Over on Twitter recently, I read a post from a man who mentioned that he was abandoning more books than he finished these days. He wondered if that was normal as he got older.
I replied that it was probably a realization that we’re only going to read so many books in life. If you read 50 books a year — a high tally! — and you live for 50 more years — an optimistic guess for those of us in middle age — that is only 2500 books. That is it.
If you’re only going to read 2500 more books (or fewer!) then you want to be sure that any given book is worth including in that canon. However, you can’t be sure when you start a book if it’s going to be great. Hence the wisdom of abandoning books. If something just isn’t working for you, you want to let it go, so you can try something else that might be worth including in your life list.
I read a lot of books on the Kindle app on my phone; it’s easier than holding a book while nursing a squirmy toddler, which tends to be a big chunk of my reading time. So lately I’ve been employing the “Send a free sample” button a lot. I get about 20 pages, and can decide if I want to continue. Often I do. But sometimes I don’t. Which is just as well. You can build a rich reading life by trying broadly, but abandoning liberally. For something to make it on the 2500 book list, it should be good.
How many books do you read per year? I’ll have a low tally this year, but that’s partly because of my one-chapter-a-day reading of War and Peace.
Photo: The “Local Bookstore” 1000-piece puzzle from White Mountain.