One of my greatest fears is that I will die before finishing the book I’m currently reading. I mean, how tragic, right? Not knowing what happens in the sequel, let alone if there is a sequel? It’s like reverse George R.R. Martin syndrome: We think he’ll die before the last books are written; I think I’ll die before I finish reading them.
(Come to think of it, that will probably be my first question when I arrive up at those pearly gates:
God/Higher Being/Morgan Freeman: Ask me anything, Soul #389482923.
Me: Yeah, I know it was supposed to be a shocking ending, but what happened in Gone Girl? I had like 20 pages left. Should I just skip to the movie?
Morgan Freeman: Rosamund Pike is a babe.
Me: Tell me something I don’t know.)
And that’s not because I walk around with an intense premonition that I will die any day now. It’s just that I ensure that I always finish the book I’m reading. I may put it down for months at a time, but I very, very, very, very, very rarely stop reading it altogether. Which means that I’ve read some really awful stories. I mean, like, terrible.
What were some of the worst?
Three Cups of Tea
Crime & Punishment
Izzy, Willy Nilly
And the best?
The Book Thief
The Knife of Never Letting Go
And as you couldn’t see but could probably guess, my favorites sprang to mind and were typed out much quicker than the bad titles. The good ones certainly stick with me while the bad ones fade to black.
But I can tap them out all the same because I’ve read every word of them. I’ve analyzed their metaphors, I’ve caught their drifts, I’ve found their extensive typos. And so I am able to make an informed opinion about their excellence or mediocrity.
Of course, I know what you’re thinking, what’s the point of reading a book that isn’t very good? That you hate, even?
The short answer? Because it has something to teach you. The long answer? It teaches you empathy. When you read a small bit of a book, you’re only getting one side of the coin, a spoonful of the truth. When you read the entire thing, you suddenly know what the weaknesses and strengths of any character in it are. And you can defend or condemn them as easily as you want. (A skill you can translate to reality, too.)
But really, reading an entire book is having the ability to say I know the shape of another human being’s soul. And I have not played God/Higher Being/Morgan Freeman by passing judgment on it until the very end. Which is the only thing that any of us can really hope for when we truly bare ourselves to an audience.