Tracking My Reading

The simple approach was to open a spreadsheet (excel, google sheets, etc.) and type in Title, Author, Dates, and start reading. Of course, after the first couple books, ironically on reading books, I discovered I wanted more measurable data to track my trends and prevent any unintended biases. For example, as English is my only language spoken and many of the collections in the Great Books are Western collections I accepted an initial bias along these lines; reasoning that I had plenty of books to read initially. Also, English translation and various editions of books are considered best by some and not so good by others; I wanted to track what editions, versions, and translations.

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So, my headings became part tracking my reading and part statistical analysis. I added page count to understand my reading speed; adding Subject to create categories to compare against. I expect it will take longer to read Mathematics than Romance and as I develop Lesson Plans I want a realistic estimation of the required time and when completed I can update the estimation. Here are the Walls Reading spreadsheet headings.

  • Title
  • Author
  • Sex
  • Start Date
  • First Read
  • Completed
  • Format
  • Edition
  • Pages
  • Subject
  • Summary
  • Essay

Some books I expect to read once, however my list consist of Great Books and the plan is to study each book and write essays on the books I consider worth the extra time (hopefully many). Therefore, I separated First Read and Completed as different objectives. It is likely I may not reread War and Peace this month, but I do expect to read it again…probably after some French Revolution readings. First Reads are more likely to be in the Kindle Format versus a Hardback or Softback book that I can write on. Summary isn’t intended to be as basic as a Goodread’s review, but I could see my summaries becoming my reviews. The challenge is to review timely, I may edit the initial review with the final Summary review. The goal is to write the Summary after the First Read. The Essay follows after a more detailed analysis.

A couple more questions arise; balancing out books from different sexes is a legitimate metric for more current dates, but is difficult for older material. I’ll need to create a cutoff date and am struggling on what date to use. Adding to the dilemma is different countries vary greatly on women writer’s legitimacy (meaning the book was great, but wasn’t treated as such). For now, I am tracking the complete period and consider this a work in progress. Along the same lines is ethnicity. This is even more complicated than I thought as ethnicity has evolved over the centuries…are you an American or a German American or African American or maybe an Egyptian American? Do I go by the legal definition or do I go by self identification, how is 50% each dealt with. My current decision is to ignore the issue, not because of any lack of awareness of the bias, but because My Reading List is long to begin with and I can come back to this topic later. Any suggestions are appreciated, I suspect the genealogist have solved this problem and it’s a matter of educating myself.

Furthermore, as I read different editions, translation, reviews, etc. I can see issues in tracking the various versions and multiple essays and possible a master essay comparing all of the versions. This doesn’t include the multiple book essays or comparative research papers. As an amateur historian, writer, and reader I plan to improve on all of these aspects this year.

Finally, I am using my Great Books page to provide a minor tool for outside trackers of my progress. I am using blue to track books that First Read is completed and red to track books I am currently reading. I will develop this system out a little further and add a key to the bottom of the page.  Either way, let me know if you have any improvements or ideas on my current approach.

Walls Academy Reading List 2016

classic-books-300x315I  read prolifically in 2016, although not with much purpose or direction. A casual skimming of my Goodread’s list for the year is interesting, but not enlightening.  By the end of the third quarter I made a decision to change what and how I was reading. A brief internet search introduced me to folks with similar aspirations and eventually to the Great Books of the Western World by Encyclopedia Britannica and The Harvard Classics by Harvard University; it amazes me that not once during my 10 years of university did any of my professors or peers mention either collection. The two collections provided a good starting point and I created my own list of books to read. I took the month of August researching my list and studying how best to learn from the books in the list.

Of course, reading the books isn’t enough. I needed to study the book and/or material in the same fashion as all the great scientists and learners of the past and present. I wanted to be methodical and consistent, fortunately and old hobby of mine becomes useful again, journaling and notebooks provide an opportunity to improve my writing habits and document my progress. As for reading habits, I wanted to read with intent and two books are crucial to this strategy.

“The Well-Educated Mind: A Guide to the Classical Education You Never Had” by Susan Wise Bauer

and

“How to Read a Book: The Classic Guide to Intelligent Reading” by Mortimer J. Adler

I plan on expanding my thoughts on these books in a future article, but can not stress enough their importance for the next few years. For now, I want to ‘first read’ several books on my lists. The plan is to come back to the books that really inspire and write an essay on each.

Walls Academy had been a brain child of mine for years and became the new home of my self education. I wanted to use my reading list to expand, not only, my knowledge of literature, but all areas of knowledge. While I expect my secret goal of polymathdom is a bit long in the tooth, I am taking the first steps.

 

My favorite books of 2016 are an interesting mix, but all of them have inspired me.

War and Peace (Centaur Classics) by Leo Tolstoy

This was my first book I read upon starting my new reading approach. I am very happy I did. The BBC Miniseries was wonderful and I plan to watch the Russian Version of the movie when I find a dubbed copy. For those of you who don’t know (I didn’t), the book is about all things Russian and concerns the lives of several families during the Napoleonic Era and invasion of Russia. It is truly a Masterpiece.

Thinking, Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman

Wonderful thought provoking material on how the brain works, using the Fast and Slow Brains. While some of the studies and tests are under criticism today, I found the book insightful and useful for anyone that wants to understand themselves or others better.

The Information: A History, a Theory, a Flood by James Gleick

The most impressive book I read this year, primarily because it was unexpected. Mix in mathematics, history, science, and superior writing and you get this book. If you are interested in any of those topics you will like it, two or more and you will love it. Require reading for any budding cryptologist.

THE MATHEMATICAL PRINCIPLES OF NATURAL PHILOSOPHY (Illustrated and Bundled with LIFE OF SIR ISAAC NEWTON) by Isaac Newton

After reading Einstein’s Theory of Relativity last year, I was amazed at the readability of the writing. It hadn’t occurred to me that scientist wrote for the layperson and with that encouragement I took a swing at Newton’s. I could have done without the Life piece and do plan on sitting down for a more thorough read in the future, but well worth my time. The study of mathematics and science will be a focus for 2017.

Sapiens: A Brief History of Humankind by Yuval Noah Harari

While Science Fiction and Fantasy did not break into my top books for the year, several series proved entertaining for me this year.

No Plays for me this year, but Shakespeare is on for next year. Any other suggestions to add to my list are welcome.

Poetry, I love poetry and look forward to adding more to my life in 2017. I read Edgar Alan Poe’s collection of Poetry as my first dip into the pool. An interesting aside here, take the time and find some Readings of poetry on Youtube, etc. I was very impressed with James Earl Jone’s reading of Raven.

Not matter what you are reading, enjoy and explore.

 

 

 

Walls Academy

The idea of a one spot to track all personal learning is not new. Walls Academy was started as a Google Education site for homeschooling my children. When the kids moved into public school the site languished. As my personal drive to improve pushed me to a more methodical approach to my education I debated about using notebooks (paper and/or electronic) and websites. The strength of a website is the ability to link and reference the site for other interested folks and not duplicate effort, the weakness is it is extra effort and could take away from the time spent learning and does imply a level of self aggrandization (look what I’ve done!) that isn’t my intent.

After a few weeks of deliberation Walls Academy was started as journal of the process of my learning. My detailed notes are in journals, although I may post essays as I complete them. Initially, the focus on books is the central theme, but expect more as I integrate online videos, courses, etc to the material I’m studying. My old reference sites for homeschooling will be updated and posted as good reference and, of course, links to several sites that are excellent at tracking free education.