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June 12, 2011

There are a lot of books I haven’t read.

I know I’m remiss about the classics. And more books being published every week. (Some of which are sent my way, thanks to the kindness of publishers and publicists.) Really, there is a staggering number of books I haven’t read. Books that look interesting. Books on my shelves, even. Unread. I came home with a stack of books from BEA. If you pile them up, they’re taller than I am.

And those are just the books I know about. How many other hundreds of thousands of interesting stories am I missing?

I’m helping my parents pack up to move out of the house they’ve lived in for almost 2o years. The main task is scaling down their book collection. Mostly, this means assembling boxes for the library. Sometimes, this means increasing my book collection. John Edgar Wideman. John Ciardi’s poetry. A book on the history of lobsters. I might need new bookshelves.

I’m shopping for an e-reader (update on that, I’m going to be borrowing my mother’s Kindle for a bit, deciding between that and the color Nook.) In the technical details, there is a number: The Kindle can hold 3,500 books. The Nook can hold 1,000. (With the potential, I understand, for a memory card opening the number up to many, many more.)

But let’s stick, for a moment, with the number 3,500.

Last year, I read over 100 books. At the midpoint of this year, I’m somewhere in the range of 60 books. So, figure, this year, 120 books or so. Keeping up that rate, it would take me 2-3  years to read 300 books. Even if I only read a Kindle going forward (dreary thought! I like the feel of paper) it would take me 30 years to read 3,500 books. At which point, I would be about the age that my parents are now. And who knows what would be written in the intervening years, how my reading habits might change.

Once the number 3,500 got into my head, it occurred to me to count how many books are on my shelves. I have bookshelves in my bedroom. I have bookshelves in my living room. Most of them are double-stacked, a bit jammed. It feels like morbid curiosity to wonder how close that number is to 3,500. Could two cozy rooms full of books be reduced to a single plastic device? With room to spare?

Scary thought.

“There are so many books I haven’t read!” I marveled, reading the inside flap of a book I was about to put into a box.

“Is that a happy thought, or overwhelming?” my father asked.

“A little bit of both. And books just keep being written!”

He laughed. “You’ll have to ask the publishing industry to take a time out! For at least a year, so you can catch up!”

A funny thought. But the publishing industry’s struggling enough to stay afloat, and they wouldn’t listen to one slightly overwhelmed book reviewer, anyway. I know I need to make more reading time. (And perhaps, cut back on the Facebook Scrabble.) To book publicists and editors- keep ’em coming. I’ll catch up to myself. Eventually.

Enough of these rambling thoughts. Where did I put my book?

One Comment leave one →
  1. June 13, 2011 9:09 am

    Huh. Interesting…now I’m tempted to count my own books as well, though that prospect is somewhat frightening.

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