Monday, 27 July 2009


“It is what you read when you don't have to that determines what you will be when you can't help it.” - Oscar Wilde

Have you ever started reading a book and even from the first chapter you start losing interest, each sentence drags and the words fall heavily on your eyes like lead plummeting into water? Have you persevered, reading phrase by painful phrase trying desperately to suppress yawns? Have you made yourself persist like doing penance, promising yourself little rewards like a chocolate bar if you finish reading the chapter? I certainly have and have doggedly gone on trying to finish the damn thing, even though I can predict that the ending will certainly not be any better than the beginning…

There are books that we open and find hard to put down once we start reading the first few paragraphs. Some books are like long deep draughts of water down a parched throat. Some books light our way like a burning brand in the middle of the night. Others provide nutrition for our souls, our heart, our emotions. But there are also books that we carry on our backs like a heavy load, like a millstone around our neck. The latter kind of book we sometimes read out of obligation, at other times because it comes highly recommended, or maybe it is one that we read to fulfil some requirement of our education. In other cases it is because we may have bought it or borrowed it from the library and we feel that it would be a “waste” not to read it…

Well, if you have found yourselves in this situation, rejoice! A certain French author by the name of Daniel Pennac has come to our rescue! He has formulated a “Readers’ Bill of Rights”, which will save us precious time, reduce guilt and safeguard our choice to seek alternative reading matter that will be far more enjoyable! So form now on, if you find your attention slipping from reading that boring book, if you start yawning or napping instead of turning pages, if you read and re-read the same sentence over and over, remember your rights:

Daniel Pennac’s Reader’s Bill of Rights

1. The right to not read
2. The right to skip pages
3. The right to not finish
4. The right to reread
5. The right to read anything
6. The right to escapism
7. The right to read anywhere
8. The right to browse
9. The right to read out loud
10. The right to not defend your tastes

Happy reading!


  1. I took a lot of courses and workshops on writing. I came out of them with two rules for reading: 1) Is there any character in this book you care about? and 2) will it bother you not knowing the end?

    I used to be an avid reader of a certain very popular suspense writer. And then he got sober. The next three books of his were pure crap. I did not get past page 50 (my do or die spot). Then a friend recommended book four after sobriety. I began it and was not convinced but my friend said it didn't get interesting until about page 100. I pushed on to page 120 and decided I loathed every single character so much that my end would be about page 121 with a massive nuclear bomb. I have not read him since.

    Non-fiction definitely requires skipping pages. You can sort of do them like newspaper articles only in chapters instead of paragraphs - first and last and then going back to whatever details in between you feel might be of interest.

    I think publishers ought to stop paying writers by the word. It would save paper.

  2. Yes! Yes! Yes! It has happened now and then but there is one particular book which was turned into a film that walked with various accolades and I cannot get past chapter five. I have picked it up on several occasions telling myself that this time I will do it because everyone I know who has read it, raves about it! I have not seen the movie and always prefer to read the book first. This one really has me stumped and I have yet to see it on anyone's list of favourite books. Must ask around and see what Blogger friends think. I'm even loathe to write the name of the book here in case people begin to think there is something seriously wrong with me!!!!

  3. One book I have started again and again and I have never been able to get into at all is "The English Patient". I have had the same problem with the movie, which I walked out of at the theater and could not watch on TV either. Everyone was raving about both of these. I just cannot stomach them!
    Now I am glad to read in your blog that I can throw out my copy of "The English Patient" - Hurrah!

  4. I loved this, Nick - first of all, your choice of photo reminded me of how students sometimes feel while researching - and made me grin!

    Also, one really refreshing thing we seem to learn in academia, is that it's okay to pick up a book and scan through it quickly, first scan its contents, and its index, maybe scan the opening or concluding paragraphs of each chapter, to get a fair glimpse of what the author is actually saying before bothering to intensively read the entire thing ... yes?

    And, one particular book that springs to mind - for me, for months I've been reading, and have not been inspired to finish, William Gibson's "All Tomorrow's Parties" - and I feel really disappointed and almost guilty about my feelings for this book, because I absolutely loved and also always enjoy re-reading "Idoru" - strange how these two books from the one author have provoked such contrasting reactions in me ...

  5. LOL! Thank you Nic! My mom always tells me I read trash, so I now can tell her all about my rights.