The only way to read these days …

(By way of “what have you been up to?”, or “have a blog, say something!”)

I just finished two fairly large reading projects, and I’m quite happy I stuck with it and finished it. A decade ago, I used to read in short, intense bursts (days on end of doing nothing else), and when this became no longer possible (less time!), I stopped reading, more or less, until about two or three years ago when I slowly began reading bits and pieces again. What I figured out was this: there’s only one long-term sustainable way to keep reading, and that’s the “slow and steady” way.

So now, I read on average two or three pages a day. Sometimes five or six. But never beyond ten. Always at least one. And I think this works for most books.

The first of the two isn’t a book but a series of online articles — more accurately, a series of usenet posts, all written by Erik Naggum over a ten-year period from 1994-2004. The entire list is here. Now you either don’t know about this guy at all, or if you do you probably have a negative preconception, just as I did, based on (say) his Wikipedia page, or some highly opinionated (and IMHO, ignorant) posts like this one; but I’m not the only one to advocate a more open-minded reading of his posts, c.f. Stanislav here, so you may be interested too.

The second is a series of books. I first came across Eric Hobsbawm in a very negative context (a youtube clip of him quixotically refusing to reconsider his prior stance, decades ago, on communism) — and I expected his writing to be similarly polemical. Imagine my surprise, then, when it was not (what really confuses me, then, is this contrast between the historian self and the public interview self). Instead, the series “The Age of Revolution (1789-1848)”, “The Age of Capital (1848-1875)”, “The Age of Empire (1875-1914)” and “The Age of Extremes (1914-1991)” is the best grand overview of everything that I’ve come across. The last one, if you’re curious, is actually logically three books (“Catastrophe”, “The Golden Years”, “Landslide”) which explains its semi-frustrating length. I wonder what he would make of the post 9/11 era, though he wasn’t very optimistic about the end of the Landslide.