Ruthless Reading

ruthlessly read booksOn Hotmail this morning (and possibly earlier), there’s a blurb in the one side-bar that says, How to be a Ruthless Reader. Curious, I investigated. Suffice it to say, the tips are far from helpful.

Here are my own tips for Ruthless Reading.

  • First, lull the book into a sense of complacency and false security by allowing it to sit, untouched, for months or—depending on your own Machiavellian patience—years. This softens them up, making them forget all the techniques they’ve learned for dealing with cruel readers (like you).
  • Once you’re fairly certain the book is in a daze, grab it forcibly from the shelf (or from on that stack of books on your dresser, desk, etc.) and fling it across the room. Ideally, you should throw it far enough to drive fear into its paper-pulp heart.
  • Before the dust’s had a chance to settle, begin reading. As you go, cast disparaging comments at the book and author (e.g., “what a lousy author,” “what the hell does acephalic even mean?” and “what a sorry excuse for a book if ever there was one”). Tear out pages as you finish them, crumpling them up and tossing them casually onto the floor.
  • Occasionally spill a drink on the book. Coffee or, if you’re not a coffee drinker or would prefer not to waste coffee on a book, tea (Vice-versa if you’re so inclined). Food, too. In fact, the most ruthless readers use books as place-mats for their meals, not even bothering to use plates but setting the food directly onto the spread pages of the book. My personal favorite in this case is spaghetti, but I’ve heard that buffalo wings and beef stew work equally well.
  • When not reading the book or eating off of it, set it in direct sunlight, or in a sink, or in plain sight of small children and/or family pets. The truly ruthless readers keep large hungry wolfhounds solely for the purpose of distressing their books.
  • Once you’re finished reading the book (and have ripped out the last pages), put what’s left of it into an envelope and send it to the publisher, with a polite note about your personal distaste for the book’s analytic style (or some similarly appropriate comment; this will vary depending on the book you’re reading—a comment about the narrative framework would be wholly inappropriate for, say, a book of photographs).

And that, my friends, is how to be a ruthless reader.

(inspired by MSN’s Equipped for Success: Tips for the Mobile Professional, “Ruthless Reading”; photo is from, a page portraying images of a destroyed mathematical library)