A Book So Good, I Didn’t Want To Read It

See if this sounds familiar.

You start reading a book. It promises to be good, and you settle into a serious hour or so of reading. And the book is good. No, better than that‌—‌it’s great! You’re rattling through it, and you don’t want to stop. Something tells you it’s getting late, or it’s time to do something else, but you can’t pull yourself away. Just one more chapter. You can’t leave it yet, not when you don’t know what’s going to happen on the next page.

I’ve read loads of books like that. I can recall the first time I read Lord Of The Rings, as a teenager, coming home from school and spending a few evenings doing nothing but lying on my bed, reading. When I bought a new Terry Pratchett, I would make sure I had nothing important to do for the day, and finish the book before I went to bed.

But one book stands out as different. There was one book that was so good I didn’t want to pick it up.

I know‌—‌that doesn’t make much sense. Surely if a book is good you want to read it?

Well, not this one.

The book was The Hitch-Hiker’s Guide To The Galaxy. It’s a small book, small enough to fit in my trouser pockets. That meant I could have it with me all the time, and I could read it pretty much whenever I had a spare moment.

I read the first half quickly. Not only is the book short, but the chapters don’t last long, and the writing zips along. It jumps from one thing to another, so there’s no risk of getting bogged down in tedious description or anything like that. It’s one of those books where ‘one more chapter’ quickly leads to the end of the book.

And that was the problem. I didn’t want to reach the end. Not because I didn’t want to find out how it ended. I think I knew this anyway (this was when the TV series was on, and although the book stuck closer to the radio show, I still knew what was going to happen). And not because I was getting bored. Far from it. Part of me wanted to read the book.

But a more forceful part stopped me.

I didn’t want to risk opening it up, because if I did that I’d start reading, and then I’d want to carry on for another chapter, and another, and maybe one more. If I looked at an open page, I knew I’d reach the end before long, and then the book would be over.

And that was why I didn’t want to read it. I was enjoying the book so much I didn’t want it to end.

Of course I did finish the book, and I’ve read it many times since. It’s a book I often re-read. I don’t need to read the individual words now — a glance at the first sentence, and each chapter practically unrolls in my memory. And now, I don’t take my time, but allow myself to read at whatever speed feels comfortable. There are more books, after all. And if a book is that good, I can always re-read it later.

But that first time still sticks in my head. The only book that was so good I didn’t want to read it.

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