Reading restrictions.

I’m trying to decide what books to bring with me to Madrid.

I’ll be gone almost 10 weeks, and as I plan to travel lightly, I want to be judicious in the quantity of reading material I bring along. However, setting realistic goals when it comes to reading is not my strong suit. (To be fair, setting realistic goals on anything is not my strong suit.) To help myself out, I decided to think about how many pages per week I’ve been managing the last few months, round up a little to be generous, and then limit my reading material to that amount.

I’ve put a lot of energy into reading this month, and by the time I’m through I think I’ll have averaged about 200 pages per week. That’s a lot, and as there are many things I hope to do while in Madrid, I don’t think I should prioritize reading more than that. (Yes, there is such a thing as “reading too much,” but that’s a topic of another post.) That leaves me with 2000 pages, and I plan to fill 1000 of them with a truly massive history book which I’ve been avoiding because it’s quite the intimidating read. And unfortunately, I just got another 500-page book on Russian history which I absolutely cannot leave behind because I’m just too excited by it. And because my brother has tapped me to deliver the speech at next year’s Tolkien Feast, I have to bring along a few volumes of Tolkien to keep my background reading moving forward at a good pace. This already brings me to 2500 pages, and that doesn’t count the 700-page science-fiction novel I’m hoping to finish on the flight over.

It’s probably my own impatience, but I hate looking at this reading stack because it feels so limited. Like: is that all I’ll get to read in the next two months? Can’t I imagine myself reading more? I want to read more. I have so much more that I want to add to that stack—easily another four volumes which I have set out next to my suitcase, tempting me—but I think it’s mostly a desire to have options.

And yet, I think by restricting my options I’ll come closer to hitting my goals. Take that giant history book, for instance: I really want to read it. But I’m scared of how long it will take me. I don’t like the idea that I won’t be able to read anything else until I’ve completed it. So the more other books I bring along, the more I can avoid starting it. If, however, I only bring the my essential reading for the next two months, and I limit that essential reading to include my giant history book, then I stand a higher likelihood of finishing it—or at least getting far enough along to not feel so anxious about putting it off.

I hate putting the rest of my books back on my shelf. It feels like losing progress. But I know that if I read everything that I bring with my to Madrid, I’ll be super pleased with myself by the time I come home. And if I run out, I can always download an ebook.

I fly to New York on Saturday. The adventure begins anew.

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