Culture

We Must Read Tons of Books With A Clear Purpose

999505_10101283739872008_1410961144_n

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…

9781565118867

970055_10101283019261118_1183396014_n

Benjamin Franklin did not toil away with ink covered fingers in a print shop his whole life. He made a number of investments and expansions to his businesses so that by the age of 42 he could effectively retire and just do whatever he wanted. I believe that’s the way to live. And I’m going to pursue it with my Radical Reading Regimen. Here is version 2.0 of the rules, 9 in this incarnation:

1. Always read multiple books at once, across a variety of disciplines, from nonfiction history and science to novels and strange satire. Do not get hung up on exclusively fiction or non-fiction. Also read poetry and scripts.

2. Group these various interests together into 7 categories and then assign each to a day of the week. 

For me these will remain the same as during the last session: Good vs Evil on Mondays, Media & Technology on Tuesdays, Art & Counterculture on Wednesdays, 20th Century Conservative Political Philosophy on Thursdays, Biographies and Memoirs of Extraordinary Individuals on Friday, the Alchemical Marriage of Science and Spirituality (and their all-American child Self Improvement) on Saturdays, and the history of Judeo-Christian Civilization on Sundays.

3. Make these into 7 literal piles of books, one for each day, and then use them to guide the day’s reading. 

4. NEW, REVISED RULE COMBINING 4,5, and 6 of previous edition: Find at least 2 excerpts every day from 2 separate books that are worth sharing to get other people’s opinions; use these as the basis for your own DAILY blog post, juxtaposed with the current news stories.

5. Schedule time to read every day and then stick to it.

I’m going to say 5:30 AM to 6:00 AM is my daily reading time. Then I can stop each day and switch to writing my daily post when my friend Ben Shapiro‘s radio program starts on KRLA — Ben does a great job of hitting the important national and local stories Monday-Friday each week. (Those not in the LA area can listen online from 6-9 PST.)

6. Switch from reading the Bible just on Sundays to every day. Make it the first and last text you read each day. The free Bible apps on the iPad can help with this. So can the James Earl Jones-recorded New Testament.

7. Study the ideas of those who reject the Bible as Western Civilization’s cornerstone and seek to replace its values with another book’s. Know Your Enemy. Right now the most dangerous, lethal enemy is orthodox Islam, the traditional religion believed by Muslims who reject Enlightenment philosophy and insist on Koranic literalism. Their allies in our government who embrace a postmodern variant of Marxism are the second most serious threat currently.

8. Celebrate the public library and check out as many books as possible at all times. 

The usual way my account looks:

library

9. New Rule: Read with Clear Purpose.

I think part of the stalling of the first round of the 13 Weeks Radical Reading Regimen was that I was still searching for just what the purpose of the whole thing was going to be. Charlie and Sarah also encountered this in their first seasons. Now I see with more clarity: I am reading for the same reason as Benjamin Franklin. I am reading these books to extract out the information and ideas that I can use to develop my own ideas to create products and businesses and innovations such that I can retire at age 42. That’s 11 1/2 years. (A giant, imaginary “3” and “0” will come falling out of the sky and crash into my head in January…) I think I can do it.

What’s your goal for the next decade? What books are you going to read to get there?