On Not Giving Up Books: My Experience With ‘Black Leopard, Red Wolf’

A while ago, I wrote a blog about why it’s okay to sometimes “give up” a book. There’s plenty of reasons why we might feel like not finishing a book, but how many of us feel bad for even thinking it?

When I was younger, my mom made me finish books I wasn’t liking. She tried to help me finish them by giving me a reading schedule—i.e. read 20 pages a day, and you’ll finish this 200 page book in 10 days. While I did end up finishing a lot of books, I didn’t always like them at the end.

But sometimes I did.

Or…sometimes I’m just glad that I finished them. They had meaning, even if they weren’t my favorite books by the end.

Enter: The Infamous ‘Black Leopard, Red Wolf’

When I picked up Black Leopard, Red Wolf, I knew I was going to be challenged. It was long-ish and unfamiliar (a quality we should all look for frequently in our reads). And, upon reading the first chapter, I knew this was some of the most beautiful and lyrical language I’ve ever read. It was like dreaming. But it was also un-skimmable.

(And honestly, it deserves to not be skimmed.)

Even though I loved the writing and dream-like atmosphere, these two qualities made for a reading time that was not quite for pleasure and required me to be AWAKE and vigilant for plot twists and subtle hints.

Needless to say, my impatient, ego-centric mind told me to just throw in the towel like so many other reviewers on Goodreads and blogs had done. And yet, the fact that so many people had given this book up and rated it poorly only made me want to read it more. Yes, partially due to pride. But also because I believed this book deserved better than a half-hearted attempt from me.

I was little over half-way through when I realized that maybe I was reading this wrong. Maybe I wasn’t supposed to understand everything that was happening. AND maybe…just maybe…this book was meant to be read more than one time.

We Don’t Own the Definition of What Books Should Be

More than one time? Should books even do that? Well one, who writes the rules of what books should and shouldn’t do? And two, wouldn’t that make a book more meaningful? If you were drawn to reading it again?

In many cases we read books again out of nostalgia or love. But I’ve had so many English teachers who teach the same novel every year and say they see something new in the text each time. What if the same could be said of books in general?

I think we give movies a better fighting chance in this area. For example the movie Sixth Sense. When you know the ending, you can watch it again and see new things. The experience is different—but also unique. In a similar way, this book was so dense that the story is summed up in the first line, but it begs for the story to unfold in its layers of unreliability and mystery.

I did finish Black Leopard, Red Wolf. I would recommend it to people too. Truly I believe it offers something completely unique to the reading community. I also think that it’s smarter than I will ever be. And thank God for smarter people than me in the world. What a boring life it would be to never be able to humbly learn a new perspective.

So my question for you remains: What book have you given up, and do you think it’s time to give it another shot?

Tips for NOT Giving Up Books

  • Read other books at the same time. This may help you take a break from whatever is challenging you about the book you want to give up. WARNING—this could lead you to giving more excuses to give the original book up. Use sparingly.
  • Switch to (or back and forth between) audiobook and the physical book. We all have different attention spans and memory capabilities when it comes to names and plot. Don’t get too caught up in that. Find a medium that suites the story best for you to enjoy it.
  • Be PATIENT with yourself. Books that challenge you could signify something else is going on. What is actually frustrating you about the book? The plot? The characters? If you think it’s coming from a bias outside of what exists in the text, try to acknowledge and address that bias before continuing the book.

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