Sunday, November 1, 2009

Eating my broccoli - Balanced reading in 2009

This is my favorite time of the year. When the mercury seems weary by day and resigns to sinking post meridiem, my spirits tend to soar. It isn't all about the nip in the air either. It is the implied anticipation of the holiday season. The silent 'because' behind unspoken languor at work. The wait for year-end 'Best of 2009' lists.

This is also a time for stock-taking. Under two months of reading left in the year. So how balanced a reading diet have I been consuming.

My target is usually to read a mix of about 50/50 between non-fiction and fiction. I try to alternate so my balance remains close and the palate fresh. Somewhere in there, I also try to fit in books of the self-help / personal development variety. Books that I know are good for me, but often make for painfully boring reading. The reading equivalent, in other words, of eating my broccoli.

So where do I stand for the year? A quick scan of Brick and Rope posts and my bookshelf shows this:

In the first ten months of the year, I have been able to read about 40 books - 16 fiction, 17 non-fiction, 2 servings of broccoli, and about 5 genre books.

Quick side note: All my snootiness about genre novels not withstanding, I do tend to read and re-read a lot of Agatha Christie and P.G.Wodehouse. That is most of what ends up going into that last category.

A reader recently pointed out that in recent weeks, my reading has been fiction heavy. That is certainly true. September-October was quite a fiction dominated period, which has led me to a non-fiction as my current read (In Fed We Trust is what I am reading right now, alongside a serving of broccoli - The First 90 Days ... more on those in another post). That said, the overall fiction / non-fiction balance seems about where I would like it to be.

In the rest of this year I might get the time to read five, maybe six books. Which would make for a pretty good reading year. I consider it a good year if I get to read about 35 books. A great year would be 50, but that doesn't happen very often at all.

Now to the flip side of getting to this time of the year. My wife and I have an arrangement about my book buying . There are two parts to this arrangement - (1) I buy at the same rate as I read. No building of inventory, if you will. A good friend of Brick and Rope has a spousal arrangement to buy books at 'no more than 3 times' the reading rate. What a sweet deal! When I suggested that to my wife, she scoffed with a 'you wish'. (2) I work within a loose annual budget. That gives me the discipline to search for good deals and cut coupons where I might otherwise splurge .

Here is the thing about the arrangement - By the time I got to October, I was already out of budget. I have maybe two unread books at home. And another serving of broccoli that a friend kindly gifted me. After those? ... County Library, here I come!


  1. "Loose" annual budget - 'you wish'!

  2. I can read no more than 12-13 books a year. Can you also shed some light on when do you read? Weekends? nights? holidays? all the time? at your desk? :-)

  3. Jairam,

    Amazing that you read so much. I used to be an avid reader years ago, but dont seem to have the stomach for big books these days! Will try to draw some inspiration from this blog!

  4. Very admirable. The way you have managed to read so much. It shows your passion for learning new things and getting exposed to newer thoughts and ideas.

    I am sure you must be selective about the books your buy and read. A typical Indian thought would be only buy those books that you want to retain. All others can be rented out from a library :-)