joys of reading, the business of books, writing

Why Can’t We Be Friends? the non-review

to read or not to read

While researching reviews of Aimee Byrd’s book, Why Can’t We Be Friends? I was struck with the realization that this is a good opportunity to discuss the things that I consider when deciding whether or not to read and review certain books. Since I have decided not to read this one, it is the perfect conversational springboard.

Most of the books I read and review, I find one of three ways. I stumble upon them in the library, read a riveting analysis of said book, or as is often the case, am reminded that it was one I’d always intended to read but never got around to it. Classics most often fall into the last category.

When a book is generating a lot of buzz and I can’t find it at my local library, I embark on a research expedition. The regrettable experience of spending my beloved’s hard earned money on a book that is best fit for the trash heap is a hard learned lesson. As a result, I do my homework and often find that the homework provides plenty about what I am going to find in the book. This either saves both my time and money from being wasted, or heightens my anticipation of curling up with that book.

The former is what happened when I started poking around for some insight on Why Can’t We Be Friends? Most of the reviews were positive, but in ways that only served to solidify my initial skepticism. They were long, wieldy and confusing, explored the book in multiple parts, or otherwise worked to further entrench me into my position. Thankfully, I ran across an article at The Federalist which directed me toward the author’s previously published and readily available words on the subject.

In essence, Mrs. Byrd has written so many articles and blog posts laying out her case for why Christian men and women -regardless of marital status- should be able to have close, personal, even intimate friendships (“sacred siblings” she calls it), that reading her book would have been an exercise in redundancy. The book was an expansion of and explanation of ideas presented in those articles. As a result, I felt no need to purchase, read, or review the book.

This was a good reminder to me that while it is important and vital for any aspiring writer to write, write often, and generate exposure for her writing, it isn’t a good idea to base any potentially publishable work on a conglomeration of ideas that have already been shared and disseminated far and wide. Why should people buy a book that includes ideas and information that I have already shared repeatedly?

Another way I decide which books to read or not is on the basis of a recommendation or down vote from a trusted source.  By that I mean a source that I trust. There have been books I was considering then decided not to read because someone who knows me well gave me a full and complete idea of what it is, and why it’s not worth my time or attention.

Lastly, there are books I read but don’t review for myriad reasons. One of those reasons is because I didn’t finish it.  When a book is taking me an eternity to complete and I constantly find myself picking up other books to give me a break from that book, I conclude that it’s probably not a book for me. That could mean it’s a bad book worthy of a negative review, but if I didn’t finish it I never know if it finally came together in a satisfying way.  This potential for recovery and success is more likely in fiction than nonfiction of course, and is another reminder to me to keep thoughts and ideas cohesive when I write.

Another reason I may not review it is because the ideas are either so personal or so big that I feel it is best not to open a blog discussion about it. Rather, my time with that book is best spent by pondering its ideas privately or with those in my inner circle. That doesn’t happen often, but it does happen.

I’m sure there are as many times that I’ve skipped books I may have enjoyed as there are times I read books that felt like a waste of time. In either case, I try to be deliberate and informed before I read any book that I intend to review in this space. This process of mine is obviously far from scientific, but there is some level of method to the madness here.

How do you decide which books you will read?

 

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6 thoughts on “Why Can’t We Be Friends? the non-review”

  1. Reading (old/classic) kid’s books ahead to pick out stuff for the kids. Reading for research for writing, and reading ahead for future homeschooling goals. Reading classics and older books in general to see what the fuss was about or to understand historical context (I like to know what people thought was popular *then* with a given time period vs what’s used to represent a time period *now*). And I like sci-fi and fantasy, so I read some of that, old and new.

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  2. Thanks for commenting, TPC because your comment reminded me of another context in which I choose books: for my kids, either because it has been assigned by a literature teacher, because I need to preview it for their future reading, or if they are interested in it and I need to pre-read it for content or even just appropriateness.

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  3. I feel like Bryan Caplan’s books (“Selfish Reasons to Have More Kids” and “The Case Against Education”) aren’t very good, but I think I’m still going to read them, because he’s interestingly wrong.

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  4. I don’t do a very good job of reading things I’m “supposed to read”. I just read whatever hits my interest as I go ‘long. Books that I feel are good for me, but I don’t actually have interest in, end up piled in a corner after about the first chapter.

    My current interests are eclectic – most of what I read is non-fiction, and I re-read the very few fiction (SF/F) writers I enjoy until the books become rags. I am more likely to give a non fiction book a go on the recommendation of a friend than fiction.

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  5. Oh, heck yeah! Interestingly wrong is still interesting. And often good reading. I just hate spending money on a book and everything in it is the same thing I have *heard* the person say except different verb tense.

    Sort of how some of my e-friends felt about Dreher’s Benedict Option. I hadn’t read much of his writing before encountering it. It was new to me. But if I had been reading his blog for years before hand I would have probably skipped it.

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  6. Oh yes, the preblogged book. I’ve had that problem with fiction writers, oddly enough. If I crawl too thoroughly into their heads in the day-to-day writing, somehow the fiction isn’t as fresh or tasty.

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