Friday, August 30, 2013

Budgeting your life of books

A few years ago, I started an on-line book diary with a few friends. We'd all read whatever it was that we would read, and we'd all make posts about the books. We liked each other and we were all sort of smart in our areas (Levi's an actuary, Chris is a doctoral candidate in literature, I'm an ESL professor and Nathan is a deacon), and we liked reading what each other said.

It became a pissing contest (which I loved) because at the end of the year we'd propose various measurements of who had been the better reader. Chris read twice as many titles as anyone else, sure, but the shit Levi read was so rigorous and spread across so many disciplines, and that had to count for something, right?

Anyways, at some point in this process of running all the numbers, I was struck by a horrible realization. In this busy adult phase of my life, I average 7 books a year. If I live to be 80, I have 350 books left.

I've been doing it wrong. There is no time to fuck around.

What does a man need in life? Why does he read? For me, it's about working on myself psychologically and ethically, and trying to figure out how the world runs for fun and profit.

I must finish Will Durant's Story of Civilization series before I die. I also need to figure out if anarchism works. And I need to figure out how to be happy. And make money.

I also need to figure these things out in a certain order, if I can. I don't want to figure out the secret to happiness when I'm 78.

So I've decided to keep a prioritized list.

I use, but an excel spreadsheet would work just as well.

If I discover a new book that I want to read, I ask myself, "How badly?" I then go through my list and place it where it needs to go.

If I decide that I no longer need to read a book, because I feel like another book answered the questions I had, I take it off of the list.

In the haphazard way that I had been reading, I probably would have always talked about wanting to read the Brothers Karamazov, but never gotten to it.

Now I think I have a chance.

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