How To Finish A Book Without Reading It
It’s kind of an awkward title, but I’ll explain what I mean by it. I was hanging out at my parents’ home for a few hours and I came across a biography they had of Jung. It was intimidatingly thick, but my old book habits kicked in and I picked it up, thinking I should read it. Why did I want to read it? Well, I’ve liked some of the things I’ve learned in life that were possible only because of Jung, so why not learn more about the man himself?
Alas, it is not to be. I cracked open the book, glanced at the table of contents and flipped to a chapter deep within the book. A few paragraphs in I could tell this was the type of biography I loathed. It was filled with what I call “complex fluff”. Complex fluff is when an author packs as many facts, names, and information into a subject as they can. I dare not say it’s fluff because that’s filling the void with repeat information and nonsense. In this case, the author worked hard, they provided an abundance of information, but it overloads the reader with too much that isn’t necessary except, perhaps, in the mind of the author (and I wonder why, can they explain why they include information?).
With a sigh I almost put the book down, annoyed at how unreadable it was. I’ve read these kinds of books before and I don’t retain much at all. I decided to try something out I have never done before: I looked at the index. Yes, that’s right, the index, that ignored section of a book that is located in the back.
What good is an index? I never knew until today when I decided to use it. I looked through the keywords, noticing that most of them were names. (To me, this is a bad sign, when there are a ton of names in an index and a lot less ideas, concepts, analyses, and vocabulary.) I saw a few things that stood out to me and flipped to the appropriate pages and scanned the page to find my keyword. Sometimes there was only one sentence concerning the keyword and I wonder why the word would make it into the index if there’s less than a blurb, especially in a 600+ page book that the jacket says is authoritative. How can you be accurate and true with a single sentence of a keyword, shouldn’t there be more info? Maybe I don’t understand how this works, but nevertheless I plodded on and searched the entire index for any words that stood out to me. I looked through perhaps a dozen, read a few pages and paragraphs, and then closed the book, satisfied in the knowledge I wouldn’t gain anything from it.
And thus, through the index I was able to scan a book and learn enough about it that I knew it wouldn’t benefit me. It may benefit someone, but not me. It would be more beneficial to me to simply read through Jung’s key concepts on Wikipedia. It has taken me an absurdly long time to get to this obvious point. Books take a long time to read, a 600 page biography full of dense information would take a month to read profitably (if that, even, you’d most likely have to be a specialist to have anything to gain). I saved myself a month of time by avoiding a book I wouldn’t have liked, and you will learn almost nothing from what you don’t like. I also made sure I wouldn’t be tempted to pick the book back up again at a later point by glancing through it in a systematic way via the index. Had each word I looked up sucked me into the narrative I would have liked to read the book but instead the opposite occurred.
I encourage anyone getting into reading to do the same if the book contains an index. Before you think you’d like it and would learn something from it, scan the table of contents, skip to a chapter in the middle of the book, read a few pages, skip to the index, if some words stand out to you go to those pages and read them and see if they pique your interest. If you are not feeling it, don’t force yourself, the book would waste your time. Either it is badly written or you are not one of its audience members. Unless you must read a book to write an essay to get a grade, there is no reason to force yourself to read a book, there is almost nothing any single book can tell you that will make a massive difference in your life, and besides, those books you’ll read effortlessly.