I’ve had so much fun reading posts by so many of my favorite bloggers about how they plan (or don’t). The flurry of posts in December was prompted by Bloglily. And all this time I had no idea she had tagged me too! If I were to write about how observant I am I’d have to say “not very.” But my discovery of being tagged to write about planning could not have come at a better time as I sit back to think about 2008 reading plans.

Regardless of whether I am planning something at work or at home, something serious or fun, planning for me always begins with a list. It always ends with a list too for that matter. List making is my primary means of planning anything. First it begins with a brainstorming list like this:

re-read Pride and Prejudice
Greek plays
quality vs quantity
TBR pile

If it is nothing that needs serious planning, then the list might never be revised. If I am planning a trip or planning on how to integrate new information to be tracked in the client services database at work, then there will perhaps be some research and more lists that get more and more specific and sometimes things get added that I didn’t think of originally. Like this:

Proust – finish Guermantes Way, Sodom and Gomorrah, more if possible
re-read Pride and Prejudice
Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities? David Copperfield?
Gilgamesh and The Buried Book
Greek Plays – Orestia Trilogy, Clouds, Lysistrata, Antigone, Electra, Oedipus?
Plato – Republic, Symposium, some Socratic Dialogues
quality vs quantity – ha! the quantity is already adding up!
challenges – Outmoded Authors, Japanese, What’s in a Name, Planet Earth 2008, Once Upon a Time, RIP
TBR – buy fewer books
Finish Clarissa, Herodotus
Shakespeare – The Winter’s Tale

Sometimes items on my lists have sublists of their own! (the challenges item above would be a prime candidate) Sometimes items get a short narrative to accompany it. Lists will be numbered in order of either priority of the item, or along a timeline of completion with one being the thing that must be done first.

I find planning with lists satisfying because I get to cross things off them as they are completed and therefore can see my progress. But I also find planning with lists useful because I don’t feel bad about revising them. They are flexible. Sometimes I plan too much, especially for a trip or my reading goals (something I was feeling rebellious about recently). Sometimes even the best made plans get shot all to hell.

Would you be shocked if I said I have difficulty being completely spontaneous? I will even plan to have fun if given the chance. My Bookman, bless him, is not much of a planner. Used to drive me absolutely nuts. And while it still can make me a bit itchy, he does much to temper my planning and bring surprise into my life for which I am grateful.

So, my “final” draft of my 2008 reading plan (maybe guidelines is better?) is not numbered since there is no need to set priority or create a process. A sort of loose grouping does emerge though:

  • Finish Clarissa, finish Herodotus (then I can read Travels with Herodotus by Ryszard Kapuscinski)
  • Finish Guermantes Way and read Sodom and Gomorrah and the remaining volumes of Proust if possible and start in on the Tadie biography
  • Challenges: Japanese Authors (Mishima in progress, Usagi Yojimbo, Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World); Outmoded Authors (Country of the Pointed Firs in progress, The Razor’s Edge); What’s in a Name (see list in sidebar); Planet Earth 2008 (list not yet finalized); Once Upon a Time (His Dark Materials series and I think one additional); RIP (We Have Always Lived in the Castle, The Terror, two additional)
  • Gilgamesh and The Buried Book
  • Plato – Socratic Dialogues to be selected, Republic, Symposium, Critias
  • Greek Plays – Orestia Trilogy, Clouds, Lysistrata, Antigone (re-read), Electra
  • The Winter’s Tale (Shakespeare)
  • Re-read Pride and Prejudice (and maybe Mansfield Park)
  • Dickens – A Tale of Two Cities
  • TBR pile – try to buy fewer books, or rather, be choosier about the books I do buy. Do I really need to own it or can I borrow it from the library? If I buy a book, what other books will have to be removed from the shelves in order to make room for it? The TBR piles are out of control. Read books from the piles. By the end of the year have no books piled on the corner of my desk and no additional piles on the floor.
  • Quality vs quantity – instead of trying to read at least a book a week and sometimes choosing short books to read fast when I am feeling “behind,” don’t worry about the numbers. Quality is more important. This is not to say that brain-candy is not allowed, every brain needs a frothy treat now and then. Read deeply, think deeply, take better notes. Quality reading leads to quality writing.

I must print and post my list above my desk otherwise it is too easy to forget about it. If I manage half the books I’ll be happy especially since school is going to get more difficult as the year progresses. Emerson does not appear on the plan because he is an ongoing project, an established habit that needs no plan. What will happen when I finish Emerson I can’t think about right now. Instead I will just look happily forward to lots of good reading.