Reading between the lines

I consider myself to be decently well read. I know I have a long way to go, but I feel like I’ve been open and exposed to a variety of writing styles and themes.

This wasn’t always the case – I was a fiction-gal. Non-fiction = school. So, any reading of non-fiction that didn’t contribute to a credit was not really high on my priority list.

This has thankfully changed and I’m trying to read one non-fiction for every fiction I read. And it’s actually got to the point where my “To Read” list is heavier on non-fiction.

Regardless of which category, I know what I like and what I don’t. I think I have a decent radar for BS and will sift through the text to take away the messages that I feel are most relevant, interesting, and quite honestly, the most realistic.

In some books this is easy because other than a bit a filler here and there, the bulk of the reading hits the mark. This is especially true for business, including HR, resources. I can often identify or see how things might work – whether for me, my team, or my organization. And while the writing style might be a bit too simplified or the anecdotes a bit too cheesy – it all makes a valid point.

And then there are the books that I plod through. Actually I should re-phrase that to say I force myself to plod through. I treat it like mining for gold. I’m sure there’s value in them there words, and I’m set on finding it.

And yet, the book I’m currently reading is like listening to a somewhat condescending prof who spends more time and energy name dropping and referencing other people’s material that my biggest take-away so far is a list of other books to read (not written by the author). Add the fact that the author is a logophile takes the level of pomposity up a notch. 2 points for using a big word that most will have to look up.

If I decide to invest my time in a book because of its topic…let’s say leadership, or organizational connectivity. Then I don’t think it’s unreasonable to assume that the bulk of the book is going to be about this. However, when the first 2 chapters are solid history lessons, with heavy emphasis on military references…and the author actually provides definitions, as well as the origin of the words he is using, I’m thinking….dude, you’ve got a serious case of “filler-itis”.

Despite this auspicious* start to the book – I persevered and made it to what I call the meat and potatoes (or the point) of the book. These were good, these were relevant, these were reality-based chapters….and then he went off on another multi-lingual, multi-cultural reference-tangent that left me thinking that this book really was only 3 chapters long, but the publisher asked him to beef it up.

In my book club (where we read only fiction), one of the members has a 10% rule. If the book doesn’t capture her by 10% in – she stops and walks away from it. No guilt, no regret, no wondering whether maybe I should keep going. I see value in this as we have limited time and do we really want to waste it on something that we don’t like (when we don’t have to). However, I refer to exhibit A: Yann Martel’s Life of Pi. Had I employed the 10% rule, I would never have finished one of the better books that I’ve read. It took a lot of push to keep me going on that one, but it was worth making it past that midpoint.

And so, call it variable interval reinforcement if you like, but I rarely don’t finish a book when I’ve started it. I feel like there’s always a chance that it will get better. A recent exception is On the Road. Either I’m 20-years too old or not stoned enough to appreciate that book. Plus, I had the “original” version which contained no paragraphs or chapters. WTF.

You’ve probably caught on to the fact that I have not mentioned either the book title or the author I’m currently reading. This has been intentional because I want to finish it before I slam it or recommend it. It would hardly be fair to say, I am on page 139 of 247 and this book is rubbish. I could put it down, walk away and decide enough time has been wasted.

Well, I could do those things….but then maybe it will get better.

Damn behavioural psychology.

*adjective: auspicious
conducive to success; favorable.
“it was not the most auspicious moment to hold an election”
late 16th cent.: from auspice + -ous.


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