Bad Decision Books: Just-One-More-Page Reading of Irresistible Stories

Posted on March 21, 2024 at 6:00 am

Side view portrait of a relaxed woman reading a book in the night on the bed

By Dana Mannino

What was the last book that you made a bad decision in order to read?

I’m not asking about the book that made you put off cleaning out the refrigerator. Nearly any book could do that. I’m asking about the last book that made you spectacularly late for work or miss a whole night’s sleep… that magnitude of bad decision.

I asked this question of my co-workers. Here is what I learned about their most memorable bad decision reading experiences.

Many of our bad decisions involve staying up too late reading. One colleague freaked themselves out by reading a scary book at night but found that they were even more frightened whenever they put the book down. They ended up reading until dawn.

My coworker Kae’s last bad decision book was Love Interest, by Clare Gilmore. Kae shared, “I usually read on my phone, but in this case, I had a physical copy, so I was reading ’til 2am with a light on. My husband was lying right next to me, and I know he can’t sleep when the light’s on. I would feel him rolling over restlessly, but I just blew it off. You know it’s a good romance novel when it makes you ignore your flesh-and-blood, romance partner’s needs.”

My colleague Ash had a reading curfew as a teenager. To avoid detection, she would huddle against the wall and read by the tiny bulb of her nightlight. She managed to finish the entire Twilight Saga series in this way. However, shortly afterward, a doctor told her that she needed glasses. When asked how she felt about sacrificing her vision for Twilight, Ash responded, “Worth it.”

My colleague Salena also had a reading curfew as a kid. At first, she circumvented it by reading under the covers with a flashlight. Then her parents noticed how fast they were going through batteries. So, Salena shifted strategies and plugged her nightlight into an extension cord, which she slipped under her covers. Unfortunately, one night she fell asleep with it on, and it burned a hole through her sheets. Her parents made her write an essay on third-degree burns.

These days, Salena has figured out how to work around her story-obsessed brain. Instead of reading under the covers, she listens to audiobooks at bedtime with a 15-minute timer. The book turns off just after she has fallen asleep.

Sometimes the book itself is not as memorable as the decision you made in order to read it.

While in high school, my colleague Keisha came across a copy of John Grisham’s The Innocent Man stuffed in a bush. Keisha revealed, “It was a disgusting, beat up paperback. But the vibe the bush was giving me matched the vibe the book was giving me, so I decided I would only read it in that context. I would leave the house after dark with a flashlight to read The Innocent Man standing in the bush, which had a hollow spot inside.”

Ultimately, Keisha found the experience more engaging than the book itself. “But still,” she said, “no regrets.”

Sometimes you read a book that’s fun, engaging, and well written, so you recommend it to all your friends because you know they will have the exact same experience you had.

That was the case for my colleague Jacob. His eyes still light up if you ask him about Bookshops and Bonedust, the recent release in a cozy fantasy series by local author Travis Baldree.

Jacob shared his memory: “I was one of six people at the launch party for his first book, and I was one of 300 people at the launch party for the second release. If you Google an image of the launch party, I’m in the front row waving at the camera. When I found his first book, I just needed something warm and comforting, and Baldree’s series is exactly that. I recommend it to everybody.”

Jacob’s decision to tell everyone about Baldree’s books was great for the author and readers alike, but it turned into a bad decision for someone who dislikes crowded book readings.

Oddly enough, my last bad decision book wasn’t a universally engaging book like Jacob’s. It was Rules of Civility, by Amor Towles. It’s a good book (similar in style to The Great Gatsby), but I’m not sure anyone else would make bad decisions to read it. It crossed over into bad decision territory for me because the main character was asking the same existential questions that were bouncing around in my head. I finished it by 9pm, but then I was awake for several more hours of soul searching.

All of Amor Towles books are great. If you want a madcap romp with thoughtful undertones, I suggest The Lincoln Highway. If you are in the mood for a cozy historical novel about deeply decent people, try A Gentleman in Moscow. Only read Rules of Civility if you want an existential crisis over the “correct” choices you made in your 20s. As Towles observes, “right choices by definition are the means by which life crystallizes loss.”

And bad choices are the means by which librarians judge a good book. How about you? What was the last book you made a bad choice in order to read?

Librarian Dana Mannino

Dana Mannino is a librarian at Spokane County Library District. She plans library programs for adults and serves as an SCLD liaison to the Latinx community. At home, she hosts biannual Lord-of-the-Rings–themed parties and watches BritBox. How does she take her tea? Very, very seriously.

Tags: , ,