Tag Archives: reading

Yvon’s Adventure with the Lifetime Reading Plan

Ennovy the black dragon

My friend Yvon Hintz – an artist and writer, among many other things – started a reading plan a few years ago. When I heard she was reading The Book of Ramayana as part of the plan, I thought it must be an interesting reading list! I knew it included Greek classics as well as books by Chinese writers, and I liked the cultural spread of books the plan contained.

I’ve asked Yvon to share more about the reading plan and what she’s getting out of it.

Yvon’s Adventure with the Lifetime Reading Plan

I always felt that I had missed out on a lot of good reading because I left school fairly early to help my parents run a shop, so when I stumbled on the Lifetime Reading List on the web, it struck me as a great idea.

Being a Virgo, I love lists and working my way through a chronological list of great writing seemed like a wonderful way to go.

By following a list I got suggestions as to what to read and a structure for that reading. If I had simply dipped at random into literature from the past I might not have read some of the titles, either through not knowing that they existed or because I didn’t fancy the sound of them. Sticking to the list, I ended up reading some works that turned out to be wonderful.

I also read some works that  were not so wonderful, but they were not a waste because  I still got something out of them… even if it was just a working knowledge of their contents so that when later authors made reference to them I knew what they were talking about.

Of the titles I’ve read so far,  it’s hard to say which was my favourite; most were enjoyable in one way or another, but  the one I probably enjoyed the most was  the Mahabharata. For one thing I was really proud of myself for just getting through it! It’s eight times longer than the Bible and took me seven months to read. But what an adventure!  The granddaddy of all soap operas!

What I’ve gained from all this reading, apart from the individual entertainment of each title, is the understanding of what a marvellous, rich literary history we have and how much of it rests on what has gone before.  I am so pleased that I chose this list, which starts with the oldest book – The Epic of Gilgamesh (possibly the oldest written story on Earth) – and goes through to more recent works.

The Mahabharata, also on the list.

To begin with, I would buy the hardback or paperback versions of the books. I had a nice little collection in my bookcase when I sold my house, and the bookcase and I moved into a caravan. With a much reduced-in-size bookcase I decided to keep only a few really special books. The copy of David Copperfield in which my mother kept locks of all her children’s hair; the  original copies of the first three SF novels I ever read; some illustrated books that I would not be able to get in ebook form; a copy of The Little Prince given to me by a friend; as well as a small collection of books written by my other clever friends.

All other books I obtained in ebook form. I was able to get most of them from the Project Gutenberg site. A few I had to buy in ebook form.

So far there has been only one book I have had to skip. Sima Qian’s Records of The Grand Historian. It’s a BIG book… usually comes in two volumes.  It came up on my list about the time I was moving house so I didn’t want to buy a physical copy and didn’t really have the money to spare for the ebook version.  I thought I would do the smart thing and borrow it from the library. To my pleasure, they were able to get a copy in for me… from the main library… but because it’s the only copy in Western Australia they wouldn’t let it out of their clutches! I had to sit in the library to read it.

I did for a while, but that got to be impractical, so I reluctantly gave up and moved onto the next title. One day I’ll go back and fill in the gap.

In addition to reading the titles in the Lifetime Reading Plan I research on the Web, get information about the work and the author and add it to a scrapbook I’m creating. It’s getting to be a fascinating book in its own right.

I am currently up to the start of Part three, working my way, with great pleasure, through the works of Shakespeare.  As with some of the titles in the Parts to come, I have read a good number of Shakespeare’s plays before, but it’s always good to read them again, and in the order in which they were written (roughly.)

I don’t know if this exercise has made me a better or more learned person. I never recall books well enough to quote them, but I do remember them and I feel that I am a more well rounded person for my literary feast.

Yvon*)  Dec 2011

So there you have it! If you’re after a new project for 2012 (the National Year of Reading, no less!) this might be the reading plan for you!

Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, iPhone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.

Short attention sp… oh look! A bird!

A long while ago, a friend sent me a link to a long article about how the way we use the Internet may contribute to decreasing our attention spans. We’re forever darting in and out of Facebook, Twitter, Tumbler, news sites, YouTube, livejournal, you name it. Studies indicated that people were losing the ability to focus for more than a few minutes.

Still with me?

The ironic and tragic thing is that the article was so long, I dipped out half way through reading to check on my Facebook and Twitter feeds, and only remembered to go back to the article a week later.

As that embarrassing incident shows, it may well be that my habits with regard to the Internet are in fact retraining my brain to have a shorter attention span. Let’s face it, I’m easily distracted as it is. (I have a novel to write. Oh look, the dishes need doing. No really, write the novel. Hello kitty, would you like a cuddle. No, seriously, write the damned book.)

Reduced concentration spans are a problem, though. For a start, you need some ability for sustained research and analysis if you are going to think through problem. Or develop a plot for a novel. Or think up coherent arguments for issues you believe in.

This weekend, the issue of how constant connectivity seems to affect my concentratoin span was highlighted for me. Tim and I had one of our irregular ‘tech detox’ breaks.  In this instance, I had won an overnight stay at the Rydges Hotel in Carlton, so off we went for just a little break away from home. No computers. No phones. I had my Kindle, because I was reading Suzanne Collins’ Gregor the Overlander series on it, but it is not web enabled outside of a wireless connection, so it didn’t count.

We took a few books and we went to Carlton early for breakfast while we read the paper over a few hours, before we would be allowed to check in. ANd I noticed that if Tim was placing an order at the counter or left the table for a minute, my instinct was to reach for the phone.

Seriously. Couldn’t  I be alone with a thought for five second without needing to distract myself?

As the day wore on, the itchy-trigger-finger reaction slowed and disappeared. In those quiet moments I instead looked around – at the rain outside, at the people inside. I reflected a little on the articles I read and then discussed salient points with Tim on his return.

At the hotel, we set up camp with our books and a cup of tea and read. I finished three books I had been part way through and started a new one. No stopping to tell the world every half-arsed thought in my head, or to read what everyone else thought of the dismal weather. It was nice.

I read a lot, so obviously I haven’t completely lost the capacity to concentrate for more than 90 seconds, but it was surprisingly relaxing to abandon short-term thinking for the day, in favour of focus and savouring the quiet moments.

And if you’re still reading at the end of this blog, thank you, and I hope I haven’t kept you away from your status updates for too long. 😀


Narrelle M Harris is a Melbourne-based writer. Find out more about her books, iPhone apps, public speaking and other activities at www.narrellemharris.com.