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Thread: On Reading Plans?

  1. #1
    Bibliophile Drkshadow03's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
    My heart lives in New York.

    On Reading Plans?

    1) When you read do you do so according to plan? (i.e. I will read through all the major Ancient Greek works, I will read major female novelists, I will read only poets whose second letter of their last name begins with an "I")

    2) If you have done according to a plan were you successful at keeping with the plan? If so how did you keep your dedication? If you failed, then why?

    The reason I bring this up is I am attempting a fairly systematic reading plan. I started with the Ancient Greeks and I did a fairly good job. I only have a handful of works left, and for the most part I stuck with it and managed to read through the greater bulk of Ancient Greek Masterpieces. The plan was originally to move onto the Romans. But I don't know. I feel sort of burnt out doing it this way. Part of me wants to read randomly, but you lose out making connections within a period and region, making connections of influences with later works from distant periods and movements. Another part of me is considering breaking up my periods differently, and giving myself three themes for a year as if they were classes (so one might be the Ancient Greeks, another might be Romantic poetry, and another might be young adult literature). Doing it this way might give me more diversity in content and style, but I still have a little periodization.

    So what would you suggest? Any advice? Any words of wisdom from your own experiences reading "systematically?" Do you have these same problems too, and if so, why?
    "You understand well enough what slavery is, but freedom you have never experienced, so you do not know if it tastes sweet or bitter. If you ever did come to experience it, you would advise us to fight for it not with spears only, but with axes too." - Herodotus - my book blog!
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  2. #2
    Critical from Birth Dr. Hill's Avatar
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    Nov 2008
    I went through a period where I read a lot of Russian literature. Just a whole lot of Russian literature. I bought Russian literature as if it were candied treats and I was a child with a 20 dollar bill. I enjoyed it, and still enjoy the notion of it, but enjoy reading other things now. I'm currently reading Sons and Lovers (don't know what my signature says, I haven't been on in months) and am really enjoying that, but noticed about 100 pages in that Lawrence took a lot from Russian authors :P

    Read what you like to read, and save the regimenting for classes and whatnot.
    The salvation of the world is in man's suffering. - Faulkner

  3. #3
    Bibliophile JBI's Avatar
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    Feb 2007
    I basically just get hooked on a particular thought or period or even area, take fifty books out of the library, finish about thirty of them (putting down the other 20) and then move on.

  4. #4
    I have struggled with these and similar questions since I became interested in my education a few years ago. I have failed to implement any of the sundry reading plans I've developed, and because I'm not one for much self analysis, I'm afraid I won't be able to offer much advice. I can say that I found your reading plan (as I remember it now) attractive and ambitious.

    I thought once that I would proceed chronologically, focusing largely on the Western Canon for various reasons. After I had attained a decent breadth and depth of study, I could then dive deeper into those areas that I found most pleasurable and profitable. I found over time that I simply lacked the discipline and willpower to maintain such a program.

    I am vaguely uncomfortable with reading randomly, perhaps because things may become muddled in my mind, and perhaps because it will ultimately result in an incomplete education. I also think, from another angle, that the advantages of reading chronologically can hardly be overstated. How much of later Western literature would be read in a crude and fragmentary manner if Homer, Sophocles, Plutarch, and The Bible were blind spots? These few selections may be thought to be conservative, but I do think examples can be found in many diverse literary realms.

    Are you familiar with the Britannica series, edited by Mortimer Adler, entitled “The Great Books of the Western World”? If by chance you aren't, it is simply a compilation of what an editorial board (comprised largely or entirely by University of Chicago faculty members in the 1950s) determined were the essential authors and works in the Western literary tradition. At any rate, there is a reading schedule they recommend in a prefatory volume which would have the reader finishing the “Great Books” in 10 years. During each year readings range from the ancient world to the latest included literature, and the reader would find himself moving from Plato to Aristotle to Augustine to Harvey to Spinoza to Darwin to Tolstoy to Mill, etc, etc. I initially found this approach violative and still am wary of it. How could you read Aristotle's Politics over the course of ten years, a few books a year, mixed in with so much other demanding content?

    As you can see I am bloated with concern but have no constructive counsel. I hope someday to attain the discipline and desire necessary to educate myself well, so I'll be very much interested in how you progress (or regress ). I should say that I have thought of reading by different categories, and I think that reading ancient philosophy, Shakespeare, and a biography of someone such as, say, Martin Luther King Jr. would be profitable. Perhaps the stretches the mind will need to make to compare and contrast divergent material would be beneficial. (But notice also how the material you choose to read concurrently can affect your understanding of the individual texts!)
    Last edited by ShoutGrace; 05-09-2009 at 01:34 AM.
    As Kingfishers catch fire, dragonflies draw flame . . .

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  5. #5
    Registered User kiki1982's Avatar
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    Jun 2007
    Saarburg, Germany
    I have no reading plan. Never had. I read according to my fancy.

    That is not to say, though, that I don't plan reading certain things. As BBC is going to have an adaptation of Emma in the Autumn, I planned to read it before then. And as there is a play on of Pride and Prejudice in the Summer of the University of Trier where my husband works, I plan to read that again to be able to give feedback.

