February 9, 2011: Nancy Pearl’s Rule of 50

CURRENTLY READING: Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy
-705 PAGES

Thanks to Saturday’s Globe & Mail, we now have a definitive answer to the question of how far into a book one must read before abandoning it. Nancy Pearl, apparently the world’s most famous librarian (I thought that was Bookman from Seinfeld…), says you only have to read 50 pages before calling a halt. Pearl, like me, feels bad about not finishing a book. But she also feels that life is too short to finish a book you’re not enjoying. My mom agrees with this and she’s also a librarian – hmmmm.

It’s certainly sensible advice. A little gut-check at the bottom of page 50 makes sense. Pearl even adds a little cheat to her rule: If at the end of 50 pages all you want to know is who marries whom or who the murderer is, then turn to the last page and find out. Bold.

As Pearl’s reading years run down, she has tacked on an addendum: After the age of 50, subtract your age from 100 and the resulting number is the number of pages you should read before quitting. That’s right. I’m calling Nancy Pearl a quitter. Not all books can hook you on page one or even in the first 50 pages (or 49, 48, 47). Some of them are a slow burn and worth every page of the build-up. Pearl gave up on Life of Pi and in my opinion she’s worse off for it. But she does have her own action figure so what do I know.

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