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My Book Challenge

One of the challenges I set myself (and my new time management system) two days ago was to read only one book at a time. I would allow myself to read no other book until I’d either finished the designated one - or decided that I didn’t want to read it any more.

Surprisingly this is new territory for me. I read a lot, but I have shelves full of partially read books. It’s not that I never finish a book, but I finish a heck of a lot less than I want to. Most of my unfinished books are unfinished not because I made a definite decision not to finish them, but because I got distracted by another book, and then another, and so on. I don’t think I’m alone in this.

Anyway, I have just finished the first book under these new rules. It is “The Evolution of Everything” by Matt Ridley. Now to choose the next book. Where do I start?

I think I’m going to re-read an old favourite, “The Valley of Bones” by Anthony Powell. Re-reading (in this case for the third time) is one of the great pleasures of life.

Reader Comments (9)

This reminds me of one of my favorite rules about reading: Only read books that are worth rereading :)
January 26, 2016 at 22:04 | Unregistered CommenterRyan Freckleton
"“Curiously enough, one cannot read a book; one can only reread it. A good reader, a major reader, and active and creative reader is a rereader.” (Vladimier Nabokov)
January 26, 2016 at 22:23 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Hi Mark, you could sign up for an account with Goodreads. They have a pretty good recommendation engine and a deep catalog.

Also sometimes I find a list (eg "top novels of 2015") and read the first 3-5 minutes of each novel. It is comparable to watching movie trailers. Often it gives a good sense of whether the rest of the novel is worth reading. You could even process these lists using one of your time management algorithms: read the first 3 minutes of the first book on the list and put a dot next to it. Read the first 3 minutes of the next book on the list. If it seems more interesting than the first, then it becomes the dotted book etc etc, and continue on down the list.

Lastly it is always useful to read weekly writing periodicals -- Sunday NY Times Book Review, Times Literary Supplement etc. The articles are always good and one or two books always "stand out".
January 27, 2016 at 0:16 | Unregistered CommenterSimon
Thanks, Simon. But I have no shortage of books to read already!
January 27, 2016 at 1:15 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
January 29, 2016 at 20:25 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
I wonder if this new rule would discourage one from reading The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, A la recherche du temps perdu, and other fat classics.
January 30, 2016 at 16:54 | Unregistered CommenterRichard C
Richard C

Funnily enough The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire is one of the books I want to read. However my edition comes in six volumes so I'd take it one volume at a time. Same applies to A la recherche du temps perdu which is seven novels. I've read it once in English but want to read it in French. And the same applies to Powell's "Dance to the Music of Time" which I'm currently reading for the third time and is twelve novels. I've currently finished novel 7 and will start novel 8 sometime later this year.

I have read War and Peace twice in the past using the above rule. That is only one novel but about the same length as Powell's "Dance". You just have to keep going.

So for me at least the answer to your question is "No".
January 30, 2016 at 17:36 | Registered CommenterMark Forster
Coincidentally, I am also intending to finish 52 books this year. That includes books that were in progress already at the start of the year. Opposite to what you decided for yourself, I decided that the way to do that was to read more books at the same time (but also to abandon books that are not interesting, like you said). The reason is that the speed that I finish a book depends on my interest level. So it might take me a month to read a fiction book, but if I think a time management book or similar non-fiction book will change my life, I'll read it in a couple days, but there isn't always a book like that around, so having multiple options means there will be more things to hold me interest. Otherwise I end up spending time doing things other than reading. I try to have them in various media as well: non-fiction audiobook, fiction audiobook, fiction paper book, non-fiction paper book, and ebook(s) as well. As long as I keep the number to a handful, it should be possible to still complete books.
February 1, 2016 at 23:35 | Unregistered CommenterDon R
Don R:

I didn't set myself a target to read any specific number of books, just to read one book at a time until finished. If I were going to read 52 books in a year then I would have to read a whole lot of very short books to balance out the longer ones I intend reading!
February 2, 2016 at 0:32 | Registered CommenterMark Forster

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