    For the rest, I don't plan. I regularly switch from time period to time period, which sometimes causes a little confusion (mainly modern style after Scott is not ideal ). But slowly I get into that.

    I don't coerce myself to read something or a certain genre anymore. Although I do have a tendency to get into a certain thing. This year was an Austen-year. I watched Lost in Austen on ITV and decided to read Pride and Prejudice which it was based on. And then I fancied Sense and Sensibility, and now I fancy Emma and Persuasion. Because of that I fancied Scott and then I discovered that Brontë liked Ivanhoe and based a little of Jane Eyre on it. And before that I saw ITV's wonderful adaptation of Brideshead Revisited which fascinated me so much that I decided to read that.

    I also read the trilogy of the musketeers the year before that (Dumas). So that year was a French year because I read The Three Musketeers, Twenty Years Later and The Vicomte. And because I liked The Musketeers, I decided to read Les Misérables as well.

    I also plan to read Madame Bovary at some point, something Russian, Faust, but they haven't really shouted out to me to read them yet. Reading a book without really fancying it is not on, because it causes boredom and the tendency to leave it on the bookshelf. You can't appreciate it...

    So I guess without apparent planning, a plan emerges... I wonder when a German/Russian year will crop up...
    One has to laugh before being happy, because otherwise one risks to die before having laughed.

    "Je crains [...] que l'âme ne se vide à ces passe-temps vains, et que le fin du fin ne soit la fin des fins." (Edmond Rostand, Cyrano de Bergerac, Acte III, Scène VII)

  6. #6
    the unnameable promtbr's Avatar
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    Oct 2008
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    I have a 'To Be Read list that ate the world'

    Its in pencil on four legal pads. There is a method to this madness..

    My TBR is a 3 year 'world fiction course'. Part of my motivation is to fill a gaping 2 1/2 decade hole in my reading. I gave up reading literature not long after leaving college to do the paterfamilias thing...

    It consists of a very structured selection of world literary fiction that I calculated I can count on being able to read approx 50 novels a year.
    Currently the book count per my 4 SUBJECTIVE time slots sits at:
    19th Cent- 24
    1900-WWII- 40
    WWII-1990- 64
    1990-Contemporary- 21

    Countries represented (too heavy to anglo-american really- I can read only in translation )
    Latin Amer- 13
    Central/East Europe-5
    Czech Republic-3
    India, Switzerland, Scandinavia,Portugal, Netherlands each 2

    Totally subjective. As I weighted it heavily on the moderns as there were simply so many major novels in that time frame that I never read (or I if I did, don't remember much about -don't ask)
    The 19th century selection is not extensive simply because I am so smitten by novels in that era and want to leave a goodly number unread and to enjoy the first time reads later on after I read thru this list.

    The reason its for 3 years out, is that is when my kid graduates and will be leaving for college (besides my love of making lists on legal pads..) I want to send with her a selection of (__#?) of novels that dad feels she should read at some point on her journey to adulthood...

    Its been a blast, as its forced me dig into what literarate-type folks feel are "important" "meaningful" "influential" works are currently.The list is distilled, over-tweaked and highly refined over a two month period. I tried to select representative works of each author. The authors country of origin is unsystematic and entirely subjective representative of world literarary fiction.

    It is gleaned from too many Online “best of”, “most meaningful”, lists, multiple lit forums (including many another forums (very litearate readership) 50 favorite lists, Bloom’s Canon... many Lit Crit books on “Novels of-______ period or Country”. Along with the commonly accepted 'majors' , there are a lot of overlooked classics and 'writers writers' etc.. Its a "loose canon' as you will not find Orwell, Steinbeck, Hemingway, Heller, Maugham etc on it, but you will find the likes of Kleist, Oe, Lima, Green, Kis, Hrabal, Goytisolo, Lispector, Soderburg, Marai, Walser, De Assis, Gass, Buzatti, Thiong'o, Bernhard, Gray etc etc..

    Its merely a a self-selected 'sylabus' and within the list I will randomly select a new book to read (each one is on a bit of paper in a tin) each time I finish one. As its in pencil, if I change my mind on a book or come across something that cries out to be read, I break out the eraser

  7. #7
    I don't follow a reading plan, but I do set long term reading goals. I usually take breaks from my long-term-goal reading whenever I feel burned out to read random interest-of-the-day things. This has been working pretty well for me. I usually do return to the long term goals, and I don't find myself trudging through books just to check off an item on my list (at least, not too often). It does take longer to make progress on my lists, but that's ok for me because it's all for my own pleasure and edification anyway. It probably would be too undisciplined for the level of seriousness about reading lists of other people here.
    Optima dies ... prima fugit

  8. #8
    Registered User blithe_spirit's Avatar
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    Mar 2009
    United Kingdom
    I have usually no reading plan in terms of specific authors, titles or genres but alongside the contemporary novels that I read I do try to work my way through the classics that I always meant to read. Having said that, one of my current reads is 'Barchester Towers' by Anthony Trollope and I have enjoyed this so much that I have decided to read my way through all the 'Barchester Chronicles', so I suppose this is a sort of reading plan and it means that I shall have to go back and read 'The Warden' so that I can read the rest in order.

