I’m a book lover. I love books. I love collecting books—the real ones that you can display on a shelf and hold in your hands. I love getting books as gifts and I love giving them. I love rare books, antique books, unknown books, and out-of-print books. I love books that are worth a lot of money, and because I spend a lot of money on books, I love books that I’ve purchased for next-to-nothing—especially when they’re valuable.
What I really love is to find a pristine hardcover first edition at a book sale for a dollar. I look forward to reading the book, keeping it, and cherishing it as a thing of value—both monetary and emotional.
I find it disturbing, therefore, to begin reading such a book to find that I can’t tolerate it. I saw Super Sad True Love Story on shelves when it was released and was interested, but I didn’t buy it and I didn’t read it. I was excited, then, to find it at a Friends of the Library book sale six years later in the same condition that it would have been if I’d purchased it at Elliott Bay Books when it dropped.
It sat for a while on my to-read pile. I started reading it once and put it down halfway through the first chapter. I couldn’t get into it. I didn’t enjoy it. I read other things. Today I picked it up again and tried to slog through the first chapter. I didn’t like the language, the tone, or the character. I couldn’t relate to the setting, and I just didn’t care about anything that was happening.
It’s not that it isn’t a good book. It’s a national bestseller, for goodness sake. It just isn’t a book for me.
What to do with such a book? I don’t have time to read something I truly don’t enjoy. I can’t give it away because I only gift books that are meaningful to me, or that I feel would be meaningful to the recipient. Do I keep it, unread, just because? Maybe it will have value one day, if I hang on to it long enough. Or maybe, in ten years, my sensibilities will change and it will speak to me then.
I have another such book that was a twenty-five-year-old first edition from a quite well known writer. I couldn’t read it, either. I finally decided to keep it, because of its rarity. I suppose I’ll do the same for this one.