Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Great Book Barn Reading Challenge of Aught-Nine

We have a lot of books. When Lorie and I got married, we each did our part to fill the shelves, although I think I contributed more than my fair share. A lot of my books are books I love to read. A lot of other books are books that I'd have loved to have read. A whole slew of stuff I've picked up and held on to. A lot of stuff from school. Good, self improving stuff, mind expanding, make me talk pretty at parties stuff. Philosophy, history, religion, science, sociology, war, language, it's all there, and it all bores me to tears. 

I can't count the books that I've started and put down, mostly because I'd rather do something else. But I'm always meaning to, someday, when I have scads of free time and an empty head to fill. Except that I have a fair bit of free time now. Hell, I have time to write this, don't I?

So, I'm challenging myself to actually read all that stuff, absorb it, retain it, improve myself through the strife and heartbreaking adversity of it if nothing else. But how to do it? Where to begin a task of such Herculean proportions?

It seemed impossible until I saw an interview with Neal Stephenson regarding his most recent book, 'Anathem'. Reading his books, especially 'Anathem' and his 'Baroque Cycle' trilogy, I feel small and weak in my intelligence, an ant burning in the light of his ferocious intellect. During the interview, he touched upon the research he did for 'Anathem', studying such thinkers as "Thales and Pythagoras, Plato, Saint Augustine, Leibniz, Kant, Mach, Husserl, and Godel." Naturally, I assumed that he would be taking a simple refresher course, as the thoughts of such men are mere child's play to one such as he.

Or not. Apparently, he knew the basics of these men's philosophies, but had never rigorously studied them. And, reading them bored him too! He said that he decided that he would pick a book, and force himself to read ten pages a day until finished, than begin the next one. Heck, I can do that!

My intellectual self-esteem restored, I now have a method. Now I just have to pick a book.

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