My husband and I had dinner with a good friend the other night. Our friend is an ER doctor who works crazy hours, but he only works about twelve shifts per month. He was telling us that he needs to find something to do with his days when he’s not working . . . aside from watching Netflix all day long.
This guy reads good books occasionally. He’s smart. He has good ideas. He’s insightful and interesting.
So, I suggested a book club. Couldn’t we get a group of people together to commit to reading one book a month?
My husband scoffed. “No,” he said. “No one wants to be in a book club.”
“He’s right. No one reads anymore; they watch television. How about a Breaking Bad club?” our friend replied. “We’ll do dinners and watch Breaking Bad and discuss.”
As a disclaimer, I feel compelled to say that I am not an anti-TV book snob. I loooooooooove TV. When I was a kid, I was only allowed to watch a half hour of television a day. I think I have subconsciously resolved to make up for that injustice during my adult life. I devour television like I devour books. My husband and I have a habit of finding a show and binge-watching a season of it over a weekend.
But we are intelligent. We are educated. We are grown-ups. Television and books are not mutually exclusive.
We should be reading, too.
My husband (who is decidedly not a moron and is far more representative of our peers than I am when it comes to reading) finishes maybe two books a year. He said yesterday that this is, in part, because he’s a slower reader than I am. And he doesn’t comprehend books as quickly as I do. He has to think about them, process them. He daydreams while reading and has to reread certain paragraphs or pages.
Well, to that I respond: Please.
I can promise you I do not read a sentence 52 times quicker than my husband does. And, if you know me, you know I’m one of the most easily distracted people out there (Look! A dust bunny!). And everyone has those moments when you’re “reading” but thinking about something else, and then suddenly you realize that you’ve “read” four pages, but you have no idea what those four pages were about. None of those excuses explains why I read so much more than he does. Nor does the fact that he goes to work every day, and I do not–when I was still working, I read nearly the same amount.
But I think I may know the reason (or at least a reason). I will break it down using math: So far this month, I have written eight book reviews. I write book reviews of all the books I read as soon as I finish reading them. Of the eight books I have reviewed this month, only one of those books has been a great, great book.
Let’s assume for the sake of argument that we can use that as an average (although, in all honesty, I think it’s a very optimistic ratio). Using those numbers, I can assume that my husband will read ONE good book every FOUR years. And I can assume he’s read only eight good books in his entire life.
Well. If I only read a good book every four years, I wouldn’t see any point in reading much either. I, too, would prefer to read a quick and easy magazine article. Or an entertaining Grantland post. Or watch an hour of really good television. It’s self-perpetuating.
On the flip side, I’ve read many more than eight good books in my life, and I want to read more. Because, when a book is goooooood, it’s way, way better than an hour (or even a season) of good television. I know there are good books out there, and I want to find them. I read as much as I do because I recognize the odds. By reading as much as I do, I know I’ll get to read about 7 good books a year.
Of course, most people aren’t willing to dredge through all the mediocrity on their quest to find good books. So I keep my husband and that horrible ratio in mind as I write this blog. I know full well that most people won’t read the books I review. People will look at the blog and say, “You just read a bunch of mediocre books and give everything a 3.5.” And they’re right (thank goodness I do some vetting before I read a book to make sure it’s gotten good press or is by an author I like or starts out strong or looks particularly interesting, or else the ratings would likely be much, much lower).
Frankly, I’m ok with people not being excited about all the 3.5 books I review. In fact, if you only read two books a year, I would ask you nicely to ignore all the books that I rate a 3.5 (I’m not saying you should ignore the reviews. Read them, send them to friends, read them again).
But here’s a thought: why not let me read the 3.5 books for you? I’ll weed out all the crap.
And then, do me a favor: if you’re like my husband and you only read two books a year, read the books that I give a 5 (or at least a 4.5). That way, you can make sure that the two books a year you’re reading are great. And when your ratio of good books to mediocre books improves, maybe you’ll be encouraged to read a little bit more. My hope is that, one day, after we finish talking about Breaking Bad/Mad Men/House of Cards/Orange is the New Black/Homeland/The Challenge: Rivals II/whatever, we can talk about some of the really, really good books we’ve both read.