On Reading (Part One)

Any faithful reader will by now recognize in me a habit to read rather a lot of one thing at a time. This had lead to some interesting observations for me, a sense of immersion that is powerful and attractive.

In the end, though, as a general strategy, I found it lacking. Long binges of single authors left me tired, and unwilling to pick up the next book. As a researcher, it was a fine system. As a reader, less so.

I recently saw an article, somewhere on this great wide internet, in which a media writer explained how they chose what tv shows to watch. It was part of their job, and they needed a system. The writer (and I have lost the original reference – mea culpa) linked back to a writer who used a similar system for reading. I was not amused.

However, the longer I thought about it, the more sense it seemed to make, as I ran out of things to read and the will to read them. I decided to give it a try.

Essentially, the system is this: One reads (or watches) one book (or show) from a list of categories, until one book from all the categories has been read, at which point, one starts over. Its simple, arbitrary, and quite flexible.

I started with these categories:

Contemporary non-fiction

Classic non-fiction

Contemporary fiction

Classic fiction



Detective/genre fiction

Food Writing


I’m nearly finished the first round. This time, I’ve read On Writing by Stephen King, Mr. Mercedes by King, As I Lay Dying by Faulkner, Child of God by Cormac McCarthy, An Unfinished Life by Robert Dallek (a Kennedy biography), Cooked by Michael Pollan, Hyperion by Dan Simmons. I’m planning on reading Walden by Thoreau, but my detective fiction is still up in the air.

I’m happy with the system thus far. It helps push me out of my comfort zone, and already some themes are emerging. I look forward to round two.

How do you choose what to read, Gentle Reader?