Monday, April 21, 2008

The Reading Habits of Highly Ineffective People

It occurred to me this morning, while staring at my copy of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, that the very first chapter in the book shouldn’t be “Habit 1: Be Proactive,” but should be dedicated to methods and strategies for actually reading the book past chapter one. Yes, in two months, that’s as far as I’ve made it. Have I learned “powerful lessons in personal change” as the book jacket promises? Well, I’ve learned to expand my circle of influence and shrink my circle of concern. Ask my girlfriend who is tired of me repeating “that’s outside my circle of concern” over and over again. I need some new mantras, but that means actually reading chapter two.

It’s not that I don’t like reading; it’s that I try to read too much at once. For instance, besides Habits, I’m also well into the six month of reading A Tale of Two Cities. I started the novel with the intention of becoming more learned, a mission I’ve been on ever since I was forced to take a graduate-level literature class called “Young Britain: Class/Nation/Youth.” (All grad courses are required to have an obnoxious, and sometimes repetitive, name that utilizes a colon.) The first week of class we were assigned Alice in Wonderland. I breezed through the book in thirty minutes, and that’s including illustrations. “This graduate school stuff is easy,” I thought.

The next week’s class began with a discussion where the fifteen other students analyzed Alice in Wonderland in a psychosexual context referencing Foucault and Lewis Carroll’s photography of naked children. Since all of the conversation was spoken using undecipherable lit-school jargon, I didn’t understand much except that the class consensus was that Lewis Carroll was a pervert. I just thought it was neat when Alice ate the cookies and became really small.

Over the course of the semester, I realized that not only was I decidedly under read compared to my classmates, but that I had no idea how to analyze literature in a graduate-studies atmosphere, a skill that would surely earn me millions of dollars in the private sector. I made a promise to myself to improve by consuming and analyzing mass amounts of literature on my own time. In the eight years since, I’ve made it through half of War and Peace and one-third of Walden. Every so often, I renew this promise to myself, hence A Tale of Two Cities. I’m on page 106, and every time I pick it up I have to read the online CliffsNotes first just to remind myself what in the hell is going on.

If I go by the theory that one should read what one actually enjoys, then I’m doing better. I devour memoirs like Steve Martin’s Born Standing Up and The Tender Bar. But it seems like I’m always reading three books at once. Right now, besides Two Cities and Habits, I’m well into Bukowski’s Post Office. It seems like I’ll never catch up with my reading, especially when you consider that I have to watch movies and make time for PlayStation 3.

I do have friends who enjoy reading five books at once, but I’m too high-strung for that kind of thing. I like to finish what I start. Of course, if I could just concentrate on The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People and get to chapter 3, “Begin with the End in Mind,” I might be able get something accomplished. That should only take another year or two.

6 comments:

stoopidcomix said...

Three words:

Comic Book Adaptaion

thedailyweirdness said...

nate, you should organize each book according to your setting: bukowski for the shitter; tale of two cities for the elliptical machine; and 7 habits of highly effective people at your job.

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