Tuesday, January 4, 2011

New Year's Resolution

In 2011, I'm going to read 40 nonfiction books and 40 novels. And I'll write about them here as I finish them.

It's not my only 2011 goal -- I've got other intellectual and self-improvement and professional-type New Year's resolutions. But let's not worry about them right now. That's partly because I see no real benefit to blogging about them, and partly because as Derek Sivers pointed out, it's generally a bad idea to tell the world about your laudable new goals for yourself.

I have no plan, no set reading list. My 40 nonfiction books and 40 novels will consist, in part, of my working my way through the dozens of books on our shelves that I haven't read yet. They're sitting there now, waiting for that as-yet-undetermined future date when we move, when I find myself wondering which unread books I want to ship overseas and which I want to sell or donate, unused. And every time I visit a used bookstore, my impulse buys exacerbate the problem.

When I say 40 nonfiction books and 40 novels, I mean 80 physical, bound paper, full-length books. I'm a big fan of long-form journalism, and lately my iPod Touch has made it pretty easy for me to polish off several newspaper or magazine articles while I'm riding the bus or on the subway. (Here is where I rave again about InstaPaper, and web sites like Longform.org and Give Me Something To Read.) I'm also a big fan of short stories, particularly SF/Fantasy/Horror, and I follow several podcasts that feed my addiction. They don't count. I plan to keep consuming shorter content alongside my 80 full-length books.

I see this as benefiting me in two ways. One is organizing my free time. I'm a naturally voracious reader. But I'm also lazy, and my time management skills are terrible. (And by "terrible" I mean "nonexistent".) During times of my adult life when I've had a lot of free time, I haven't gotten any more done than at times when I've been extraordinarily busy. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that the more free time I have, the less I get done. I'm the sort of person who can take a free evening, spend it on FailBook and reading through various webcomic archives, and then wonder where the time went.

The other way this will be good for me is encouraging me to write a halfway intelligent-sounding reaction to each book. How often is it that I want to write something intelligent, but I end up just sitting in front of my computer with an expression of pure stupidity on my face, unable to think of anything more eloquent than, "Me liked it. It was good. Me mighty reader. Leave hunting mammoth to others." If I can't say anything genuine and intelligent, I'll say something cheeky or snarky and hope to God that I don't sound like an idiot. Or I'll write about what I remember of a Star Trek episode I watched when I was nine, and hope that somebody, somehow, thinks it makes perfect sense in relation to the book on modern Indian culture that I just finished.

Maybe that will help me attain one of the great goals of the decade that's totally over now: becoming a better blogger.

No comments: