145. Too Many Books, Too Little Time

WARNING: MATHS AHEAD

What is it with me and my obsession of buying new books?

Nothing wrong with the buying of books. In fact, the literate portion of the human race should spend more on books; and the illiterate portion of the human race should be made able to spend on books. Of course, I’m biased as a writer, but you would agree with me that there are incredible worlds and wisdom that would be lost forever if we didn’t read enough books.

A recent casual study by the ever entertainingly intelligent xkcd has determined that a dedicated reader could read the complete works of 500 to 1000 active writers, depending on the writing speed of those writers.

As of 2009, there were 43,390 people who identified themselves as writers of fiction within the United States alone. In 2003, the United States reported a 99% literacy rate among its citizens aged 15 and above. With a population size of 319 million people (2013 estimate), about 80% of whom are above 15 years of age, this equals to about 253 million literate folks against 43,390 writers. Even if you take the writers out of the literate folks number (let’s assume that they’re too busy writing to be reading anything), there is still plenty of room for plenty more reading for everyone.

The average reading speed is between 250 to 300 words per minute, so that’s between 15,000 and 18,000 words per hour. With 64,000 words contained in the average novel, this means that just by spending an hour a day reading, a person can finish reading a novel a week, and still have the weekends off!

(many thanks to Wolfram Alpha for its incredible resource of data)

But we’re talking about focused reading here.

In a world filled with so many wonderfully entertaining things, it’s easy to get distracted and go from one awesome thing to the next; which is the case with me and my books. I mean, I’ve barely even started with the books that I had bought from last year’s Big Bad Wolf book sale when I came across Mr. King’s epic Dark Tower series in early March this year. Then in my journey with Roland and his ka-tet towards The Dark Tower, I’ve picked up no fewer than 10 new titles, and they’re all just sitting there waiting to be read.

At least when I was too broke to buy new books for myself, I was kind of forced to stick with the same 2 books per week, until the time came to return the books to the library, and I got myself another 2 books. That’s the power of focus right there. Right now, there is a serious demand and supply problem between me and all the books in the world. I have so many unread titles just sitting around that – I kid you not – I almost gave away my brand new copy of The Hobbit (fancy dragon illustrated cover and all) for a gift exchange.

(luckily, a fun-looking big bouncy pink ball was found just in time for said gift exchange; and thus the hand of Abraham was stilled, and Isaac was spared)

What I really need – and I can hear the chorus of voices agreeing – is to do some proper focused reading. Start a book, finish a book without getting distracted with another book in the process. Focus on completion. Focus on the end.

Perhaps I should pick up a book on that.

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