The following quote has stuck in my mind for many years:
A man ought to read just as inclination leads him: for what he reads as a task will do him little good.
I first ran across the quote in Spivak’s Calculus in college and have largely followed its advice ever since.
I did not, however, remember that the author of the quote was Samuel Johnson. This morning I was reading James Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson and was pleasantly surprised to run across his quote in context.
Idleness is a disease which must be combated; but I would not advise a rigid adherence to a particular plan of study. I myself have never persisted in any plan for two days together. A man ought to read just as inclination leads him: for what he reads as a task will do him little good. A young man should read five hours in a day, and so may acquire a great deal of knowledge.
This passage made me feel better about having skipped over large parts of the biography that I found tedious. Perhaps Doctor Johnson would approve.
Related post: Reading old books