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Too Many Books: The perils of working in a bookstore


I read a lot. I tend to have at least two books on the go at once, sometimes three or four, and flip between them haphazardly. My tastes are fairly wide, and I consider myself pretty well-read.

Or I did, until I started working at the Book House.

I was always notionally aware that were an awful lot of books in the world. The last person who could make a reasonable claim to have read all the books that were available to read in the world was probably Benjamin Franklin; the sheer volume of works being published have overtaken the amount that any one person could read in a lifetime a long, long time ago.

Consider this. I’m 40 years old at the time of writing. I could reasonably expect to live another forty years, lifestyle withstanding. That’s 14,600 days of life left (we’ll not count leap years). If I could read one book a day, every day, for the rest of life, that’s just under 15,000 books I could read.

That’s about 1/4 of the books we have catalogued online at the store. And under one tenth of the books we actually have on the shelves. What we have in the store, of course, is a small fraction of the books currently in print. Which, in turn, is only a small fraction of the books that are out there, in print or out of print.

Even though our store only has a ‘mere’ fraction of the books in the world, they’re still a very physical reminder that there an awful lot of books available. New visitors tend to boggle at the shelves and shelves of volumes, reaching from floor to ceiling, covering every wall (and often expanding out and claiming floor space). These are books that, in a very real sense, are sitting there waiting for you to pick them up and read them, like a polite reminder that you had something you were meant to be doing.

And working in such a place, of course, means you’re confronted with all these expectant books every single day. It’s slightly unnerving. It makes me want to complain to the management. Not the management of the store, but the management of Life, the Universe, and Everything. I feel like I should get a couple more centuries to make some headway on all these stories. Were there a Heaven, I would expect it to have very full bookshelves. I would find it hard to consider it heaven if it didn’t.

In more reasonable, down to earth terms, I’m not trying to read one book a day every day for the rest of my life. I have signed up for a challenge of 75 books by the end of the year at Goodreads. This seemed a reasonable figure to try, and so far I’m not so terribly behind on my schedule.

I’m certainly not lacking for suggestions for what to read while I’m working at the store, and the books are coughing politely, tempting me to take them home.

2013 Reading Challenge

2013 Reading Challenge
Dave has
read 9 books toward his goal of 75 books.
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