There are two reasons why I read:
- To learn something
These are neither independent nor conflicting goals. I often derive great pleasure in learning, and a lot of pleasure can be had in stories that teach nothing new. Having said that, I have to guard myself against loving the idea of reading more than reading itself.
Love Reading, Not the Idea of Reading
I avoid goals that are like:
- I’ll read X number of books this year
- I’m going to read <book title | blog post | print out> so I can discuss it with <people | group | event | bloody work meeting>
They’re dangerous goals for performance-driven persons like me, who often succumb to the lure of reading for the sake of pride or bragging rights. Once my mind is set to perform, the joy of reading for the sheer pleasure of it suffocates and dies a slow death as I strangle it in favor of maximizing learning efficiency and/or reaching the goal number. When I reach the goal, I have a short burst of euphoria over the accomplishment, but soon I’m left feeling bereft and empty as the high fades.
Protect the things that bring pure joy. One of my daily reminders.
This doesn’t mean I can do without any readings goals. Without concrete goals, I flounder. I would feel a strong itch to read something but have no idea what I want to read. I’d borrow twenty-odd volumes from the library, seduced by their titles or covers or the subject matter if it’s a nonfiction, and the books would sit on my shelf for weeks and months until I return them, unread. I’m not so intuitive as to recognize what I’m looking for as I browse the available options. Nor am I so disciplined as to finish reading something I’ve started. I don’t care too much about finishing, since the merit of finishing a book/blog post/printout just because I started reading it is debatable. But there are books I really wanted to read through, yet keep returning to the library unread. So what to do?
The Reading Spreadsheet!
The adage “what gets measured gets improved” is quite true in my life. I recorded all my 2016 readings in a google spreadsheet. Anything I started, and anything I was interested in reading in the future, got recorded. I listed where I obtained a copy in case I wanted to revisit. I also wrote some words on what I learned, things liked/disliked, and other impressions. Some non-fiction books I thought were particularly good got a separate book report.
Since then, both my completion rate and reading enjoyment improved. Why? Beats me. But just looking at the spreadsheet gives me a lot of satisfaction and joy.
For 2017, I added a “why” column to keep track of the reason why I wanted to read a particular book. I also added a stipulation: I can read multiple books at the same time on a weekly or monthly basis, but I must focus on one book a day.
On a side note, I also have spreadsheets that track my daily writing, habits (good and bad), 100+ life goals, workouts, financial portfolio, and food. Recently, I’ve added a spreadsheet that itemizes my possessions after a KonMari inspired purge.
People give me this Look whenever I tell them about my spreadsheets. I dare say any readers of this blog will give me the same.