reading, writing

So Many Books

I was listening to a podcast at work, as I often do to occupy my mind while my fingers are busy with mindless tasks, and a line caught me ‘you can only read so many books in your life.’ The speaker then went on to recommend a documentary on Netflix. So instead of reading, you should spend two hours watching a movie instead?

I realize I’m somewhat – ok, I’m a lot – Odd in that I can usually read a novel in 2-3 hours if I’m curled up uninterrupted and enjoying the read. I’m slower, these days, in that I rarely have time to read at all, and never uninterrupted. Also, that enjoyment thing affects reading speed. If it’s not a fun, immersive reading experience, and I’m struggling to stay in the book, it will take me a lot longer. And that fun experience has nothing to do with it being a light-and-fluffy read. I can get sucked into non-fiction if it’s well done. I can have a horrible time with fiction that is poorly constructed or more self-aware of it’s message than the story. I’ve been reading two books in turn this last week – one is short vignettes of a Park Ranger’s life, another is a mystery. I’ve been enjoying both, and that I’ve been making slow progress is no reflection on either.

But with every passing day, I know that I will never read all the books I’d like to. As I slowly start to unpack and shelve books in the new house, and try to estimate how many shelf-feet of bookshelves I need to buy or make to hold all of them, I look at titles and think ‘when will I read this? Will I read this?’ and I know that in some cases, I won’t. I mean to, but… I have a lot of books. I have books I read years ago, and somehow wound up with another copy, or have been carrying it around since then. Some few of my books are travelers – they have accompanied me half-way ’round the world from a long-ago trip to Hay-on-Wye, or they were gifted to me by relatives in Alaska, Oregon, and elsewhere. Some of my books have sentimental value, like the boxes of books my grandmother recently gave me, each with a little note explaining which of my relatives had owned and used it, including some school books used by ancestral children-grown-and-lived-but-now-dead.

How many books can I read in my life? All of them! is a vainglorious cry, even if I am not half-way through my projected lifespan. Realistically, there will be books I want to read, books I need to read, and books I read because they happen to be there at the right time and place. After all, I can only read so many books in my life. I need to get cracking, because time’s awastin’ and I’ve got a lot to get into my head. I don’t have time for staring at screens!

15 thoughts on “So Many Books

    1. I’m still not sure how to handle shelves here without covering up all the lovely paneling. I have an idea, but it would involve building shelves… not sure I have the time for that, and I am at best a nominal carpenter.

    1. Yep. Same here. I don’t know why, really, if you think about it it’s not like they’ll do us any good if we don’t somehow use the imbibed knowledge. But still, I have this compulsion to read as much as is humanly possible.

  1. I may not be able to read them all, but as long as my friends keep writing, I’ll keep trying !

  2. “World enough and time…” I read stories about Lazarus Longs that live so long they grow blase about life and do not appreciate immortality, but that concept never rang true for me.Then again, I haven’t lived for 1,000 years.

  3. I do a lot of reading during breaks at work. I carry several dozen books in the trunk of my car. I have no idea where in the house I could put them. I suppose I’ll have to build some shelves (said the least handy handyman in Virginia).

    1. I used to always have a book in my purse or car. Now, I still have one in my art purse (the Big Bag) but I read on my phone at lunch or in those weird moments in life where you’re waiting. I have access to hundreds of books I own, and if I want, I can buy one of millions almost instantly.

  4. I clicked on the mystery to see which one you were reading and whether it was one I’ve read or might like to read. I hope you enjoy it!

    Yeah, I’ll probably die with either a book or my ereader clutched in my hands. I want to read loads of books that are out and loads more that are yet to be published. I know I won’t be able to read them all, but I’m gonna try.

  5. Hay-on-Wye… is it still there? Happy, dusty memories of foraging through acres of bookshelves. That was where I found the eighteenth-century Annual Register that announced a royal pardon for all felons except murderers, rapists, and people named McGregor.

    Relying on documentaries — apart from the time issue — means relying on other people to pick out the good stuff. A toast to original sources!

    1. I think it is, I believe Dad visited a year or two ago on a trip over there. I haven’t been since I was 18!

      And yes, which is why I collect some interesting old books…

  6. Little talked about retirement thing. There still isn’t enough time to read all the books.
    The authors I really enjoy reading are writing more books all the time!
    We are doing less tree books and more electron books. Storage space is part of the issue, but it is more of being able to adjust the font size, and letting me switch easily between books as my mood changes.

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