m OK with that.

Am I totally off base with any of these? Will I be missing out on any quintessential reading experiences by skipping these? What books have you given yourself permission to never read?

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25 thoughts on “Giving Myself Permission To NOT Read

  1. I agree with you in that there are some books that don’t have to be read even though the world clamors we do so. I am not eager to read Hitler. As to why–your description and reason goes ditto for me, although I probably wouldn’t actually say so as emphatically as you did. But sometimes others just say it like it is. So, for what it’s worth, you have my permission NOT to read. Book Booster always.

  2. There have been so many books that I’ve made the conscious decision not to read, even though I kind of want to. The English Patient is one of those for the same reason as you – I saw the movie, and now I feel like I don’t want to read it because I know what’s going to happen (also the reason I don’t often re-read books). But, luckily for us, there are other Ondaatje books to read!
    Many classics would be on this list. For example, Moby Dick. Although a part of me is so curious to know if I would be in the love camp or the hate camp.
    Also, series, There are some good ones out there, but they are so time consuming. I own The Game of Thrones, but I’m still on the fence about whether or not I will actually read them (they were given to me). I know they’re supposed to be good, but…
    And on and on…

    • SO MUCH YES TO MOBY DICK. That’s definitely another one that I will never read.
      Series are so tough. They take up so much time. Especially giant ones like Game of Thrones and Outlander. I’m not actually sure if you would like GoT!

  3. There’s not enough time to read the books you really want to read, let alone the ones you feel like you should read; I for one will probably never read Ulysses by James Joyce, War and Peace, or Moby Dick. Life is too short….and those books are just too long. 🙂

  4. I love everything about this post! There are definitely some books that just aren’t likely to make the cut. Moby Dick and Infinite Jest are both at the very bottom of my TBR list, and there’s a good chance I’ll never get around to them. A never read: FSOG. I think that falls into the misguided man camp.

  5. Ah yes, the constant struggle of every reader. I think it’s OK to skip the Hitler book. While it’s important to know about him, you don’t need to know everything about him. I am on the fence about Moby-Dick, because like Naomi, I want to find out whether I’ll like it or hate it. But I will probably never read Ulysses or The Waste Land, and I won’t finish the Outlander series or Game of Thrones. I’m OK with that, but now I have to convince myself that there’s no need to keep those books on the shelf…

    • I don’t think there will ever be a time when I’m not totally fascinated by Hitler and his cronies. But maybe in smaller doses and not the 900 or whatever insane number of pages that that one book has.
      I think you should probably read Outlander because they are great. Although actually I’ve only read 3 and I keep thinking about reading the next one but then I think “that’s at least 800 pages to get through…” and then I choose something else.
      I am pretty positive that I will hate Moby Dick. I’m really ok with skipping that one forever.

      • I agree that Outlander is great. I’ve read the first 5 books, and they are all wonderful. But then they filmed it and now I can’t picture the characters the way I want to anymore. I know that’s a silly reason to stop reading….

      • If I’m honest, I would have been ok if the series had stopped after the third book. After that, I had trouble taking the time travel part seriously. (I don’t want to spoil anything by going into more detail….) I love all the history in the books, though, and I have pristine paperbacks sitting on my shelf, so I’m hoping that my curiosity will get the better of me at some point.

  6. I love this! We have to give ourselves this kind of permission or the number of books that one “should” read would be too overwhelming to enjoy anything. I think definitely the Hitler biography counts. I recently decided I could take Steve Jobs book off my mental TBR too

    • Yeah that Steve Jobs book…I don’t even look at it anymore. It’s never even an option anymore.
      Funny how you have to allow yourself to not read something. I think when you read as much as we do, it becomes so important to read everything but every time you choose one book, you’ve not chosen like 30. We have to just be ok with not reading everything. Every once in a while I need to remind myself that I want to ENJOY the reading. Which means skipping some more onerous titles.

  7. November really is flying by! How much do you feel pressured to be a well-rounded reader? I go back and forth between caring and not caring. I don’t have a list of books I don’t intend to read, but I try to remind myself that I won’t die if I don’t read everything.

    • I used to feel a lot more pressure to be a well-rounded reader. There was that part of me that had to read as many classics as possible for that to count. But now? I dunno. The classics that I haven’t read are becoming more and more obscure (or insanely long) and I just don’t have the time to obsess about the books I could be reading when I have so many books that I am reading anyway.
      I don’t even know where November has gone.

  8. I posted about my TBR this morning and realised that Don Quixote has been on it for years (like 20?!) so I doubt I’ll get round to it anytime soon! I would show my support for The English Patient. It is a beautiful book.

    • Support for The English Patient is noted.
      20 years is a long time but it’s not like Don Quixote is going anywhere. If one day you change your mind and Don Quixote feels like exactly what you need, it will still be there for you.

  9. I always find November to be a slow reading month as it’s a busy one at work. I long for the quieter days of winter when I can curl up and get some proper reading done! I didn’t like the Isaacson book on Steve Jobs. No real insight and too many uninteresting details in my opinion so I’d say you could just skim that one or give it a pass altogether.

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