Rumination: Insufferable Books

Painting of a girl in a white dress
Portrait of a Young Woman in White by Jacques-Louis David, 1798

Dear Reader,

Ever wonder what editors do in a publishing house? What books are they reading, how do they feel about the ampersand, and are they all mad? 

In our monthly series, 
Rumination, our editors will answer your questions on just about anything. We invite you to send us your question to with the subject “Rumination”. We will pick the most interesting one and answer it here next month.

Are you the type of reader who has to soldier on through even the most insufferable book? —Anita

Reading should be pleasurable and life is too short to force yourself to read a book that you’re not vibing with. This is why I have never finished Catcher in the Rye (don’t @ me; the narration was just too grating for me). 

I am wondering now if we are bad readers & publishers for not finishing a book that has been through months of hard production work. But one of the most basic questions I ask myself when working on a book project with an author—can we make this worth a reader’s time? What can we do to make the reading experience as pleasurable as possible? Is this character or speaker fulfilling their potential? Is the voice compelling and engaging? 

Of course, despite our best efforts, there may be readers who may not finish the books we publish. And I don’t blame them. My friend Justin says that reading is like relationships—the books we are meant to read will come to us when we’re ready for them. Perhaps a book isn’t always insufferable, we are just not the reader for them.  

I feel like more people could enjoy reading if they actually read what they wanted to, instead of what was prescribed to them, or lauded as one of the “100 classic books you have to read in your lifetime”. Did I want to read The Great Gatsby or Great Expectations, or many other books by white male authors at school? No. It doesn’t mean they’re not worth reading, I would just rather spend that time reading books about garang grannies, weird magical happenings, or government conspiracies 👀


(From December 19, 2020)