The company you keep inspires habits. For example, growing up in the house I did I was fortunate enough to be surrounded by readers and independent thinkers. To this day, my most cherished items are books and my mind(though my wife and myself are often sure I lost the latter years ago). Since attending university however I find myself often in the company of scientists and mathematicians (fascinating people, and superior drinkers than you would imagine) and so the paradigm of data has entered into my subconscious mind thus inspiring this little work. Data, the plural form often mistaken for the singular datum, to those unfamiliar or apathetic to scientific jargon, is the collection of empirical evidence acquired during an experiment. Once data has been collected it is translated into a graph or chart so that other scientists may interpret the results of the experiment and then perform their own trial run to determine if the experiment was performed correctly and they receive the same findings. As I say often to my students (I tutor/teach basic biology for college freshmen), science is an effective system in which everyone is out to prove everyone else wrong to make sure what we teach is right. I know that sounds like a Catch-22 but trust me that it is actually sound. This may seem petty, but in fact is a strictly governed paradigm to ensure that if knowledge is presented, it is accurate. On a brief note the ignorant statement “evolution is just a theory” is one of the most tiresome and ineffective rebuttals once one understands that science will only ever assign the term once there have been at least thousands, if not millions, of experiments performed across the globe to provide enough data to support a conclusion but let us resume my original effort.
It came into my head not long after I proposed to my, now wife, who happens to be a biologist, that I read so many books, essays, comics, graphic novels, novels, novellas, biographies, etc. over the course of a year and it is wretched that I cannot go back and follow my reading habits to understand if they have changed. Have I read more novels in my youth than I do now? Perhaps there was period of time in which I favored poetry? This year alone I’ve read at least seven biographies (from Tolstoy to porn Star Jenna Jameson and even great Anchorman legend Ron Burgundy). Taking the influence from my scientist friends I decided to map out my reading habits and the image below represents my effort.
The image above amounts to an entire year of my life beginning with January 1st, 2013 to December 31st 2013. Using a Microsoft Excel spreadsheet I collected my data day by day. When I concluded a work I enjoyed the satisfaction from completing it and, when the opportunity arose, entered in my data accordingly: the title of the work, the author’s name or names, and finally a number indicating the form.
A great friend of mine, who is perhaps one of the most talented emerging authors of our age, and who needs to publish his work soon I might add, took great offence to this chart. He feels passionately that the combination of words and numbers is not only distasteful but, to use his words, blasphemous. As I am atheist and a skeptic the latter word means very little to me, if anything at all, but his comments have made me wonder now if the chart is truly representing my reading habits.
I find at times I pursue a work to see the data alter and the line take form into a new shape. Some would call this eschewing the data. They are correct. In this way the chart system I have developed is not a true scientific endeavor, but a humanist one nonetheless. Even if I have failed to be completely objective, the purpose of the exercise is to track my desire to read and observe how that desire has changed and shifted. Looking at the 2014 chart I have observed great peaks as more philosophy, biography, and even creative non-fiction have made new appearances. I admit with some shame I have been reading far fewer graphic novels this year than I did last year. But these observances complete my original intent. I wanted only to compile the data, and observe if any change has taken place. It has.
At the end of this year I shall compile the data and observe both charts side by side, and at the end of 2015 I shall do so again.
I will provide the number system for the forms below, because I would find it most fascinating to observe other’s reading habits and eventually catalog them all together.
Virginia Wolfe, one of the greatest writers of our age, once said that “nothing has truly ever happened until it has been written down.” The same could be ultimately said of scientific research. Unless we have the data to support our statements, all we are speaking is empty words. If we are to praise and enjoy the benefits of empirical philosophy however, we should take the same effort to adopt similar paradigms. Though we should take heart, to make sure the texts we take such solace and comfort from, never cease to become more than numbers.
|5-Non Fiction (Consider this a textbook or just a general information work)|
|17-Creative Non Fiction|
The numbers provided here should not be confused with the “merit” of a particular form. I read a great deal of comics and graphic novels and so when crafting the idea for this chart they appeared early.
***Author’s Second Note***
Should this system take off and become radically popular I claim the contemporary adage of “dibs” for patenting rights.