Here's the challenge: commit to reading 50 books and watching 50 movies in the next year! (Find out more...)
Courtesy of Hannah | mclicious.org
For me, the 50/50 challenge is more about the movies than the books. Having read 163 books in 2011, I’m quite close to 50 books already, and I will easily surpass that goal. More broadly, I like the idea of 50/50 because it makes me think that I can use it to actually read less, and to watch more movies than television shows—all things that will bring me to working on my ability to have sustained focus on one thing, not divided focus among twelve Firefox tabs.
But I can only go so far with that. My instinct is always, always, always to read voraciously. But in recent years, incidentally as I have become more reliant on my Goodreads account, my drive to finish books, and to have intelligent thoughts about what I read, has taken precedence in my reading habits. That, plus college general education courses and intellectual friends and family members and attendance at keynote addresses and much, much more have broadened my interest in more and more subjects, making my to-read list inevitably and exponentially larger than my have-read list.
I thought coming up with a major or minor or two, as the website suggests, would be excellent. But I’ve already forgotten what I set out to do. When I reviewed my first personal blog post about this challenge today, I was surprised by how many vague themes I had suggested for pursuit. Documentaries, non-fiction, history, diversity—all interesting themes worth looking into, all things that I generally do strive to read. But I can’t major in anything. And I’ve finally been able to qualify why.
Nicholas Carr is a writer who has studied brain plasticity and the Internet. As you probably know, people blame the Internet for shorter attention spans, a dip in people’s interest in long books or long articles, and general inattentiveness. I think there is certainly a lot of truth to that, but I have to give a lot of credit to the Internet for opening up my mind and reading list to far more subjects and genres than I read when I was young. Part of that is growing up, sure, but I would have far less awareness of the theorists, experimental creative writers, sociological concepts and ethical dilemmas that I now enjoy reading, thinking, and writing about if it weren’t for the inattentiveness that the Internet fosters. I realized, while reading Carr’s “Is Google Making Us Stupid?” (The Atlantic Monthly, July 2008), that the greatest gift the Internet has given to people who were already interested in the pursuit of learning and intellectual expansion is hyperlinks.
You know how in the past few years, it’s become commonplace for blog posts, online newspaper articles (even those that are exact reprints—or pre-prints—of the offline articles) and e-mags to make reference to other resources through hyperlinks? It’s like the update of footnotes, and it’s far more useful, because it gets you the referenced resource right then, rather than a citation. I love those. It’s because of those that I discovered what are now my favorite blogs and websites and news sources. It’s because of them that I have discovered artists and musicians and writers that I now love or want to discover. My to-read list, as well as my blog roll and iTunes catalog, have increased so much over the past few years largely due to my Internet reading. And it’s great, really. I’m a lot smarter now, I think, and I read a lot more than just fiction, which is a good thing, I think.
But it’s also why I can’t major in anything. While I have general interests and goals that will always subtly inform what I choose to read next, I can’t read everything on my list related to one interest fast enough. By the time I get through one book, I will have read a hundred news articles and blog posts that have turned me on to something else interesting, and I’ll already be adding those authors and theories to my list. I’m always both behind and ahead of myself, and even if it means I sometimes miss out, I mostly like it. Because I know a lot of stuff, and I keep finding out that there’s more to know.
And check out Hannah's companion piece here: how my to-read list works.