On Hate-Reading

living room with watercolor art on the walls, a simple desk with fresh flowers, and shelves full of color-coded books and simple decor

I have been meaning to reply to this tweet for well over a year now:

“Casual reminder to drop the books you are reading for pleasure but not enjoying. There are millions of books worth reading. Your time is better invested reading one that actually nourishes your love of learning.”
—@iconawrites (February 6, 2022)

This is such sage advice. When your entertainment of choice is no longer entertaining you (or otherwise benefitting you), let it go. The first time I understood this was when I played the World of Warcraft video game with a group of friends in my early twenties. As we got better at playing the game, the challenges required more and more time—sometimes five-hour commitments that we would schedule together. It started feeling like a part-time job, and I felt so free when I realized I could just opt out of that experience. The same can be true for television shows, movies, magazine subscriptions, etc.

AND YET. I have never ever given up on a book, and I probably never will.

Hello, my name is Skirts, and I love hate-reading.

My bestie, Tyler, has probably known this longer than anyone else, even me. He has been on the receiving end of hundreds of angry text messages with photos of whatever book I’m reading and a short (or not-so-short) rant about the crimes being committed by the author and/or editor.

For example, I was honored when my (very shy and reserved) boss told me about his favorite book series that he reads every year. I immediately borrowed the entire trilogy from the library. In the first book, the author used the word “crepuscular” at least fifty times, and the main character absolutely could not stop taking pee breaks behind bushes. I screamed.

I was delighted when a group of friends and acquaintances, many of whom are English majors, started up a book club. The first book they picked was written so terribly that it took me fifty pages to figure out that the author was (unintentionally) bouncing between first person and third person, present tense and past tense. No one else noticed. I screamed.

I was excited when Amazon Prime debuted their First Reads program, allowing subscribers to download one free Kindle book a month from a selection of new releases. But one of the books was a seemingly verbatim transcription of You've Got Mail but with two young women as the protagonists; the author didn't even bother changing the name of Brinkley, the dog. One of the books ended in the middle of a conversation, the only conversation that had the potential to move the plot forward. And the book that finally got me to stop falling for the First Reads scam described a group breakfast with this sentence: "There was a period of dedicated chewing until she returned.”

I am still screaming.

Yet amidst the screams, I have finished every one of these books. Did the experiences make me miserable? Yes. Do I also find it fun to read terrible books? Yes. Do Tyler and I still reference one of my most-hated phrases, “the chickens blew into the sea,” as a cherished emoji meme? 🌊🐓🐓🌊🐔🐔🐔🐓🌊🐓🌊🌊🌊 (Yes.)

Now, I will add one caveat, which is that I read abnormally quickly—speed-reading levels, apparently. So at most, I’m wasting three or four hours of my time on any given book. I assume that hate-reading would not be a good hobby for someone who reads at a slower pace or someone who listens to audiobooks. Also, while I log all of these books on Goodreads, you won’t catch me leaving a snobby written review—that’s a curse you must opt into by being a close friend.

So if you’re thinking of inviting me to your book club, please reconsider. If you want to recommend a book, please leave a comment. If you want to know what I really thought about the book you recommended, please ask Tyler.