I decided in December of 2015 that I wanted to read one book from every aisle in Olin Library. I realized that Amazon/online recommendation engines push one to only read related subjects, and so this felt like an effective (if somewhat inelegant) way to counter the tendency to only read in a narrow range of topics that we find inherently compelling, or which reinforce our beliefs. By progressing in order, however, I hope to find some points of connection across the different pieces that I read as well, and build a greater awareness of the connections across subjects. I will post thoughts on this site, and share interesting observations, insights and reactions to what I’ve been reading, colored by my other activities, professionally and personally. This will also be my platform for sharing thoughts that others might put on social media; I do not generally post opinions or share content on social media for three reasons.
First: I feel that my voice adds little to the crowd of opinions that others post faster (and often articulate more effectively) than I would. I hope that the subjects I grapple with on this site will be unique enough/distinct enough from the popular conversation that they will not be redundant with people’s other reading.
Second: I believe strongly that understanding events requires context. Focusing on being first to share a viewpoint, or render it easily quotable/likable skews writing and thought towards simple, surface-depth understandings, that are, I believe, a contributing factor to the current polarization of the country. By posting periodically and focusing on books that I read (and not articles, websites, or any other short-form information) I will limit myself to topics which I have engaged with slowly and deeply enough to think beyond my reflexive reaction.
Thirdly: I hope to keep my friendships broad, and not limit them to like-minded people. While this site may delve into my political feelings from time to time, readers will have to choose to visit it, and if they choose to stop visiting, they may do so without denying/undercutting/negating our friendship.
Duration: As long as it takes. Estimate 15-20 years.
Starting point: The third floor (the first floor of actual stacks), on the right-hand side. This puts me squarely in the religion section. Though it’s not the area I would probably have chosen to start in, it feels extremely important. I have heard far too many gross generalizations about what others’ religious beliefs are/are not, or should/should not include from people who have not studied or researched the areas.
Eligible books: Any in the aisle. I will probably prioritize those of relevance, or that might have particular insight into strategy, success, leadership, and life. If an aisle has none in English or French, I will probably skip it.
Writing will take place inconsistently, but I will aim for at least every other week.
Inaugural Post: https://jacobklehman.com/2016/12/03/reading-project-part-1-timing-is-everything/