söndag 9 september 2012

Buying books

I feel like a kid in a candy store because I just ordered a big batch of books. No less than 18 books as a matter of fact. This will for sure keep me busy at least until next summer. Which books did I buy? You'll find out as soon as I read them and write about them here...

As a rule, I don't order more books than I read, but I do of course already have a buffer of unread books at home. Come next summer, chances are I will have read a majority of the books I just ordered, but with other, previously-bought but not-yet-read books added to the mix.

I recently decided to up my book-reading pace slightly. From reading (at least) 25 pages per weekday, I have now also added the goal of also reading 25 additional pages during the weekend, i.e. increasing my reading pace from a minimum of 125 to 150 pages per week. Keeping this promise will mean that I'll read 20% more books per month (quarter, year).

I try to uphold this habit of reading some every day no matter the workload and it really is quite simple. I reserve the time on my daily subway commute to only reading books. A "heavy" book (complex, theoretical, large pages = many words per page) means perhaps 15 pages read during the commute, a "light" book could mean 25 pages read on the daily commute. I thus need to spend an extra half hour in the evening reading the "heavy" book in order to reach my daily performance goals.

Having these performance goals also means that I can keep track of my pace and also project and predict the future. I just need to add the number of pages of the books I just ordered and divide by 150 to know how many weeks it will take to read these books. It's good to be reminded now and then of the fact that all humans are mortal. It's equally good to be reminded of the fact that I will only read 20 or tops 25 books next year, and so is this new books I heard about really one of those selected few?

A scary aspect is that I can count not only how many books I read during the last year and estimate how many books I will read next year, but I can also figure out more or less how many books I would be able to read during the rest of my career as a gainfully employed university professor with my current pace. This will invariably be a pretty small number compared to all the books that are published and all the books I would like to read. All in all, I still really like the added "temporal", "computable" dimension that has been added with these reading habits of mine.

Other aspects not discussed here are environmental aspects of buying and reading (paper or digital) books, as well as economic aspects. I do however think that reading academic literature is a pretty inexpensive hobby (expenditures/hour) - as long as you don't habitually order more books than you read.

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