My First Week with Books

Wherein I spend a lot of time in worry and fear

First Week in Reading

It has been about one week since I started reading books for the Well-Read Man Project. The week started out a little crazy, since it coincided with the Fourth of July weekend. But as the days have progressed, I can honestly say that it’s getting even crazier.

Part of the craziness is the time commitment required to read the books. I haven’t officially timed myself yet, but it seems to be taking close to two hours per day to consume the content. Still, I expected there to be a lot of chair time. But there is an added time-consumption activity: taking notes. Because these are “great books,” reading them casually as if they were the latest John Grisham novel isn’t going to cut it. I have to highlight content and take notes as I read, building summaries of the books that I can use for later reflection. It’s this part that adds a considerable amount of time to the reading process. No wonder most people just want to sit on the couch and watch Dancing with the Stars.

My enjoyment of the books has been hit-and-miss. If you’ve read my review of The Art of War, you already know that I wasn’t that impressed with the book. But The Epic of Gilgamesh was a pretty good read. The third book, The Analects of Confucius, was another Art of War (I’ll have a review out next week), but I’m very much enjoying Plato’s Republic. Reading these books is kind of like watching Star Trek movies: odd-numbered releases are bad; evens are good.

Overall, I am finding the entire project quite fulfilling. Yet in the back of my mind there is a fear that these great books are having no lasting impact. I’ve read numerous quotes by the famous and infamous in history, all of whom insist that reading the classics will be transformative and enriching. They are probably right, but when you are racing through the books at forty pages per day, it’s a little tough to stop and smell the enrichment. Books like The Art of War and The Analects are meant to be parsed and studied over the course of years, not dispensed with in a two-hour sitting. I worry that this quick jaunt through fifty essential books will not have the long-term influence I’ve heard so much about.

Then again, pondering the impact of said books in a blog post like this is already a step in the right direction, as far as life-changing activities goes. Perhaps these books have already made me into an amazing person.

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  1. Some books speak to some people, others don’t. As far as worrying about the long-term influence when you’re rushing through them, I think that if some of the books really speak to you, you’ll probably wind up going back and reading them more thoroughly. Think of it as an undergrad survey course that’s the first step to a graduate degree.

  2. I’m trying to do about 60 pages a day, which is tough with college! But, after a year at this, I can say I find it incredibly, incredibly enriching. Far more than I imagined it would be. It’s inspired me so much I’m widening my interest now — into art history and classical music.

    I hope it enriches you. 🙂

  3. Thanks Jillian as always for your great feedback. There will be days that I’ll need to approach 60 pages so that I can slack off on some other day. But I’m amazed/impressed/gobsmacked that you can keep it up every day!


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