Monday, November 28, 2011

The Problem with Reading

Reading, of course, takes time. That would not be a problem if the ratio of reading material to time were a bit more balanced, but practically, the amount of reading material is endless when compared to the precious little time that the 21st-century reader has.

Lack of time can be seen, for example, in my recent post on reading lists. It was supposed to be longer and actually discuss the usefulness of different methods of listing one's reading material. The amount of reading material can be seen in my recent handspun list of current reading.

Neither lack of time nor the abundance of reading material is the real problem with reading, however. The problem is a type of reading that can be called "compulsive reading." I use reading lists to plot out what I am going to read from one month to the next (very specific down to certain titles or even chapters/essays), from one year to the next (less specific, but still focused on specific authors and maybe a few of their titles), and (is this compulsive listing?) even one decade to the next (much more panoramic, covering whole disciplines or fields of thought). The problem of compulsive reading is that other books, even ones I have relegated to the 2020s or 2030s for my reading, arrest my attention and irresistibly beckon me to their pages. One then has too many "works in progress." More than half of the books on my current reading list, for example, are not works I planned to be reading in the months of November or even December.

Alas, I expect no resolution to the problem of a lack of time or the seeming infinity of books in the world. But if anyone has a resolution to the problem of compulsive reading, do share.

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