I suppose #1 on the list should be Stop Reading the Book You Don’t Enjoy, but we all know that isn’t always possible. Sometimes you just have to get through it, be it for a comp lit seminar, because your new boyfriend gave you his favorite book and can’t wait to discuss the ending with you, or just because you’re sort of supposed to have already read some Dickens by the time you’re 30. Granted, if it’s not one of those instances, please, just put the book down and add it to a list of books you never finished. We all have them.
For the times you just have to get through to the final punctuation, no matter how awful it is, try these four techniques.
- Talk back. Engaging in a lively conversation with your endless tome is the rough equivalent to engaging in a lively conversation with a philosophy undergrad: you’ll still want to hang him (or yourself) by the neck skin after the first six minutes, but it is a fair bit better than just listening to the guy drone on.
Bicker with your book. Annotate the places you hate most, if only to be able to cite specific pages in a scathing review.
- Figure out why other people like it so much. If you have the time and resources, figure out why others – from literary scholars to your best friend – are ga ga over the prose you’re currently laboring through. This obviously works better for the more laborious members of the cannon (coughDostoevskycough) than for the ubiquitously bad chicklit clogging literature’s arteries, but knowing what to look for before you dive in can help you get excited when you do find a nugget you can appreciate.
- Read it aloud and heavily accented. Come on. Just try it.
- Make everything else around you best-case scenario when you’re ready to tackle any interminable rising action. Get in a bubble bath, light a couple candles, throw on some Erik Satie and ensconce yourself in cashmere. You might be able to trick yourself into having a good time. Conversely, you might fall asleep.