5/300: The Reading Goal

One of my goals for this year is to read more. Or, maybe not read more, but read more regularly. For a period over the last couple of years, I was making a lot of trips from Cincinnati to the West Coast and Europe. I can’t sleep on planes and I’m also a ritualistic flier, so I would buy a book at the airport on my way out of town with the intention of having it read by the time I got home.

In my adult life (read: since I’ve had a wife, kids and a job), I’ve read in fits and starts. I’d read like a maniac for a month then not touch a book for a month. It was fine. Some years I’d read five books. Some years I’d read 30 books.

But I’ve found that I’m a better thinker when I’m on a reading streak. My ideas are better. My learning improves – not just from reading, but in every aspect of my life. I see the world differently. Here I don’t mean that reading in general makes me a better thinker. Cruising the internet has never helped that much and, as much as I love magazines, I tend to read them to pass time. It’s a lean-back experience, where reading a book is a lean-forward one.

So, for 2016, I vowed to make reading an every day thing. I analyzed my reading speed and spend a few weeks trying to determine how long I could read before my goldfish attention lapsed and how long I needed to read in order to get something out of the experience. Then I rounded to 30 minutes.

A half-hour is a manageable amount of time. I can read for a half-hour in bed, I can do it while my wife watches a show at night. I can read for a half-hour before a plane gets to altitude. I can read for a half-hour before my eyes get tired. At a half-hour a day, I should be able to read a book every two weeks, 26 for the year.

But what do I want to read?

If your Kindle looks anything like mine there are lots of started books that have not been finished. There are books bought in a fit of impulse and books you’d like to read again. I’ve decided to focus my dedicated reading time to non-fiction. It’s not a knock on fiction. I like a good novel as much as anyone. But non-fiction is the genre that gets me thinking, not just imagining. And within that, I wanted to focus on books about seeing the world in a different way.

I’m fascinated by human psychology, by behavior, by the different ways people approach problem solving. When I look back on the books that I’ve given as gifts, they’ve been books about behavior. Freakanomics, Drunk Tank Pink, The Tale of the Dueling Neurosurgeons. I love books like these.

But I didn’t want to limit my reading to psychology, but rather expand it to perspective. I don’t have a complete reading list year, but I’ve mapped out the first couple.

I’m reading Brian Grazer’s A Curious Mind right now. It’s about how the Hollywood mogul has tapped into curiosity to help solve his toughest challenges.

Next, I’ll be reading Impulse, by David Lewis. It’s a look into the science behind the behaviors we conduct without thinking.

I’ll follow that up in February with a re-reading of one of my all-time favorite books, Steven Pressfield’s The War of Art. I’ll need a reminder of what resistance is and how to carry on in the face of challenges.

I’m looking for recommendations if you have any.

The point is not that I want to read for self-improvement. I want to read because I love to read. I love the process. I love the feeling of having read something beautiful or mind-boggling, frustrating or affirming. I love the effect it has on my brain. This year, my goal is to get a little bit of that high every day – to become a functioning reading addict.

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