When I listen to Anne Bogel's What Should I Read Next? podcast, I typically enjoy the bookish banter and maybe come away with a recommendation or two. What I don't usually come away with is an idea that could majorly change my reading life. But I think that just may have happened with this week's episode.
Anne was interviewing Roxanne Coady, the owner of independent bookstore RJ Julia in Madison, Connecticut. As the pair chatted, they found common ground in frequently abandoning (or at least setting aside) books they start due to the nature of their work. Anne has talked about this many times before, but then Roxanne talked about a shift in her reading life since becoming a bookseller, saying: "I realized the number of books that I could read that were likely to be great was limitless and if I was struggling to get through a book, I owed it to the next book to drop the book that I'm not loving and go on to the next one." And it was one of those proverbial light-bulb moments for me. Her statement made so much sense, but I had never thought of it that way before.
While I'm not completely opposed to DNF'ing books, it's very much a rarity for me. I am absolutely one of those readers who often finds myself wondering, as Anne pointed out, "but what if it's about to get good?" And while I'm well aware books don't have actual feelings, I DO often find myself feeling it's not fair to judge a book I haven't finished. I often feel it's not fair to "give up" on a book I'm already part way through -- especially if it landed on my TBR by way of a trusted source for recommendations. I've already invested time and oftentimes money in that particular title. I chose to pick that book up for a reason and let's be honest, who really likes to admit they were wrong?
So while I doubt Roxanne's philosophy is going to make me a master DNF-er, I am going to reconsider which books I'm thinking about when I wonder whether or not quitting is "fair." It's not like I've never heard similar arguments before: "there are so many good books out there" and "life's too short," just to name two. I've heard them before -- and I even agree with them! But it's still hard to make a judgement against a book that's right in front of me sometimes. It's hard to think of that potential "next great book," particularly if I'm not even sure what I want to pick up next. Sticking with a so-so book until the end often just feels easier, even when it's a slog. But I love Roxanne's optimism about the limitlessness of great books out there, so I'm going to give it a try.