Everyone always says aim high (unless you’re taking an class in actual marksmanship in which case aim high only comes in to play to correct for parallax and projectile drop). The most successful folks usually assert this principle. Hey, you can’t achieve lofty goals if you never set about the tasks necessary for such accomplishment.
Sure, one should have goals and continually move toward them, however, there’s as good an argument to be made for proper disengagement as for proper engagement. Without rest between stints, no marathon runner can hope to chalk up hundreds of miles each year. Often times, it is the contemplative breaks between hard moments of perseverance and striving which can best guide the striving in the first place.
Without that basic principle in mind, I set a lofty goal a few weeks into the year: that by the year’s end, I shall have read one hundred books. Those who know me and know how quickly I can go through books weren’t surprised. Some weeks, I’d speed through three or four books, so averaging out to two a week shouldn’t be very tough, right? Wrong.
Right after setting the goal, I all but ceased reading for about a month so that I could hammer out Least of These, since I felt the release of the book would be much wiser while the Hunger Games fanbase was still at its peak, and that has proved to be a wise choice, in that almost three hundred people have downloaded it since I made the files available. However, I spent so much time editing Least of These that I didn’t do anything else during those weeks, setting me back in the goal.
By the time I had enough hours to budget toward reading, I had forgotten the commitment to a centum book year and satisfied myself to chew on a few rough and lengthy texts that were going to take quite a while to complete, one of which I still haven’t reached the halfway mark on. By April, I had read a dozen books and then suddenly remembered that I should have already read twice that amount.
Enter the secret weapon: an MP3 player, plenty of mental free-time at work, and audiobooks galore. Now, I don’t read much fiction that way. I really prefer the written word for fiction. But history, biography, science, economics, religion, philosophy, and so forth… these seem tailor-made for the medium of audiobook. I have often listened to a number of texts this way and find many of the readers to be engaging enough to bring even mediocre material to life.
For the time being, I stand at thirty books read with around a month to go to the halfway mark which means I need another twenty books by the end of June. I never thought I’d say this (and I’m not referring to the negated auxiliary), but… probably ain’t gonna happen.
The whole point of reading those mentioned nonfic books was to reinforce and expand my understanding of a broad variety of topics so that whatever I end up writing, I can at least have a decent frame of reference as I build a convincing story. Thus, I can’t merely read one side of matters in all those topics, and one should laugh at the idea of reading all sides in any of them. There’s simply too much literature. In his book, The Theory of Everything, Stephen Hawking stated that if every book published were laid end to end, you would have to travel at ninety miles per hour to keep up with the end of the line as more and more texts are produced each day.
Obviously, we’re talking about many different languages and most of the books are either not my particular brew at any given moment, or are simply not available to me due to budgetary constraints. Still, I always liked reading in any subject that I found interesting. As stated elsewhere, my problem is that I like too many subjects. If my biggest fascination was ornithology followed by a hobbyist interest in oriental rugs, I should be able to keep up with both of these interests quite well. But I like broad subjects. My interest in science isn’t about just particle theory or geology or cosmology or molecular biology. I like reading about all of that. So too, I enjoy reading well written biographies of pretty much anyone. I have yet to read a biography I that wasn’t worth the time it took. (Sidenote: even people who don’t care for Dream Theater should check out Lifting Shadows. Amazing book!)
I blazed through nineteen books in a few weeks, at the pace of about three and a half per week. Several were physically read and so I only listened to sixteen on my MP3 player. Sixteen books in seven weeks, while reading an additional three, and more importantly, while writing the rough draft for Sunlost… Horribly unwise.
The normal benefit to MP3 books was that I could listen while at work and then give the books a lot of thought by pausing them here and there. Instead, I blazed through sixteen books and have failed to retain very much of what I read because any time I dedicated to thinking was spent working on Sunlost (which really paid off by the way). I may as well have not even read those sixteen books! Sure, I gleaned some good information from them (for instance, that Hawking book was one of the sixteen), but no where near the usual amount of insight usually gained.
I placed the goal of reading a hundred books in a year above the entire purpose of having read books at all. So, I’m quitting the goal, fully and resorting to the proper method of literature… reading because it interests me. The real lesson here is the same moderation lesson that most kids learn when their parents first let them dish out their own ice cream. Too much of a good thing can make you sick. Whee… I’ve learned that the rules we dealt with at seven years old actually exist for a reason more than giving parents something to do. Oh, goodie… there’re limitations for adults too.
Anyhow, I’ll still keep track, just to see where I end up, because I really have no idea how many books I read each year. It’s a lot easier to keep track of how many I write, hehe. The real question is whether or not those sixteen or nineteen books should even be in the list. Without gaining much from them, should they even be counted? I really don’t think so. Maybe I’ll go through them again.