I’ll let you in on a secret: you never have to read a book straight through start to finish, taking care to understand every point before proceeding. I know this is what the world tells you smart people do, but this is not the case. Life is short, and any time spent reading one thing is time spent not reading another thing. Smart people optimize their time. So you can always skip or skim, and find your own route through the text to the ideas that matter to you.
For example, you may find careful analytic argumentation of the type I went through with PD unpleasant; perhaps it makes your eyes cross trying to follow it. If this is the case, most of this essay will probably be inaccessible to you, but you may still be able to gain some insight into human existence from it if you are interested in doing so. There are a lot of standalone essays in this work that can be read on their own. They are often breezier than the sort of step-by-step argumentation that most of this essay consists in. For one, perhaps a better introduction for you than any I’ve given so far can be found in my philosophical autobiography in section 3 in the Prelude. This is an account of how the questions of this essay came to me and how I set out to try to solve them. This is. You could also skip all the way to the conclusions in Part IV if you like. Sections 1a (considering if the world had gone differently), 1c (considering the odds of existing), and 2d (my full conclusion) of Part IV in particular are quite breezy and would be interesting in themselves, without the background. (You might think my conclusions sound crazy or unserious without the background material, but I suppose that could be fun too.) Section 1 in Part II I highly recommend; it’s a short standalone essay on what we value about our lives. Becoming convinced of the ideas in it has greatly reduced the debilitating aspects of my attachments to this world. Some portions of Part V, on the consequences of my conclusions, will also be of broad general interest, especially the overlap of some of the conclusions I reach with Buddhism. And you may enjoy reading what some other writers have had to say about origins and existence in section 3a of Part I.
At the opposite end of the spectrum, the most important step-by-step analytic argument is all of Part III, which is the central belief-shifting argument of the essay and could be read independently, though you may question a lot of my assumptions without the background. Further, all of section 3 of Part I is the most direct argument that there is a problem to be solved in the first place, Part III being the attempt at a solution to this problem.
The point is, some parts are understandable and useful on their own, and anyway it’s possible that discovering the main ideas or conclusions of later sections will pique your interest enough for you to come back and labor through the details of how I got there, or require you to examine my grounding assumptions and my justifications for them.
I still think it’s best to take it slowly and carefully and in the order I present it, as the material before Part III is meant to immerse you in the problem before we try to solve it, and to get you as obsessed and vexed by the questions, mysteries and paradoxes of existence as I am. More importantly, I included all the material I did in the order I did because in the end I aim to completely convince you that I’m right, rather than just inform you of what I believe. But if this is not how your mind works, it’s not a huge loss. I leave it up to you.