I want to learn all I can, live as wisely as I can, and savor every moment on the journey.
When my time comes, I would like to die from an avalanche of books.
Happily, I live in a constant mini-avalanche of books. Maybe it’s smarter to read one book at a time, in order to get through each book more quickly and give it undivided attention. But that just doesn’t work for me.
1. It keeps my reading appetites partially satisfied (they’re never fully satisfied!), so I don’t go stir crazy while I’m trying to finish, say, Moby-Dick* and launch off on some crazy new scheme, as I’m prone to do.
(For example, one time I thought I had a brilliant idea: I would start a business helping people solve problems! I’d call myself the Personal Solution Finder. I started making a website…and a few days later, I realized that this business had only two likely outcomes: 1) nothing at all, or 2) getting myself into really big messes.)
*which I actually never finished—see my post Funeral for My Attempt at Reading Moby-Dick.
2. Since I like to study and read textbooks, if I expected myself to read only one book at a time, I’d spend a whole year on just one book. (I’ve been reading Philosophy 1 by A.C. Grayling for about three years now.)
3. Even though reading several books at once means slow progress on each of them, that slowness is something I value: I get to digest what I’m reading slowly and leisurely, turning it over in my mind and making connections to life and to the other things I’m reading.
(I love that feeling of surprising coincidence when my readings converge! For example, last week, I read about Gothic architecture from three different books I was involved in: The Hunchback of Notre-Dame, Art Past Art Present, and…oh, the third was a magazine article, actually. Magazines have their place in my reading scheme too!)
This is my latest reading method: I match each book I’m actively reading with a different time and place during my day. For example, I’ve been reading Don Quixote while I eat lunch at work. (Those of you who read my post Trial and Error: The Story of My Self-education Plans will recognize that I’ve reverted back to the place-based plan—just for a while, I think.)
In determining which book to read when, sometimes a book’s physical features—size, portability, print size, etc.—matter. (I don’t read ebooks; see my post Why I’m Grateful for Ebooks [But Still Won’t Read Them].) But what matters most is the book’s readability and subject matter. How much concentration does it require? Will it stimulate my mind or relax me, and which do I need at the moment? And so on.
So why would I read a textbook if I don’t have to, you ask? Because I want to learn! But I do need structure for reading these books most of all, and this is where the time-and-place system really helps. For example, I’m currently “making” myself read at least two pages from Twentieth Century USA each evening before I turn to other, juicier books. Meat and potatoes before dessert!
Despite the tone of this post’s title, I don’t really feel overwhelmed (at least not right now) or apologetic about how much I love to read and study. We’ve all got a geeky thing, right? Plus, I know from your blogs that a lot of you are bookworms too!
So, without further ado, here’s what’s currently on my bookshelf.
Active: Books I’m reading a few pages of every day or so
For Easy Reading: (I do read one book at a time in this category. Authors often in the rotation lately are Elizabeth George and Alexander McCall Smith.)
Listening to: (I also do audiobooks one at a time, usually.)
Passive: Books I dip into when I can
Pending: Books I’ve read partly and intend to finish A.S.A.P.