Dear John Letters To Books I’ll Probably Never Finish (Or Possibly Never Even Start)

Writing a Dear John 

Dear Insanely Popular Contemporary Novel, It’s not you, it’s me. 
I heard about you way before I met you, I.P.C.N. I’d heard about lots of books before meeting them, of course, but I knew you were different than the typical hot-off-the-hype-machine read. The New York Book Review told me you were hilarious. Michiko Kakutani told me you were poignant and timely. You were shortlisted for a gajillion prestigious awards; your book trailer even won something! Your sexy cover adorned the front of every bookstore, was peeking out of every purse and backpack. Most importantly, my friends loved you. No one, and I mean no one, thought you weren’t wonderful, and wonderful for me. By the time I finally got a moment alone with you, I was so ready to fall in love.

But for whatever reason, I.P.C.N., despite your being sexy, funny, smart, introspective, and definitely popular, there’s something about me that never clicked with you. I mean, I could see what my friends and Ms. Kakutani were talking about. Your jokes were definitely on point. But the chemistry you’d had with so many others just fell flat between us. But I really did want it to work, so I’ll keep you on my shelf in case that thing in me clicks one day.

Dear Monumental Undertaking by Monumental Postmodern Genius, Let’s face it, you’re too good for me. 
I’m sorry, M.U.B.M.P.M.G. I always suspected I wouldn’t be able to handle your charm, your brains, your footnotes. I know we’ve parted more than once, and that I always come running back. You know I love telling people I’m with you, love bringing you around and showing you off, even though you’re so heavy you destroyed the structural integrity of my purse. I hate admitting that I’m just not what you need in a reader. But I’m not.

I’ve read your author’s debut novel. I’ve even read some of your author’s short stories and essays. After all that, I really thought I was ready for a bigger commitment. Scratch that: I wanted to be ready. But after three sincere attempts in as many years, I don’t even know where the multiple bookmarks required to read you as your author intended are in all of your wonderful, deeply philosophical, often hilarious pages. I’m going to let you go once and for all, freeing you for a girl with a sturdier mind. And a sturdier purse.

Dear Gift From Well-Meaning Relative Who Knows I Read But Not What I Read, You’re just not my type. 
Nothing like a blind date set up by a family member, am I right? But, as awkward as this is, I’m sensing you’re not that into me either So I can be frank: I have a gorgeous and funny friend who just LOVES vampire-themed romance novels. I hope you won’t think too badly of me if I set you up with someone I think will make you much happier, and who you will make happier in return. But let’s not tell my aunt about it. She said she read about how popular you are, which we both know is really sweet of her, and she just loves playing matchmaker (wish I could say you’re the first book I’ve been set up with). And let’s not use the word “re-gift” if we do end up talking about this; it’s so crass!

Dear Newly Released Bookby a Beloved Author, I’m worried about what “going to the next level” will do to our friendship.
We go back. Way back. I read my first book by your author when I was in high school, and it meant everything to me. It taught and comforted me. What more could I ask from a trusted friend? And I still truly value this relationship. In fact, it’s only gotten stronger. I feel like I can just pick up the books I’ve already read by your author and flip to any page, pick up any conversation, and it’s just like old times. These books still teach and comfort me, for which I’m eternally grateful.

But it’s been a long time since your author has released new work, N.R.B.B.A.B.A. Like, decades. Logically, there’s no reason to believe the new stuff isn’t wonderful, but I find that I’m genuinely worried about what adding a new title to my well-established understanding of this body of work will do to our relationship. I don’t know why. It’s just a feeling I get.

I know, I know—why do I keep going around with these books that I feel “meh” about when I’ve already built up so much trust in your author? When your author’s work is what I return to again and again when I need something stable, easy, fun, something that just feels right? I guess I’m just worried my opinion of that work will change if we take this thing to the next level. I really value this friendship, and I want to make sure it lasts.

Dear Book I Just Found Under My Bed Covered In Dust, I’ve met someone else. 
I never meant for it to happen this way. I know I’ve neglected you, have been treating you lately like there was never anything between us. But I don’t want us to be strangers. I’m sorry I left you splayed open for months, and your spine is cracked, forever marking the moment I betrayed you for another.

Please try to be understanding, B.I.J.F.U.M.B.C.W.D. You were never anything but good to me, but I was introduced to a new book and just got—carried away. You know how it can be. I didn’t think anything of reading a few pages of my friend’s copy, but I just couldn’t put it down—the connection was so powerful. And anyway, she was so taken with the vampire romance novel I’d brought her, she was ready to toss her book to the curb. It was just kismet that I was there, ready to catch it and love it in a way she never could.

I hope you’ll find it in your pages to forgive me for leaving you halfway through. I’ll dust you off and put you on my shelf, and I sincerely hope, when we’re both ready, we can try again.

Have you ever had to break up with a book? 

  • Dawn

    I can certainly relate! This sums up what I have often felt, yet was never able to express as delightfully as you have. I have always asserted that books are usually not at fault when I just can’t finish them. I’m just not in the mood, or don’t have the proper background to appreciate their brilliance, etc……
    Now I can feel less like a loser when I am just not feeling that new award winning tome or the novel everyone else is reading and loving. Thanks!!

  • http://www.goodreads.com/joeleoj Joel Cunningham

    Now I am just trying to figure out who these books are. Aside from the obvious one.

  • Carrie Johnson

    I smiled as I read the blog. Sometimes it is just a matter of timing, and the book I set aside months ago is perfect now. Other times, it is a matter of personal taste. I just have no interest in the subject matter of a certain book title that is all the rage. I’m sure it will do great as a movie, but don’t plan to see that either. Sometimes I find that a beloved series has lingered beyond when it should have been wrapped up-a victum of too much popularity. As a reader though I live for the times I discover a new author, especially if they have already written a few books I can dive into. Pure bliss!