Keep at it or put it down?

Say you find a book interesting, but really hard to read. Do you go on with it or put it down?

A book can be hard to read for two reasons. If the book isn’t well written, it takes more effort than necessary to understand a simple point that the author is trying to make. Despite the language appearing attractive, the reader encounters unnecessary friction. Reading such a book feels like riding a bicycle on a cobblestoned alley – it might look pretty on the surface, but the rider feels every little bump on the road.

The second reason a book can be hard to read is because it is at a higher level than the reader currently is. The reader has to herself to understand what the book says. All of this takes effort, but having read and digested such a book, the reader is elevated to a new plane. Reading such a book feels like performing a difficult yogasana – it requires one to to stretch everyday, but all of that stretching eventually pays off.

How do you distinguish one type of book from the other? Here’s a simple thumb rule. Highlight a couple of key sentences in the book. Look at them and ask yourself if you can simplify them without degrading them. If you succeed, the book belongs to the first category – feel free to abandon it. If you cannot simplify the author’s prose without taking something away, it belongs in the second category – keep at it.

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