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We Must Read Tons of Books With A Clear Purpose

My new Benjamin Franklin-inspired goal: retire from full-time work at age 42. That is the long term mission as I start Season 2 of the 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen.

Dave Swindle


July 6, 2013 - 12:00 pm
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An excerpt from page 54 of Gordon Wood’s The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin.

On April 10 I announced the beginning of my 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen, my program to try and establish an organized reading routine so I could start plowing through my piles of books. On May 8, after the shock of a new kind of Jihadist terror attack, I amended the rules and shifted to make room for more diligent study of Islam. And then I promptly failed to live up to my goals.

I’ve fallen off my reading routine in the most important way: the recording my results part. I’ve had a hard time sticking to reporting my progress every Saturday ala Charlie Martin and Sarah Hoyt.

But now as we step up as a section and really strive to make Saturday an all-around 13 Weeks Self Improvement day my excuses need to end. I can’t push Charlie, Sarah, Rhonda Robinson, and other PJM writers to stick to a regimen if I can’t find the discipline to document my own routine.

And really that’s what this is all about — trying to establish disciplined habits so we can change ourselves. That’s why I read so much. I want to find, develop, and implement new ideas to improve not just my life but everyone’s. And I want to encourage others to explore these questions and use books in this way.

That was my attempt during the first half of the year with the PJ Lifestyle Bookshelf and Daily Question features. I sought to excerpt an interesting passage from a book that I read, juxtapose it with an image, videos, or another book’s excerpt, and then encourage discussion without imposing my own perspective on readers. But that didn’t work as well as I hoped. Commenters sometimes didn’t know what to make of the juxtapositions and some even accused me of being lazy by not writing my own paragraphs spelling out explicitly why I valued the quote.

Fine. I surrender. For season 2 of my Radical Reading Regimen, starting on Monday, I’m going to push myself to make time to share my readings each day. I’ll be more diligent about always giving myself even just 15 minutes to read one of my books and find at least one excerpt worth sharing along with an idea for people to consider. (Though I’ll strive to read pieces from multiple books each morning, sharing the excerpt on Instagram — my new preferred social network of choice — before blogging about the excerpt in relation to the day’s news stories.)

On the fourth of July I started reading Gordon Wood’s The Americanization of Benjamin Franklin. And it hooked me. The story of a young, ambitious printer starting at the bottom in colonial America and climbing to the top of the young City on a Hill, becoming one of the most consequential Revolutionaries, has inspired me to do likewise. In particular, I’m taking Franklin’s career path: work is for suckers, if Franklin could manage to retire at age 42 in order to live out the rest of his life as a “gentlemen” — a concept largely lost today but worth reviving — then why can’t all of us?

We forget a lot of the time that Benjamin Franklin was essentially the Breitbart blogger of his day…

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Benjamin Franklin is a great role model for any young man; he was a hard-working genius whose innate creativity served him and our young nation well. Retirement at age 42 might turn out to be a good thing, but it may not always be possible even for the best and brightest among us. Remember, patience is a virtue, and also realize that mental and physical laziness, even decadence, can easily creep in once a person possesses the wherewithal to retire early in life. A rolling stone gathers no moss. I'm 60 years old and believe my creative powers are still increasing, so I don't plan on retiring early because I believe my ability and work is what God intended for me.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
Sigmund Freud observed that human happiness was dependent on human love and creativity, so the primary goal should be love and creativity; early retirement might just fall out as a derivative.

1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I asked for a Kindle because I am in the de-acquisition stage (I've got to get rid of all this stuff I've collected!!!) But I got an Android. It isn't reading friendly (at least for me) but it does a lot of other nifty things. I DLd Democracy in America and I am working through it. I'd like to read The Complete Works of Shakespeare again, but methinks I'll need a book for that. :)
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I can't imagine reading so many books at once. But then again, I'm retired and my attention span is much lengthier when looking for the perfect landscape or wildlife photograph. Good Luck Dave! It sounds like an interesting and worthy endeavor. BTW, retirement (at least from corporate life) takes a little getting used to. Best wishes to you.
1 year ago
1 year ago Link To Comment
I sense a kindered soul in David Swindle. Enthusiansim for books, reading and learning. However, there is something of the amateur here. I can speak out of experience because I have actually done what Swindle would like to do. At 45 health problems caused my retiring from a professorship in America followed with a departure for Europe, leading to many, many year long pilgrimages through various countries haunting libraries and attending universities. During my madness for ever more books, somehow I managed to collect here and there a doctor title and there and here almost another. Literature, culture and philosophy learned from books under the guidance of some outstanding minds. And such guidance brought me beyond the beginner stage of mechanically following instructions. Swindle suggests reading more than one book at once. Try reading 5 in different languages in pursuit of insight into this or that problem. All that is exciting and Swindle profers ordered instructions for a program of initiation that seems to seek diversity, i.e., leading one to plunge awhile here and there in this or that fountain of interest. And it is here that Swindle has concocted a receipt for amateurs or, perhaps better, for beginners. The goal desired reminds me of the general education courses that used to be required during the first two years of study at an American university or college. But there is something lacking, i.e., if one wishes to go beyond being a dilittante. What?

Direction by those who know their subject, that is the key so that diversity may become part of a systematic view enabling a profounder understanding. However much I wandered about the hidden recesses of libraries (enthrawled with texts out of the 17th and 18th centuries--loved the very smell of such books), I tied it all together attending classes and seminars of truely competent mentors whose efforts gave direction to my thurst for knowledge, allowing it to obtain a systematic form. The consumptin of books has its charm, but condemns one to superficiality (unless a book is a superficial iintroduction). Take a single passage, say, from a theologian-philospher like St. Anselm of Cantebury and focus for weeks upon his discussion of God or try to understand what provoked Kant's critique of pure reason or the battle royal between Averroes and Al-Ghazali (who ended the age of Islamic philoosphy), not to speak of just immersing oneself into the romantic poetry of Europe of the late 18th and early 19th Centuries. There are times when one can literally spend months trying to comprehend but a paragraph or two of a great thinkers thoughts. All such effort is but a key that, once understood, unlocks unifying treasures undreamed of. At some point the instructions of Swindle will recede as one finds ones own cognitive style. I found that the mentoring of a professor or thinker of breadth has transfomed me from a curious novice into a professional of sorts (a goal never really attainable).

I stand overwehlmed in admiration at Swindle's plans and wish him well. He is entering into a journey without end, but one, if all is unified, might well impart some wisdom or the wise knowledge that one is not wise (but, knowing why it is so). Bon voyage!
1 year ago
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