According to my life expectancy, I have 2,606 more books to read. The countdown starts now.
Friday, August 27, 2010
In the beginning
I love to read. I’m the sort of person who always has several books on the go, who can’t travel anywhere without just a few too many books in his bag, who squirrels books away in any unfilled cupboard, draw or bag he can find and who has now even started to measure out his life in books.
Appropriately enough, it started with a book. “1,001 Books You Must Read Before You Die”, edited by Peter Boxall to be precise. 1,001 Books claims to do what it says on the tin – list the 1,001 books we should read before we die. I love lists. The top ten this, the greatest ever that, all are grist to my mill. So, a list of books? Perfect. I bought it. I then did what probably 99% of readers would do. I went through it and checked off all the books I’d read. There were surprisingly few – just over 80. As I’ve always thought of myself as reasonably well read, this came as a bit of a shock. Now, to be fair, the book is trying to cover the entire world and ranges across all time periods, so it can’t list every “classic”. So there are many great works that I have read which don’t make the cut.
It did, however, give me cause to think. It is fair to say that I’ve got into a bit of a rut on the old reading front. I’ve become less adventurous than in my younger days. I tend now to read books on history, food and politics, with the odd thriller and sports book thrown in. In particular, I have become a lapsed fiction reader and, on the odd occasion when I do pick up a non-genre novel, it tends to be by an author with whom I am familiar. So I have come to a decision. I am going to read my way through the books listed in 1,001 Books and blog about each one on this site. I have set myself a few rules and will write about these in my next post.
So where do the remaining 1,605 books come in? Simple. I came across a superb spreadsheet listing all the books in each of the 2006, 2008 and 2010 editions of 1,001 Books and enabling the user to keep track of their reading. If you are interested, here is the link - http://johnandsheena.co.uk/books/?page_id=1806. It also has a tool which allows you to calculate how many books you have left to read before you die, based on your life expectancy and estimated reading speed. As I have grown older, and even more so since the birth of my daughter, I have become morbidly prone to calculating things by reference to when I expect to keel over. How many more World Cups will I see? How old will my daughter (or, optimistically, granddaughter) be? How much will I be able to save and will it last? As you can imagine, I couldn’t resist this tool and it spat out the magic number of 2,606 books for me.
Now, obviously, this is a spuriously accurate number. For a start, my real life expectancy is probably greater than the average life expectancy as I have already attained a reasonable age. Also, as someone in full-time employment, my available reading time is likely to increase once I retire (assuming the Government ever lets me). Medical developments and better healthcare may also give me a little more time. So, hopefully, I will be around for book 3,000 and beyond.
Nevertheless, I am going to accept the number, am going to blog about the additional 1,605 books (which will be any books I damn well like) as well as my original 1,001 Books and will laugh in the face of Old Father Time when I get to book 2,607. I hope you can join me for the journey and that you may even find some books for you along the way.
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You have no idea the debate this post generated here in the office when I mentioned how you reached the number 2606. We started calculating how many books we could still expect to read and wondering for instance, once in retirement, would you read more? What about when you have kids, doesn't your average go down? What a fascinating (and somewhat scary) thought!
One more argument for not hesitating about dropping a book I'm not enjoying.
I'm looking forward to following your journey!
Alexandra - I took the view that childrean take up lots of time until they become teenagers and the your average can start to recover. Retirement should also increase my speed (unless I start losing my marbles!)and so it probably balances out the parenting years. Coming up with a number does have a morbid air of finality about it though and I would agree with not hesitating to drop an unenjoyable read - something I need to keep in mind.
Anyway, thanks for reading. I hope you can stop by again and that you enjoy it.
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