Day 10: How do you choose what to read next?
My reading tends to be social or associated with events. While I enjoy that sudden serendipity of finding an amazing book that you just can’t put down, at this point in my life I find I get much more out of a systematic and directed approach to reading.
Reading groups are perhaps the best way for me to read. I have a solid and unmovable deadline. As a moderator people often look to me for help and that forces me to spend more time reading carefully, reviewing and doing more outside research than I might if I was just reading on my own. Also, interacting with people creates an interesting dynamic. Making statements or arguments out loud in front of people is a great corrective to sloppy and underdeveloped reasoning. Even with a sympathetic group, just saying things out loud in public calls into question things I might not have had a second thought about in private. And responding to the reactions of others often leads to wonderful insights and new perspectives that you would never have imagined on your own. It is an awesome dynamic with any complex and rich book, but particularly philosophic works.
I also enjoy reading related to exhibits, lectures and places that I visit. Living in Virginia during the Sesquicentennial of the American Civil War will keep a great deal of my reading focused in that direction, at least through the middle of 2015. Online events like Reading France or Zoladdiction are also good and bring together a variety of points of view on a theme or group of works.
Looking at a visual representation of my past and future reading it is easy to see clusters around particular events and groups but there are also a great deal of outliers—those books that I just wanted to read that week. This event-focused reading allows one to create a basic outline weeks, months or even years in advance. In fact almost requires it. It may feel a bit over-structured, but there are plenty of gaps to add or subtract as feels right. If I were not enjoying this way of choosing books I would drop it in an instant. But for now it works pretty well for me. The grouping and clusters help me to get far more out of my reading and to see things that I might otherwise miss.