  9. #9
    Join Date
    Apr 2006
    Good Old Albion
    This is something I find really interesting at the moment as I am less than a week away from freedom to read whatever takes my fancy. After studying English Literature for the last four years and having the majority of texts I've read planned for me, or at least recommended, the thought of being able to pick and chose whatever I like is daunting.

    I've started making a list of 'books to read' as and when something pops into my head. I started a few days ago and haven't been paying much attention to it but I already have around fifty books (and that's not including books I already own but haven't read). I have wondered if I should structure my reading in some way but a part of me is thrilled at the thought of just picking whatever happens to take my fancy. Maybe after a few months of this I'll start craving structure again...we'll see.

    My friend is about to make a short film and I'm helping her out by acting in it. We start in a couple of weeks and one of the first places we're filming is in a second hand bookshop. I don't know if it's a good idea for me (having no spare money) to go near a second hand bookshop just as I'll probably be going a bit crazy with reading everything I come across. But maybe that will sort out what I'm reading over the next few months; which would, I guess, give me some sort of structure after all.

  10. #10
    Registered User Zeruiah's Avatar
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    Dec 2007
    Sacramento, California
    I agree with some of the other posts in that reading schedules sound, in theory, like a better idea than just reading literature out of context of its period yet it feels very constricting and tedious in reality. I tried to do something like this with post-WW1 literature and it didn't work out so well.

    I wonder if it has something to do with age or motivation.
    "For a man to conquer himself is the first and noblest of all victories." - Plato

    "Out of damp and gloomy days, out of solitude, out of loveless words directed at us, conclusions grow up in us like fungus: one morning they are there, we know not how, and they gaze upon us, morose and gray. Woe to the thinker who is not the gardener but only the soil of the plants that grow in him."- Friedrich Nietzsche

  11. #11
    Bibliophile Drkshadow03's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
    My heart lives in New York.
    A lot of the advice given here got me brainstorming. I think I figured out what I am going to do.

    I am finding where I really got slowed down with the Greeks was when I plunged into Plato and Aristotle, despite the fact that I read them before and if I understand any two philosopers it's those two. After thinking about it more, I think I should only focus on literature at this point and read philosophy as a separate reading plan devoted solely to philosophy at a later time. I think this would work better for me.

    I also found myself reading too many secondary works (Canonical, but clearly not the cream of the crop). I think I'm going to write up a more conservative list. For example my original reading list for Rome was going to look something like this reading list here.

    However, as I started putting together my new stream-lined list the only title I'm reading from Rome now is Virgil's Aeneid. I feel everything else can be skipped, at least, for my purposes now. Perhaps at some point I will return to the Romans and read more broadly and slowly, but I'm not sure if that fits with my goals right now.

    I realized my original goal when doing these reading plans was not only to gain comprehensiveness, but more importantly to fill in gaps in my reading from my English classes. So at this point it makes sense to be more selective, and basically only read the "cream of the crop" so to speak. I also might streamline my regions and focus on Europe and America (mostly England, Italy, Germany, and France).

    Thanks for all your help. It helped me think about what I wished to do.
    "You understand well enough what slavery is, but freedom you have never experienced, so you do not know if it tastes sweet or bitter. If you ever did come to experience it, you would advise us to fight for it not with spears only, but with axes too." - Herodotus - my book blog!
    Feed the Hungry!

  12. #12
    biting writer
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    Sep 2007
    when it is not pc, philly
    Even though I hate Goodreads (why that is so would be off topic) it does allow you to see how your personal catalog of titles groups itself. When I was Drk's age, a strategy toward reading would have been nice; note taking discipline would have been nice.

    Today, I want more scholarly and challenging titles, as I am tired of literature and the standard classics, but a plan? If I can get through Brian Greene and Sartre in the next couple of years, and actually understand Brian Greene and Sartre, spaz lady here will be lucky.

  13. #13
    Alea iacta est. mortalterror's Avatar
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    Like I told you before, I think you're making a mistake skipping the Romans; but I'm not your mother.
    "So-Crates: The only true wisdom consists in knowing that you know nothing." "That's us, dude!"- Bill and Ted
    "This ain't over."- Charles Bronson
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  14. #14
    Registered User kelby_lake's Avatar
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    Mar 2008
    I read in areas- like my period of Russian lit and now it's Southern Gothic.

    Bridehead Revisited is great

  15. #15
    Artist and Bibliophile stlukesguild's Avatar
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    Mortal! You and your Romans! My own reading plans are pretty much non-existent. I go from one book to whatever piques my interest next. The closest thing I have to a "reading plan" is a number of books stacked in piles around my room that I plan on reading "soon"... but I never know what urge may intervene. Over the years I've done enough reading that was far more structured: reading the Greeks followed by the Romans (yep, Mortal... you read that right, ROMANS... You'd be proud if you were my Momma) followed by Medieval, Renaissance, etc...
    Last edited by stlukesguild; 05-10-2009 at 12:21 PM.
    Beware of the man with just one book. -Ovid
    The man who doesn't read good books has no advantage over the man who can't read them.- Mark Twain
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