The Bookshelf Problem
You really want to improve your Chinese, but for a while now have been feeling like you’re lacking something. You take a trip to the book store to browse its offerings in the “Chinese” section.
One particular title catches your eye. You’ve never seen it before. Leafing through it, you decide you like the layout, and some of the examples given. It has a lot of interesting content you could benefit from. A warm feeling comes over you; this is the book that you need to give your Chinese studies a boost! You quickly purchase the book and head home, your fresh new inspiration under your arm.
A week later, the book is sitting on your shelf. It’s been days since you picked it up. You’ve been busy. It’s really a good book, and you’ll definitely use it later.
As time goes by, you wonder why your progress in Chinese is so slow. You want it bad, and you’re dedicated. You can tell that much just by taking a look at your bookshelf. It’s chock-full of books on learning Chinese.
And therein lies the problem.
You’ve been putting time and effort into finding just the right books to learn Chinese rather than buckling down and just doing it. Rather than getting you significant progress, all the time and energy you’ve put into Chinese has gotten you a bookshelf full of books for learning Chinese… and not much else.
This is the bookshelf problem.
I’m intimately acquainted with the problem, and I have the bookshelf to prove it. I’m not ashamed I fell into it (there are far worse vices to be ensnared by), but I’ve had to put a brake on the “book-buying instead of studying” mentality. I really do have all the books I need.
I think the bookshelf problem isn’t exclusive to books, either. Have you ever found yourself on a wild goose chase to find “the perfect Chinese blog,” or “the best flashcard program” or “the “best Chinese TV show?” Worthwhile quests, to be sure, but it’s really easy to get caught up in the pursuit and forget what you were really after.
This doesn’t mean that there is some magic formula like:
Buy 1 textbook + 1 good dictionary + 1 grammar book
…and then never buy another book again!
Of course not. The occasional new acquisition can keep your studies fresh and boost your motivation.
I’m just saying that if the situation above sounds at all familiar, you might want to consider the bookshelf problem before buying that new bookshelf.