On the way home from the Philadelphia Sixers game we attended last week, Tim and I got to talking about books — what we read, why we read it, where we like to get our books, etc. Books aren’t an unusual topic of conversation for us, but this time, as we talked, I got to thinking about My Life List.
Item #4 on my list is to read 1000 books. When I wrote that on my list, I did some very quick mental math to figure out whether it’s even remotely feasible to read 1000 books during the remainder of my lifetime. Answer: it is, but I’m going to need to live a while.
If I live until I’m 85, I have another 54 years to enjoy reading. And if I’m going to read 1000 books during that time, I need to read 18.5 books a year, which comes out to one book every 19-20 days. Is that doable? Maybe.
Five years ago, I wasn’t reading very much, so at the beginning of 2006, I made a New Year’s resolution to read at least one book each month. By the end of the year, I had surprised myself by reading a total of 25 books. I haven’t read nearly as much in the years since then, and if you look at my track record for the past several years, it’s clear that I’m going to need to step up the pace a bit if I’m going to reach my new reading goal.
Here are the number of books I’ve read during each of the past five years (2010 figures are incomplete, of course).
2006 – 25
2007 – 14
2008 – 12
2009 – 12
2010 – 16 and counting
I’ve always taken a pretty haphazard approach to selecting books to read. Often I’ll just stumble across something that looks interesting either at the library or some kind of used book sale. Sometimes I’ll read a book that a friend recommended to me or that I’m generally familiar with due to its popularity. And of course, when I was in a book club, I read whatever we all agreed on.
There are tons of books that sound interesting that I’m sure I would enjoy reading. But as I think about my goal to read 1000 books during the remainder of my lifetime, it makes me realize that I have a finite amount of time in which to read a finite number of books. So while I’m not entirely sure what this will mean, I’ve decided to be a bit more mindful about the books I decide to read.
Currently, this means that I’m reading “Dreams from My Father” by Barack Obama, and soon I will also read his book “The Audacity of Hope.” I bought them for a few bucks at our local library’s used book sale this fall, but they’ve been sitting on one of our bookshelves for a few weeks, waiting for me to finish reading some other books.
Speaking of books on the bookshelf, while I was writing this, Tim walked into the room and found me kneeling on the floor in front of a bookshelf, pulling out books and putting them on a stack. I own an embarrassing number of books that have never read. And by embarrassing, I mean 36.
Half a dozen of those are ones I purchased new, but the other 30 books were bought for cheap at either a used book store/sale or the Green Valley Book Fair. Interestingly, I purchased 23 of the books within the past 15 months, so they definitely still have a good chance of being read, but I’m still embarrassed to realize that I’ve amassed so many unread books. If I start now, I could have them all finished by the beginning of 2013, but who likes to plan their entertainment two years in advance?!
However, I clearly need a little intervention, so I’m developing a few guidelines for myself while reserving the right to be spontaneous. Here are my guidelines:
1. Being mindful of the fact that I will read a finite number of books in my lifetime, choose wisely.
2. Check my “books I want to read” list more often.
3. Read the books I own before buying more!
(I don’t like that last guideline, but I’m going to try to stick to it. Boo.)