This may seem quite the internet rabbit hole, but follow me for just a moment. I promise we’ll get to Wonderland quickly.
I read a fantastic Farnam Street article called How to Read A Book,
which recommended Mortimer Adler’s book of the same title.
These days, I look into book reviews before shelving anything on my To Read list because it’s growing rather crowded and daunting.
Goodreads, being the helpful peddler that it is for us book addicts, tried to tempt me with yet another book recommendation. (Truthfully, that tangent was my fault because I am addicted to the “Readers Also Enjoyed” widget.)
Of course, that led to reading more reviews…
We arrive at Wonderland – I stumbled onto a review here that changed my perspective on reading forever. We’ll get to the review itself soon, but for now, I’m going to show you what I did following its example:
- By using Goodreads to “shelve” and rate books for the past few years, I know that I have read somewhere around 250-300 books (some are excluded from my bookshelves intentionally; many others are forgotten).
- Admittedly not factoring in age of literacy, that’s an average of 10 to 12 books per year since birth. Way to go, math friends. I’m 25. :)
- If I live to be 100 and read 52 books every year (one per week) starting now, that would add 3,848 books to my entire reading career for a total somewhere between 4098-4148.
How about some global comparison for those numbers? 4 years ago, Google Books counted roughly 130 million books in existence (and that number has certainly risen).
Best case scenario: I will read ≤ ~4000 books in my lifetime or just 0.00003% of what’s available.
Realistically, that percentage is even smaller. Many books have been published since 2010, some qualifications were included in Google’s original count, I might not live to such a robust age, I’d be lucky to manage 52 books per year, etc.
Oh, I can hear the outcries already! Of course, there are plenty of books that I -or anyone- would not want to read. Rude as it may sound, there are some dud books out there. But let’s say only the top 1% of those 130 million were “worth reading” (pretending that could be measured). I’d still only manage to consume .003% of the “worthy”. Not even 1% of 1%.
Does this tiny fragment of attainable literary knowledge shock anyone else? I have always known I could not read everything. But now I can visualize how important it is for me to get much more comfortable saying “no” to books. Many books. Most books. Nearly. Every. Single. Book.
Let me bring us back to that book review I said I needed to mention later –
“Therefore, choices have to be made. Ruthless choices. Good books might have to be sacrificed for Great Books.” -Steve Sckenda’s Goodreads review of The New Lifetime Reading Plan
I just couldn’t say it better than that.