Our Reading Lives

Open Letter to a Book I Will Not Finish

Michelle Anne Schingler, a former librarian and Hebrew school teacher, is the managing editor at Foreword Reviews. Her days are books, books, books; she knows how lucky that makes her.  Twitter: @mschingler

Dear Book:

I hope this finds you well.

Certainly you’ve noticed that, though I dog-eared a page of yours weeks ago, a clear promise to return, I have not followed through. You may have even seen me turning the pages of other volumes, losing myself in them with as much eagerness as I once gave to devouring you. I’m a bit chagrined when I see you there, waiting with what I’m sure is diminishing confidence.

There’s no easy way to say this: although we aren’t ending on the page I thought we would, our time together is over.

We started out with such promise! A chance meeting on a bookstore aisle; I was not necessarily browsing to buy, but that’s how it happens sometimes, isn’t it? I’ll admit, I was drawn to your cover first–I’m not proud that I am sometimes so surface, particularly with meetings where I’m going in blind. So, sure: God, you looked good. And then I absorbed your first lines and I was hooked. It certainly felt like something real. So I took you home.

And your opening chapters!: what promise, what fun. You’ve got verve in the beginning; I would not do you the disservice of suggesting otherwise. You know how to get a reader excited, and you sure ignited something in me. I don’t regret those few late nights, those moments stolen over lunch; they were all a real delight.

And when you changed from chapter to chapter, I was even more intrigued. I like a title that makes me feel in the beginning, and don’t even mind a few meaningful cries farther in. A great read can run an emotional gamut, right? No hard feelings–you were not boring.

I know, I know: if things were so great, why aren’t we continuing? I’m taking too long to arrive, I’m sure, but this is hard for me to say: I was thinking happily ever after, but you lost me midway there.

I don’t mean to be too critical; certainly I have flaws of my own. I can be inconsistent, too, can go on tangents or burst out with unpredictable phrasing. We’re none of us on track all of the time. Still: you jumped the shark, and it was not something I had expected, given the idyllic nature of our start. And it threw me. It was such a jar, such a deviation from what I was hoping for, that I–well, there’s no easy way to say this–I lost interest.

I thought maybe we just needed some time apart—a refresher, a recharge, time to tamp down lofty expectations and arrive back between your pages with a more realistic view of where this read could take us. But. The more time I spent away from you, the easier apart became.

And then there were the other covers catching my eye–titles that captured me wholly, from beginning to end, for the entire span of our time together. There was the book from high school that seemed a little lame back then, but that, when met again all of these years later, turned out to have more depth than I ever credited it for. There were other options from library shelves and book store aisles, other names recommended by friends, work set-ups that turned out better than expected.

So I let thoughts of you drift aside. What was neglect turned into a permanent good-bye. I’m only writing now to let you know that you can turn that corner back up; make yourself available to a reader who may appreciate you better.

After all, you do have good word-of-mouth. Look at all of those endorsements you boast! I have complete confidence that you’ll find a reader better suited to you than I ever was. And I’ll always cherish the memory of those first few exciting page flips.

I hope there are no hard feelings. I respect a lot of what’s going on past your dedication page, truly.

What more can I say, Book?: It’s not you? It’s me?

With Best Wishes,