Tag Archives: reading

first experiment follow-up

I’ve been attempting a “reactive”/”consumptive” reading experiment recently.

The first book I tried it on was the Henry Petroski’s horrid To Engineer is Human (my review). That turned into a failure as I couldn’t stomach his writing, and so “reacting” to it was going to pretty much be an exercise in futility.

So I’ve ditched that book – maybe someone else will not find it so poor a read.

Many of the books I read (and review) I get from my local library. All of which, therefore, are poor candidates for consumptive reading in the sense Ryan Holiday used the term in his blog post.

But as I dove through his writing a bit more, I saw his mention of a “commonplace book“.

“A commonplace book is a central resource or depository for ideas, quotes, anecdotes, observations and information you come across during your life and didactic pursuits. The purpose of the book is to record and organize these gems for later use in your life, in your business, in your writing, speaking or whatever it is that you do.”

Specifically, he was taught how to do one by Robert Greene (author of Mastery, The 48 Laws of Power, etc), and he cites various individuals in history who have maintained them. It’s also something that Roald Dahl mentioned obliquely in his book The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar and Six More (one of my favorites by him (PDF)) in “Lucky Break” – namely, that he always keeps something on which to write nearby (a notebook, a scrap of envelope – even the dust on his car bumper) so that whenever an idea strikes him, he can jot it down in case it was good enough to actually write about:

“Sometimes, these little scribbles will stay unused in the notebook for five or even ten years. But the promising ones are always used in the end. And if they show nothing else, they do, I think, demonstrate from what slender threads a children’s book or short story must ultimately be woven. The story builds and expands while you are writing it.”

This got me to thinking about how I might integrate the idea myself – though, of course, in a slightly different way. And that’s where I am progressing to now: instead of “consuming” all the books I read, ones I find interesting I’m taking notes on in a composition book (specifically a quad-ruled one, as those are my favorite). I’ve found so far it’s helped form better reviews. It’s also not the only place I’ll keep those notes – many will end up on this blog. Others will end up on Twitter. Others maybe in email signatures, or Facebook posts, or wherever.

In our amazingly digitized world, writing by hand seems, well, old-fashioned and trite. Or hipster-ish and cool. (Depends on who sees you doing it, I think.) Sometimes I’ve already found my notes being done electronically – via SMS to myself, or draft blog posts, or just a quick Notes session on my laptop.

Anyways, where I’m going with all this is instead of always being a mere passive consumer of writing, I’m trying to be a bit more “thoughtful” about it 🙂

magazines

I am the [proud] holder of subscriptions to several magazines.

As part of my attempt to vary my reading materials, I get Wired, Inc, Fast Company, Western Horseman, and several others.

However – I’ve discovered that I just don’t care about most of what is any given issue; there are times when more than half of the magazine is of interest, but usually it’s substantially closer to 10% (excluding ads – include them, and you’re probably down to 5-6%).

It’d be awesome if there was a way of getting a print analogue to an RSS aggregator – in fact, if you know of any, please let me know!

But since there’s not, I’ve adopted a fairly-stringent policy of recycling magazines that show up in my mailbox if I don’t get to them within 2 weeks: and if somehow I miss that deadline, they definitely get scrapped when the new issue arrives.

The only time I will read an out-of-date magazine is when I’m waiting in a doctor’s or dentist’s office, or at the oil change place. There’s just no reason to read “news” and “insights” that old when you can still get them digitally from the magazine websites within days of the print copy arriving in your mailbox.

reading experiment

In follow-up to a recent blog post shared to me by my friend Steven, thinking about my aunt’s old practices, and comments from my wife and another friend, I’m engaging in a “consumptive”/”reactive” reading experiment wherein I am going to do something I haven’t done in a non-workbook book since my time at HVCC – I’m going to try writing in a book.

Two, actually. One is To Engineer Is Human (by Henry Petroski; my review). The second is Knowing God by JI Packer.

Wish me luck. I’ll report back when I’ve completed at least one of the books in the experiment.

“Books are made to be broken–literally or figuratively. I recently bought a 80+ year old book for $76 (a rare book called If It Had Happened Otherwise). I took special pleasure folding the pages and writing on them. It’s mine, why treat it like a delicate flower?” –Ryan Holiday