Friday, July 8, 2011

Cracking the Books

What should your response be when somebody gives you the gift of a book? Now, of course, your immediate response should be "thank you". But that is not my point. I am pondering a situation where said book is not one that you would ever in a thousand years pick up for yourself. Now I am not talking about a book that likely would be good for you to read, I am referring to a book that discusses a person or subject matter that you have absolutely no interest in. My guess is that most people either stash such gifts in a closet, re-gift it to some other schlep, drop it down the return shute at their local library, or put it straight in the recycle bin. For some reason, I have always felt some kooky obligation to read the stupid piece of crap.

I think I read these gift books just to honor those who gave me the book in the first place. But I think there is something more. Somehow, I feel compelled to read these books to honor the medium of literature itself. Perhaps that makes me a renaissance man. Perhaps that makes me a bed-wetting jar of Nutella brand spread.

What is interesting is that sometimes I can take away something quite positive from such reads. I learn something about the world or about myself. I think that if there is indeed something positive to extract from these books, I need to approach it with at least a semi-open mind. If I go in dreading it, with lots of weeping and gnashing of teeth, I really am just wasting my time.

So, what about you? Do you read such books or deposit them in the circular file?