April 24, 2013

On an Aristocrat's Bookshelf: This Summer's Reading Challenge

Starting today, I will read a minimum 30 hours a week.

Yes, this comes out to 4 hours and 20 minutes a day.

Yes, this is the equivalent of picking up a part time job.

Yes, the time I will spend in class per week is but half of this goal.

A shelf of old, leather bound books in various states of worn covers.
One day my library will contain books like this

Yes, I am looking at my schedule and wondering why I am typing this number and not something more manageable like 10. Or, say, 5.

But there are two facts and one revelation that strengthen my resolve.

First, I am bored in school. Despite the assurances that it will get better, the improvement isn't scheduled until next fall. In the mean time I have only 15 credits to keep me occupied. Rather than suffer under the malaise of wondering if my best mental years are behind me, I'm going to do something difficult and challenging.

Second, Nicholas Nassim Taleb claims to have read for 30 to 60 hours a week all through his schooling. Since he is my current hero and because he claims that this reading has led him to his amazing ideas of Anti-fragility and Black Swans (titles of his books. Read them), I'll do the same.

Third, said author mentioned in that time that he never forced himself to finish a book. He read until it kept his interest and if he didn't understand something or found it too technically difficult, he moved on to something else rather than struggling through it.

That is the revelation. You are under no obligation to finish a book that bores you. None. How many times have I stalled in my reading because a plot didn't capture my interest or the subject matter was a little too technical? How many times have I put off picking up new books because I had so many half started?

You don't need to worry about that. Because this is extra curricular reading, there is no dead line, no necessity to finish. Who cares if it is one of the "greatest works of literature of all time?" Who cares if your friend swears you'll love it? If it doesn't capture your interest, there are thousands of other books out there that will.

Challenge details:

A beautiful old library on two levels in dark wood found in Portugal
The University of Coimbra General Library, Coimbra, Portugal 
Challenge: To read for 30 hours each week.

Cost: none. I'll rely on many, many trips to the local library and the books I already have.

Specifications: Read only books that have been published at some point. (Alas, no fanfiction). Books can either be physical or electronic. Books can be from any genre and do not necessarily need to be "challenging" in and of themselves. Readings for school, outside of class, and for the first time will count. Books do not need to be on my book list, though crossing some of those off would be nice.

How to implement: I'll take most of the time from the time I spend online. Wake up  a little earlier and reach for my book rather than the computer. Bring books to bed and to school.

Foreseen problems: Feeling pressured to read rather than actually getting enjoyment for the story. If this happens too often, I'll stop. The 30 will be a loose goal not a fixed amount and I'll adjust as needed.

Foreseen consequences: I'll have to be more efficient with my correspondence and blogging. Not to mention school work. Fewer pictures with the blog and more posts about books and literature.

Re-evaluation times: I'll do a quick re-evaluation in a weeks time and post about that.

A corridor of book shelves at Trinity College.
Wren Library, Trinity College, Cambridge

Would anyone care to join me in this challenge? If not, this would be a great time for book suggestions!


  1. Before Joseph Campbell became *Joseph Campbell* :insert the sounds of singing angels and castrati here:, he spent the better part of a year reading all day, every day, in four hour increments. He'd allow an hour for meals and exercise, read for three, repeat four times.

    And he's awesome.

    I am resolving to follow your lead. Read more. I'm not keen on a required time per day (I'm not keen on scheduling anything outside of work), just Read. More.

    Love it!

  2. Yet one more reason to respect Joseph Campbell... Because I am quite sure I wouldn't be able to keep up that level of reading. Doesn't he need to take time to process it all?

    But excellent! The more reading in the world, the better! Let me know if you happen across any amazing authors. I'll probably end up writing a great many more posts about literature and books now with lots of suggestions.