Tuesday, June 05, 2007

Random Numbers

One of the blogs I've discovered over the last couple of years is The Millions (A Blog About Books). It's well-written, interesting and about, well, books.

I hadn't visited in awhile, so when I went back, I decided to read some earlier Notable Posts (yes, there's an actual section called "Notable Posts"). The title, The Reading Queue Revisited, caught my eye. Like most avid readers, the owner of the blog (C. Max Magee), has a large stash of books on his shelves that he hasn't read and needed a way to get through, hopefully, in his lifetime.

I can relate. Just look at the four books I purchased a couple of blogs ago. They've now arrived and join the dozens of unread books already on my shelves and nightstand. This compulsion to accumulate books is somewhat akin to my aunt's post-Depression Era habit of picking up and saving every bit of string, paper and bag – just in case. Heaven forbid I'd be without reading material if some catastrophe struck and the computer and TV were unavailable. Never mind that maybe – just maybe – there'd be other things to worry about. It's kind of like a security blanket, I guess.

Aside from having a lot of books gathering dust, the other major problem with having so many unread books is deciding which book to read next. Each and every book on my shelves was either given to me or hand-picked by me for a reason -- the reasons for some being rather obscure now. So how to choose the next read from my growing To-Be-Read shelf? My usual method is to choose a few books at a time and start reading them concurrently. At some point, a favourite emerges and gets finished before the others. The by-product of this method is that I end up with books that are only partially finished and have lost their allure. They go back on the TBR shelf or languish in a pile on the nightstand or on the floor by my bed.

Anyways, back to C. Max Magee and his Reading Queue. He sorted his unread books and came up with a list of books that he'd like to eventually read. From this list, he vowed to randomly select each new and subsequent book to be read. Well, I could see, and he soon discovered, a problem with this "random" system. The problem being that the randomness factor tends to fall by the wayside when new, interesting titles come along and nudge out the old dust-gathering ones.

He's come up with an ingenious solution. He lists his books alphabetically and numbers them; then he uses a random number generator to choose his next book. I guess it's working because he's been using it since June 2005. Although it might be worthy to note that his original queue had thirty-one books before the random numbers system; and his current queue has fifty-one books.

Still, it might be worth a try.

Take a look at The Reading Queue Revisited to read the full article.


Anonymous said...

Glad you've discovered the reading queue. It's sort of a silly method, but I like it because it offers an element of surprise each time I'm ready for a new book. If you try it, let me know how it goes.

Anonymous said...

First, I have to list all my unread books. I think the number is nudging close to 100. I will let you know if I actually try it.