Where Did All My Reading Time Go?

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royalty-free-photo-antique-book-pileOne of my New Year’s resolutions this year is to become more well-read. I don’t just mean in a specific field, although I have a couple of those in mind. I mean more well-read in general. That resolution breaks down into goals that span several areas.

Unlike a lot of the other goals I’ve set for my life as part of this year’s plan, or the current five-year plan, my reading goals for this year are something I feel like I’d like to talk about. Something that might actually be interesting to other people. Maybe.

Genre Fiction

Once upon a time, I thought I was well-read in Science Fiction and Fantasy. I devoured every book in both genres in every library I could reach, and most of my allowance money went towards books. After I finished with University, and started working in the book retail world, a good chunk of my disposable income, at least the entertainment portion of it, continued to feed the reading habit. Before I had kids, I probably averaged somewhere between 150 and 200 books year as an adult. I’d be reading three or four books at once, and finishing one of them every second day. I read over breakfast, on lunch at work, on breaks, when my wife was out, in the bathroom, and before bed. Rarely was I farther than arm’s length from a book.

I’m not going to read 150 books this year. I have three kids, two of whom are teenagers, all of whom have stuff to do that I want to be involved in: homework, driving lessons, school activities, hobbies, gaming, volunteer work, and so on. My wife certainly deserves some of my time. I have a career, my own writing, my martial arts journey, and several things I’m trying to learn or teach.

But, I’m going to commit to 15 specific genre fiction books this year. In the interest of adding a little historical depth to my reading, I set myself a particular challenge. There is a lot of history in the Science Fiction and Fantasy genres, and I may have missed a big chunk of it. Well, not “may”. I’ll never catch it all, but the following list, complete with publication years, will help me catch an eye blink, or 15 of them, in time.

  1. How to Live Safely in a Science Fictional Universe by Charles Yu (2010)
  2. Spin by Robert Charles Wilson (2005)
  3. Snowcrash by Neal Stephenson (1992)
  4. Howl’s Moving Castle by Diana Wynne Jones (1986)
  5. Dhalgreen by Samuel R. Delany (1976)
  6. The Left Hand of Darkness by Ursula K. LeGuin (1969)
  7. I Am Legend by Richard Matheson (1954)
  8. Titus Groan (Gormenghast 1) by Mervyn Peake (1946)
  9. Last and First Men by Olaf Stapledon (1930)
  10. A Voyage to Arcturus by David Lindsay (1920)
  11. A Princess of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1910)
  12. In the Days of the Comet by H.G. Wells (1905)
  13. Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne (1864)
  14. Frankenstein by Mary Shelley (1818)
  15. Gulliver’s Travels by Jonathan Swift (1726)

This list is the product of considerable research and reading on its own. Beginning with 2010s and working backwards, there is a book that I hope in some fashion can be considered representative for each decade. While it certainly won’t represent everything about that decade, I do think they were each significant books in their own way.

Prior to the 20th century, the list gets a little sparses, adding only three more titles: one from the second half the 19th, and one from the first, and one pre-1800.

Added to this, I have a couple of friends with new books coming out this year. I will read those as well, and will attempt to read every anthology coming out this year I have a story in. That’s three so far (I hope there will be more), along with two from last year I haven’t finished yet.

Martial Arts

Shodan, the black belt, is really just the beginning of the martial arts journey. And for myself, I’m at a point in my life where any journey needs to be far more than merely physical. In this case, it’s mental and spiritual as well. To paraphrase Gichin Funakoshi, martial arts isn’t about learning being how to beat people up; it’s about building yourself into the best person you can be. My best person needs to continually study and learn new things, so there will be six martial arts books this year, possibly more, but I’m committing to these six, in no particular order.

  1. Complete Kicking by Sang H. Kim
  2. Art of War by Sun Tzu
  3. The Way of Sanchin Kata by Kris Wilder
  4. Sword and Brush by Dave Lowry
  5. Living the Martial Way by Forrest Morgan
  6. Kata and the Transmission of Knowledge In Traditional Martial Arts by Michael Rosenbaum

Comic Books

My long-term X-Men read continues, and I’m already far outside the re-read zone. At the moment, I have just broken into the year 2004. I’d like to manage five years’ worth of mutant comics this year, so to the end of 2008. That’s something over a thousand comics.

Breadth Requirement

And because well-read should, by definition, also mean well-rounded, and because I’m curious about a lot of different things, there will be a minimum of one nonfiction book in each of the following non-fiction fields:

  1. Ancient History
  2. Philosophy
  3. Mathematics
  4. Paleontology
  5. Astronomy
  6. Physics

You might note that this small list is a bit science heavy. That’s okay, because I kind of think of myself that way, too. I’m just too much of a generalist to ever settle down into one field in depth.

Anyone want to share their reading goals for this year?

Be well, everyone

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