Tuesday, January 3, 2017

I just finished a list it took me eight years to complete

Think of some long term goals you've had in life; marriage, wealth, kids, fantasy vacations, retire by 55, you know the type. Those sort of goals that sit just over the horizon waiting for you to catch up, and most of them feeling like there's not much you can do but wait and hope for the best.

Then think of those medium length goals, the sort of five-year-plan goals we have more often that require some work; propose marriage, get a degree, or even pay off your car.

Back in 2008 I had a dose of reality hit me when I heard about David Pringle's Science Fiction: The 100 Best Books Published in English between 1949 and 1984. The book began with George Orwell' s 1984 and ended with William Gibson's Nueromancer. As a huge science fiction fan and a voracious reader, I was fairly certain I would have read at least half of the novels he wrote about. Unfortunately for me; a then 32-year-old Canadian who counted the dozens of Star Trek and movie tie-in novels as a lot, Pringle's UK-focused list left me with a disappointing nine titles in total (four of which I had read as novel studies in Junior and Senior High School).

That left me with ninety-one books between where I thought I would be when I picked up the book, and where I found myself when I put it down.

So, I decided to start with the second book, Earth Abides (which would end up becoming one of my favourite novels period), by George R. Stewart, and try to read a book off of the list each month.

Two weeks ago, nearly eight years after I picked up Pringle's book, I finished John Calvin Bachelor's The Birth of the People's Republic of Antarctica (As a Canadian SF fan, I had read Nueromancer in my teens).

Here's what I learned along the way.

1) As my wife put it to me when I suggested starting a University degree part-time, "you'll be seven years older whether you do the work or not", and she was absolutely right.

2) I've now read my way through a list of books that were pretty good at the worst, and mind-blowing at their best, and honestly, I probably wouldn't have heard of half of these titles had I simply stuck to the SF section of my local bookstore.

3) I found the simple and yet amazing fact that if you take something big, break it down into manageable chunks, and consistently work at it, you can do all sorts of things - even if it takes you the better part of a decade.

BTW - my reward? Knowing that this is the kind of thing I can do with clear goals, consistent work, and a supportive network of friends and family.

What a great way to start a new year!

No comments:

Post a Comment