Is there such a thing as too much reading for a PhD?

Library in Medellin, Colombia

I shouldn’t have been surprised about the amount of reading I need to do as I start my PhD, but somehow I was. In order to talk about this, I need to read that, but in order to understand that, I need to read this, which contains concepts I need to clarify by reading her, and if that isn’t enough there’s this guy who wrote about it too, but kind of at right-angles to what everyone else was writing so you won’t really be sure if it’s relevant until you’ve spent an hour trying to understand that text.

It is effectively infinite regression, and all the time I’m aware that so much social writing in academia is full of blind spots. So if I just read the academic literature I’ll probably end up with some pretty distorted views. But going beyond it means more reading.

The reality is that you end up speed-reading quite a lot, trying to work out if it’s relevant to your interests, or just to make sure you’ve understood enough to be able to talk about it without sounding ignorant.

This is all fine for now because I’m just at the beginning, but at some point I’m going to need to put a lid on it. I’d love to know of any advice about how to limit your reading in the academic world. It seems to me this is a key skill I will need to acquire in the coming years.