Tuesday, November 3, 2009

10 Million Words

When Tim Challies spoke at our church a few weeks ago, he told me about the next project he's planning. It's one that really excites me as a Christian who wants to be conversant with his culture: Tim plans to read all of America's most popular non-fiction books in the year 2010, and provide book reviews for each one. If you are Tim Challies you can plan this '10 Million Word' reading assignment for 2010. If you are Ian Vaillancourt, you can plan to read the 150 or so 'one page book reviews' that Tim plans to write and begin to be more conversant with the dominant views of the world you live in, even with the small investment of 15 minutes of reading (or so) per week. Thanks, Tim, for using your lightning quick mind to serve Christ and his church in this way. Below I've copied and pasted his first post. The blog, hosted by Don Carson and Tim Keller at the Gospel Coalition web site, can be assessed here. Again, give Tim's post a read and be wooed to following along on his project! (Note, leading up to 2010 Tim is 'in training' and will be posting reviews for most of the books on the bestseller list. So start following now!)

My wife thinks I’m a little bit crazy, I’m sure of it. During eleven years of marriage I’ve done a lot of things that have led her to roll her eyes and sigh. I guess she is getting used to it, though, because even she is interested in what I am planning to do in 2010. I plan to read all of the New York Times bestselling books over the course of the whole year. Do the math and you’ll see that this will come in at somewhere around 10 million words.

While the project proper begins on January 1, 2010, in the months leading up to it, I will be attempting to read all of the current bestsellers to reassure myself that I can actually do this without losing my sanity. In so doing, I will be trying to “find my voice,” so to speak–finding the best way to deal with as imposing a project as this one, and looking for the cultural and worldview themes that I think will be so interesting.

I am hoping that you’ll join in as I do all of this–following along, perhaps reading a few of the books to share your reflections on them, and maybe leaving the occasional comment.

Why Are You Doing This?
Just ten years in, the twenty-first century has already been fascinating and complex. The potential for a Y2K disaster was averted but within two years America saw a completely unforeseen disaster that showed just how small the world has become and proved that America was no longer safe within her own borders. Since then we have seen protracted wars, the deaths of iconic celebrities, a massive economic downturn that brought the world to the brink of depression, and the election of the nation’s first black President. All this and the century has only just begun.

America’s bestselling books tell us, I’m sure, who America is, who her people are, at this time and place. Surely they will give me a glimpse into the world’s most powerful, the world’s most fascinating nation.

So why am I doing it? That is a fair question and one that does not offend me in the least. There are a few answers. First, I love to read and this project gives me an opportunity to read a lot. That, as I see it, is a good thing. Second, it is a challenge and I like to face a good challenge. I expect this project to involve at least ten million words of reading–break that down and you’ll see that it comes to at least three books per week over the course of an entire year. Third, I am interested in the cultural and worldview implications of all of these books. They will provide, I’m sure, a snapshot of where America is at as she enters a new decade. And for me, as a Canadian who spends a fair amount of time wandering the United States and who has family living in the United States, this stands to be particularly interesting.

When I say that I will be reading all of the New York Times Bestselling books, I refer to non-fiction only. Yes, novels can also provide great cultural insight, but only in a less-pointed way. Plus, I hate novels. So non-fiction it is. I will largely ignore the non-fiction paperback list as well simply because most of the paperbacks have been previously published in hardcover. The plan is to track the Times list on a weekly basis (the new list is available on Friday of each week) and to update my reading list accordingly. I will post a review (of sorts) of each of the books, hopefully within a few days of it showing up on the list.

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