When the Goal Gets in the Way

I’ve decided to drop part of my goal for 2013- reading 10 big books. Over the past several weeks, I’ve realized the goal isn’t working for me for several reasons. I never clearly defined what big books were. I imagined books weighty both literally and in ideas, but what I’ve realized is that was a placeholder in my mind for “books that I feel like I should have read, but I haven’t.” I told myself that this is because I lacked the time or the focus to read these books, but what I’m realizing is that I lacked the desire.

In the past 24 hours, I’ve read two books- Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore and Words that Work. I read Mr. Penumbra because I’d seen it on a list of books for adults that teens might enjoy. I’d had it around for a week or so, but what kicked me into reading it was a notification from the library saying it couldn’t be renewed because someone had checked it out. I was hooked by just the first few pages. It’s an adventure kind of book, about old technologies and new technologies. (It reminded me of Ready Player One.) There are geek and pop culture references galore. It’s certainly not dense reading, but it addresses broader cultural issues and themes.

Meredith Stewart (msstewart) on Twitter

I read Words that Work because a friend loaned it to me to read. It’d been sitting on my nightstand for weeks. I wanted to read it because it was important to this person, but I kept having difficulty finding time to dive into it. So on this lazy Saturday morning, I decided to read it fast, around an hour for the whole book. I picked up the key ideas and anecdotes, more than enough to have a good conversation about it with him, which was my goal in the first place.

As with most things, guilt isn’t a particularly powerful motivator, at least not one that makes you feel good about being spurred to action. For now, I’m just going to read. I’ll probably continue to pick up The Brothers Karamazov from time to time. Maybe this will even be the year that I finish it, but I’m taking it off the nightstand where it feels like it’s judging me for not finishing it.


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