Breakups are not always rational. This is what watching 9 seasons of Seinfeld taught me. And I apply this learning beyond personal relationships. I apply it to books as well. That means sometimes, even if I’m plugging along, enjoying a book, there may be a sudden “man hands” or “big salad” equivalent reason for why I break up with it (i.e., decide to stop reading the book).
(If you do not get these references, please stop reading right now and binge watch every season of Seinfeld immediately. Then come back. I’ll wait….Are you back? Great! You’re welcome.)
So where was I? Oh yes, sometimes I have very Seinfeld-esque break ups with books.
Just yesterday, I cracked open a book from my TBR pile and began to read. Riveted by the tale of a boy whose family has a sudden tragic accident. I flipped the pages, engrossed in the script.
Then came the dog.
I closed the book. I was done. Deal breaker.
In my mind, I said to the book, “You had a lot of potential, but we’re just not right for each other. I can’t read you anymore.”
I deposited the book on one of my many bookshelves. This one specifically houses books I plan to donate to someone in the future. (The book could make another reader a great companion one day!)
It’s not the first time I’ve tossed away a book because some part of the subject matter suddenly made my insides twist and curl with revulsion. The story I’ve told most often is that of Cormac McCarthy’s The Road . Many years ago, my husband had just finished reading it and raved about how great it was. Although the post-Apocalypse genre isn’t my favorite, my husband has pretty good taste in books. So I plucked it off our shelves and began to read…
From the beginning I was gripped by the story. I loved it. Then it happened. A scene involving a baby. (I was a new mother at the time.) As I read the particular scene, that grip turned into an unbearable squeeze, making the contents of my dinner dangerously close to coming up through my throat. I slammed the book shut and threw it across the room as if it were some terrible creature that had bitten me.
As that experience and others have taught me, sometimes you just have to break up with a book. There’s no other way. However, I have found it’s not always random. I have certain breakup patterns. And here they are, with examples. (Note: the irony is not lost on me that all of my examples are highly regarded, award-winning books. They are not above the irrational breakup!!)
Breakup Reason #1 – The book has an animal in it who is likely to get hurt or die.
You might think a story where someone takes in a mangy stray animal or where a child has an animal best friend is sweet. (WARNING: 95% of the time the animal will die! The other 5% the animal will get lost or hurt. Bottom line: something bad will happen to the animal.) Whether it’s fine in the end or not I don’t care. No thank you!
Now, this isn’t to say I have not read these kinds of books before. I have and they’ve made me ball my eyes out and throw books across the room. (Apparently I have book-throwing issues.) I am just not emotionally equipped to handle these kinds of stories, so for the sake of books everywhere, and to preserve the walls of my house from further damage, when I realize a book is likely to go down this path, I will often times stop reading.
Breakup Reason #2 – The book has a child in it who is likely to die.
Like dogs, this is a no go. I’ll struggle through books where young children get hurt and recover, but the ones where they die, I just can’t do it. I’ve read many wonderful books that explore loss through the vehicle of children, Bridge to Terabithia and Lovely Bones come to mind. But once I became a mom, it went from being a difficult subject to read about to being one that touched upon such a deep fear inside me, I just can’t do it. It’s the main reasons why I’ve never been able to read The Hunger Games even though I know it’s an incredible series. Perhaps it’s not healthy to avoid these kinds of books, but I just can’t do it.
Breakup Reason #3 – The book is about the Holocaust
Before you think I’m a monster for avoiding this entire genre of books, let me explain. I took a Holocaust literature course in college and it basically broke me. Prior to the class, I’d already been heartbroken by Elie Wiesel’s Night in high school. However, I recognized it’s importance both to literature and to the enlightenment of humankind.
Therefore, I decided to take the course on Holocaust literature in college and I added to my library titles like This Way to the Gas Ladies and Gentlemen, The Shawl, The Reader, Badenheim 1939, The Ghost Writer, Day, and the graphic novel Maus, to name just a few. As part of the curriculum, we even watched the movie version of Schindler’s List, which I walked out halfway through.
When the 4-month class was over, I don’t think I’ve ever been so upset with humanity. Please note, holocaust literature is very important. It should be written. It should be read. It should be known. But reading such a concentrated amount about the utter depravity of human nature was more than I could take and broke a little piece of me. It would take a pretty incredible story for me to even consider a new book relationship with a book about the Holocaust.
Breakup Reason #4 – The book takes place in the woods.
I have no idea what my problem is with wilderness books. Perhaps I was long ago traumatized by Deliverance and never recovered. (I still can’t hear a banjo without cringing.) Whatever the reason, the second I read anything on a book jacket pertaining to a forest, woods, mountains or getting lost in nature I put it down. (And it’s not just that I hate camping, which I do. It’s the worst. We built houses made of bricks and concrete for a reason. So we don’t have to sleep outside!) However, it’s more than that. I find something truly terrifying about wilderness survival. These days I prefer to get my terror in the form of clowns and politics. That’s plenty.
Breakup Reason #5 – The book is about war
No thanks. I feel this doesn’t need an explanation. Clearly, I don’t like death. So books about death, pain, senseless murder usually to appease some dumb, random man’s ego, I’ll pass.
Breakup Reason #7 – The book has an unrelatable story or characters
I need to relate to the characters in a book. This doesn’t mean the characters have to be like me or it has to take place in some world I know. It just means I have to find something in the characters that feels truthful and human. Their reactions and emotions need some aspect that makes me internally say, “Yes, I can relate to that. I may not know how that feels, but it makes sense someone might feel that way.”
Take Harry Potter for example. I’ve never been a wizard at school in Scotland, but I can relate to his feelings of isolation and worry.
Does anyone else Seinfeld-esque breakups with books? Tell me about them!