century books

the phrase

it’s better to read 100 books 10 times than 1,000 books once

is stuck in my imagination.

for every book I read I use a 3x5 card as a bookmark and note on it when I started and when I finish. I’ll also take any notes, parts that interested me, words I enjoyed or didn’t know, and paraphrasing of important messages. so I have a growing stack of these cards, but I don’t do any specific accounting of them. I’m not worried about my velocity. I read quickly enough for my purpose, which is to understand more about those areas that seem most valuable for me to understand. this does not limit me to nonfiction, as I think there are many truths that can only be expressed via fiction.

the first non-children’s book I read of my own volition was a version of cosmos by carl sagan, adapted from the original tv series. it was such a rewarding thing that I have been reading for my own enjoyment ever since. once I jumped to fiction, starting with jurassic park by micheal crichton, I found a niche in science fiction that resonated. I spent years looking for out of print books in the foundation series by isaac asimov, or old prints of classic hard science fiction novels with fantastic cover art in used book stores. this was mostly before amazon.

I’ve read many books over the years, but there is a subset of them that I’ve read multiple times. it occurs to me that I would like to choose rather than find, that subset, and go deep on those that are worthy. I will still read books that I don’t consider part of my century collection, as the novelty search must go on as it has. it’s just that some percentage of the time, rather than picking a new book, I will consult the list and reread a century book.

no man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man


let the river be a book. the man still changes over time, while the book does not. this is an opportunity for self-reflection. each time you read a book, you are a different person. hopefully a better person. some books speak differently to you based on where you’re at in life.

the century books are my attempt to collect those books that are worthy of measuring myself against, that I feel have more to teach than one pass can absorb. my criteria for how to add books to the list will evolve, and I’ll keep a record of that on the list. but for now, my only requirement is that I’d enjoy reading the book more than twice. I don’t know that I’ll read any book 10 times. perhaps if audio book listening is included, but that’s a different behavior in my opinion, a much lower bandwidth mode of communication.

my current list is here.


498 Words

2021-03-27 19:00 -0500