The Reading Project

I’ve thought about this stuff a lot. Here’s what I’ll say: the times where I haven’t read the stuff that I normally read on the Internet, just nonsense blogs or whatever, the next day I’ve felt like I’ve missed nothing. I deleted Twitter and Instagram off my phone. I use them to post stuff, but I don’t have them on my phone. I don’t have a feed. I don’t follow anyone. I used to read that stuff a lot and now I don’t read it. I don’t see those pictures and I don’t miss it. I feel like a lot of people do a lot of this stuff. If they cut it out, I don’t think they’d miss it that much. I really don’t. Like a blog that you check if you don’t read it for a week and you come back, you don’t go back and read Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday. Because you’re not reading it for the information. What you’re reading it for — and this is just my personal theories about this stuff — what you’re reading it for is a hit of this drug called the Internet. The phone world. You just want a hit of it. When you scroll down and you see a new blog post, that gets your brain excited. It’s like, “There’s something new!” You click it and you read it and you’re like, “Ooo!” But it’s garbage. It’s nothing. Somebody dropped an n-bomb. Great. That is a cool story, but you’re just searching for this new thing. When you look on your Facebook feed and you see these pictures, none of that shit really matters. You just want to see a new thing on there and it gives you something to do. I’ve sat at my computer. I still do it. I go on like Facebook or whatever and I’m like, “What am I doing? I’m going on a loop with these same four sites for no reason. I’m not genuinely interested.” Here’s a test: take your nightly or morning browse of the Internet, right? Your Facebook feed, Instagram feed, Twitter, whatever. If someone every morning was like, I’m gonna print this and give you a bound copy of all this stuff you read so you don’t have to use the Internet. Would you read that book? No! You’d be like, “This book sucks. There’s a link to some article about a horse that found its owner somehow. It’s not that interesting.”

Aziz Ansari on Freakonomics Podcast: Aziz Ansari Needs Another Toothbrush

Pretty much every night for the last 5 or so years since I listened to this interview I have nodded off to sleep thinking “This book sucks. Why am I wasting my time reading this crap on my phone before I fall asleep?” Confirming the Astros won once again was satisfying and worthwhile, but the rest was pretty useless. Why did I need to waste twenty minutes reading about Jared Lorenzen after his death? Hours tracking the Astros’ trade deadline targets over the last month? Reading about the latest outrage on university campuses?

I am finally putting down the phone at night and picking up a book or e-book. The first book on my reading list is Jonathan Franzen’s The Corrections. My copy is well travelled. I am pretty certain that I bought it in Rochester shortly after the paperback copy came out in 2002, when it was being widely hailed as “the first great novel of the 21st century.” It was untouched other when I packed it up at moving time until this July.

One of the great things about trail running — especially if your iPod keeps wigging out, damn you Tim Cook! — is that you have big chunks of time where your mind can wander. Lots and lots of time to dream up new ideas and plans. Some of these ideas are clearly brilliant. I should buy a zipline for the backyard. I should start biking more so my plantar fasciitis doesn’t come back. I should grill a Tomahawk Steak for dinner. Others are equally insane. I should climb Everest after the boys graduate high school (when I am in my 60s). Maybe I should train to break the 24 hour pullup record for 50+ year olds? It is 4,321. Some fall in a gray area. You can only tell if they are good by jumping in headfirst. Maybe I should write a book about parenting? Maybe I should start a company that builds adventure backyards?

Me with the Tomahawk Steak

Today’s idea fell in the latter category. Maybe at night I should read some of the long-forgotten but best-selling books of the late 19th and early 20th centuries. The odder and more obscure the title and author the better. What pearls of wisdom might I find in these books? What light might they shed on how our society has changed? How we have changed as a people? Well, that is my plan for at least the next few books.

First up, How to Live in Twenty-Four Hours by Arnold Bennett (1908).

I am going to post the list of books I have read on The Reading Project page. From time-to-time, I will post my thoughts about the book I am reading or some quotes I like from it on the Homepage.

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