Nerdy Frustration: Figuring Out 2014’s Reading List

i.chzbgrI am an incredibly indecisive individual.* Whether I’m at McDonalds, on Amazon, or even on Netflix, it is incredibly difficult for me to pick out the things I want to eat, read, watch, do, whatever. I cycle through my 22,000 song iPod even on 5-minute trips to Sharp Shopper because I have no idea what on earth I would like to listen to during that drive, and by the time I’ve settled on something I would like, I’m at the store and have to go inside.

The same is most certainly true of the books I decide to read. It’s hard enough to stick with one book for me on any given day, let alone pick out what I’m going to be reading for the entire year.  Most of you remember that I began this year with what could only be considered a stunt: read 52 books in one year’s time.  I made it 11 books and four months in before realizing I wasn’t learning a single thing, and I kept putting books back and picking up new ones the whole time. Even if I did get through 21 books (and thus met half my goal), it’s still not a healthy way to read by any means.  Reading needs to be enjoyed and absorbed, no matter what it is.

However, I can’t sit still with reading. I start getting into one book, then look up at my bookshelf and go, “Oh, I’ve been meaning to read that!  Let’s start it now!”  Or I get a book from the library and can’t complete it in the time allotted to me (even with renewals) due to work and other life commitments that allow me to eat on a day-to-day basis.  Or my wife actually needs something like attention (seriously, who needs THAT when you have books!?).  All of these things pull me this way and that on books, and with my capacity to amoebically engulf and absorb new interests each and every day, you can see why the very thought of establishing a reading list is enough to turn my brain into mush faster than a few snake bites at the bar.

All the same, I’m crafting some new ideas that I think might help you pick out the books you want to read for 2014.  Why do this in the first place?  There are more than a few good reasons for this:

  • Learn to set goals and organize.  Doing this in one area of your life (especially one you like, such as books) can help in other areas of your life where you need to make changes (and perhaps have been meaning to).
  • Finally tackle all those subjects you know nothing about and impress your friends!
  • Return to something that piqued your interest way back when and see if it still does!
  • Learn more about something you already know a little about!
  • Get a little structure into your otherwise chaotic life!

All of these are wonderful reasons to make a book list.  However, if you’re indecisive like me, but were decisive enough to take the plunge and make a list, here’s a couple things I’m doing to make the list work a little less intimidating and more likely to reach completion:

  • Establish “must-reads.”  For example, I have put off reading the Lord of the Rings trilogy by J.R.R. Tolkien for a long time now (especially having read The Hobbit in preparation for the movies coming out) , and it’s high time I read it, so it went on the list.  Seriously, why haven’t I read this yet? Note: only do this with a few books, just to get your list really going, and make sure you only have one must-read for each genre.  Speaking of which…
  • Make a diverse list. Spread it across genres and authors of different races, creeds, and colors.  Helps to keep your knowledge hunger both satisfied and wanting more.
  • Every author should be looked at as a dialogue partner, not a lecturer.  Figure out who you want to be in dialogue with and pick those authors.
  • Don’t set too high a goal for the year.  Number goals aren’t good or bad; it depends on how your use them.  I’m setting a 25 book goal with a primary list, but if I substitute some of those primaries for some more peripheral books, that’s OK as long as I get my must-reads in!
  • For the love of Pete, pick stuff you WANT to read, not stuff people tell you that you HAVE to read!  If you go with what people tell you to read, it’ll be high school all over again.
  • Mix new and old.  Read the classics all you want, but get some new stuff so you can know what people produced after the classics inspired them!

As with all things, reading lists take time and dedication, but most of all, don’t forget about the rest of your life too! As Gandalf says in The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey: “The world is not in your books and maps, Mr. Baggins.  It’s out there!”

*+3 alliteration

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