Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Read Fewer Books

One of my New Year's Resolutions is to read fewer books.

I love reading. I've read an average of 25 books a year for the last 3 years. I really enjoy waking up early in the morning, putting on a pot of coffee and reading until it's time to get around for work. The only thing that could make it better is if I had a fireplace to sit in front of (and also if I didn't have to go to work). The problem is that I find myself reading much and doing little.

Part of my problem is that I'm a trophy collector. I love finishing a book so I can add it to my list. I like watching the list get longer and longer, knowing that I'm reading 10 times as many books as the average person. But one thing I'm starting to notice is that there is quite a bit of overlap between books. I read a lot on business, entrepreneurship, and finance and it's very rare to run across an idea I haven't already heard. If I were to assess the reading I've done, I would say about 20% has been enlightening while the other 80% has just passed the time. It's a far better use of time than watching TV, but I'm beginning to realize there's an even better use of my time than reading.

Let's say I read an average of 30 minutes a day last year. That's 182.5 hours of total reading. Let's say instead of adding books to my trophy case this year, I take a single text book on music theory and study it an average of 30 minutes a day. How strong will my understanding of music theory be by the end of the year? What if instead of reading, I write for 30 minutes a day or practice piano?

This idea excites me. I've dabbled in music theory for the last several years but have never made any significant advances in my understanding. I've always felt that my brain wasn't designed to understand it, but I think a better answer is that you can't dabble in music theory, you have to immerse yourself in it. The same goes for writing and piano.

The challenge is that reading is relaxing for my brain, while studying/writing/practicing is taxing on my brain. Waking up in the morning knowing that I'm going to relax for an hour or two is easy. Waking up knowing that I'm going to immediately put myself to work is not.

I read a quote today. It's from Dean Karnazes and goes "Life is a not a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in a pretty and well preserved body, but rather to skid in broadside, thoroughly used up, totally worn out, and loudly proclaiming: "WOW!! What a ride!"

For those who don't know, Dean Karnazes is the man who ran 50 marathons in 50 days in 50 states. So with his example in mind, here are my guidelines for 2011 reading.

1. I will only read 13 books this year
2. My 13 books will be chosen based on 2 criteria.
a) Book was recommended by 2 or more separate, trusted sources.
b) Book was written by an author I know and enjoy.
3. Mornings are primarily for music theory study, writing, and piano practice.
4. The only way I'm allowed to read more than 13 books this year is if the reading takes the place of TV time in the evening.

This should be interesting...