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Author Topic: Goals and method--read this first  (Read 4150 times)
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Robert Skipper
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« on: December 14, 2008, 09:13:31 AM »

The idea is simple. Read one book (or one work) of great literature per week. In ten years, having read 520 works, be educated.

The first stumbling block, of course, is finding 520 unarguably great works of literature. For that, I got a great list of about 450 works from Chip Hughes. The list is not complete, and will undergo adjustment as time goes on, but it will get me started. Here is the list as a spreadsheet: decade_project.xls

The next stumbling block is reading one book a week. My not being retired creates a problem. So, the solution is two-fold. First, I treat this reading as work, not pleasure. It's always easier for me to finish something on time if it's for work than if I'm doing it for my personal enjoyment. Second, I incorporate certain speed-reading techniques. In my younger days, I could read even difficult prose at a pretty disturbing rate (about 800 words per minute). I'm falling far short of that rate nowadays, but I can still go at a sprightly clip (about 500 wpm). Part of my technique for speed reading involves immediately talking about the book. So, whenever I finish reading anything, I post a message to my friends. This bulletin board contains all the messages I have posted.

Another trick I've discovered since starting the project is reading the book twice. The first time time through I remove any surprises and misconceptions. Then I mull it over and talk about it for a few days--maybe do some secondary reading. By the time I start the second reading I have a lot of questions and known gaps in my understanding that give me some direction. It's also on the second pass that I can appreciated the language, tone, imagery, rhythm, and so forth, since I'm not consumed with the struggle to make sense of new material.

The final problem hasn't arisen yet, but will soon. How does one retain that much for long? I can't remember anything I read ten years ago, as it is. Will I retain much of this project when it's over? So my solution to that will be to squeeze in every week a random review of something that I've "checked off" the list. Once a work has been randomly selected, the review will consist of either (1) rereading the work, or (2) spending an equivalent amount of time reading something about the work.

I encourage anyone who looks through this forum to reply to any post. By continuing to talk about these books, they stay fresh in my mind. To receive these posts as emails, subscribe to the Decade Project mailing list.
« Last Edit: December 14, 2008, 03:51:18 PM by Robert Skipper » Logged
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