Why it's okay you never finished reading that book, according to Francis Bacon in 1597

Originally published at: https://boingboing.net/2020/11/27/why-its-okay-you-never-finished-reading-that-book-according-to-francis-bacon-in-1597.html


I didn’t even finish this article!

But all jokes aside, it did take me a long time to be able to stop reading in book I didn’t like. Sometimes I even put off reading, while I could have just picked up another book that I did like. I always felt I needed to finish every book I started.


“And therefore, if a man write little, he had need have a great memory; if he confer little, he had need have a present wit: and if he read little, he had need have much cunning, to seem to know, that he doth not” …this last sentence seems to describe a lot of people that I know who read very little but have opinions on everything.


That last bit reminded me of a certain particular person who says a lot of words as if he knows a lot about a lot of subjects, but who in fact doesn’t know a damn thing about very much … except for knowing how to cunningly fool about 70 million of his fellow humans.


Yeah, it’s a shame he phrased it that way round, because a lot of people will hear “if you can talk without knowing anything, that means you’re cunning af”.

That said, there’s a difference between books that are trying to teach you something and books that are only telling you what someone else thinks. You don’t owe the latter your time, and IMO it’s better to know when to say “OK, I’ve heard enough from you”. Sometimes we give too much weight to certain voices just because they happened to end up in a book.


I have various stacks of books on my bedside table, ever changing. Some of them are quick ‘swallow’ books - mysteries, sf thrillers etc. Some of them are occasional snacks - lots of nonfic stuff is like that. Some are serious business, which I read on occasion and then ruminate before continuing.

I had a book about daily life in the 13th century that took me 22 years to finish. Interesting, but extremely soporific. One, maybe 2 pages and I was out, every time. But now I know a lot more than strictly necessary about the evolution of guilds and trades in Middle Ages Europe. Which comes up never in conversation.


I asked my sorta-sister, a NYT-list author, if she had finished any good books lately, and she admitted defeat.


I’ve been reading through a set of Proust for about five years, on and off. This is where I go to “weigh and consider”. It’s famously so long and meandering that I treat reading more like floating down a river than going from A to B. Completely different mindset.

So when my housemate used to ask if I’d “finished my Proust”, eventually I had to cut off that line of questioning. It doesn’t make any sense? I’ll start over.


You won’t get far in the All-England Summarize Proust Competition with that attitude, mister.


Francis Bacon said it’s okay to not finish this book, so I.won’t.

The books I never finished reading are really bad. There are some books that I started and still have to finish, though.

True enough my entry last year was miserable, didn’t even qualify.

I did recommend the first volume to a friend based on the summary/caveat of the first thirtyish pages being about the narrator trying to go to sleep. That was four years ago, wonder how she’s getting on.


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