So many books, so little time

There’s an article on about the number of books people read in a year, which prompted me to have a look at my records.

Since 2004, I’ve been keeping a list of the books I read in a spreadsheet. Yes, yes, I know, what a geek. But it’s interesting to look back and see, for example, what I was reading this time last year, or the balance of children’s books and adult fiction. Or the year I was addicted to manga and spent a fortune on Japanese comics.

It turns out there’s an enormous variation in the amount I read. Since 2004, I’ve averaged 63 books a year, with a minimum of 35 and a maximum of 113 (which was the year I was addicted to manga – you can read a lot of manga in a short time, but your wallet won’t thank you).

So far this year, I’ve read 43 books, which means I’m ahead of the average.

But does the number of books really matter? The year I read 113 books, 47 of them were manga. The year I read 35 included two Patrick Rothfuss, a George R.R. Martin, and a whopper of a Neal Stephenson book. Michel Faber’s The Crimson Petal and the White took me all of May to read in that year, but I was reading it every day and thoroughly enjoying it.

Does it matter if you read 50 books or a hundred, if you’re reading all the time, and enjoying the books you read?

Since I started keeping my records, I’ve noticed a slight reluctance to start longer books, because I know they’re going to take a long time – should I read the next Song of Ice and Fire book, or a Joan Aiken, a Michelle Paver, and the next Wells and Wong mystery by Robin Stevens?

You see, the problem is: there are so many books I want to read. I read a lot – it’s a rare day that I don’t read for at least half an hour in bed – but still, my “to be read” pile is tottering.

I suppose it means that my standards for long books have gone up. If it’s 250-300 pages, I’ll give it a shot – no harm done if it’s not that great. And I’ve taken a punt and discovered some brilliant books using that thinking. But if it’s 500 pages long, and it’s not particularly good, I start thinking about the other books I could have been reading in that time.

Neal Stephenson’s new book, Seveneves, is out soon, and it’s 880 pages long. Think of the number of books I could read in that time! Still, it’s not going to stop me. I’ve pre-ordered the Kindle edition.

I’m just going to have to accept that, despite the speedy start in the first five months, 2015 might be a bit of a below-average year.



  1. Wow, 63 books a year is a pretty good rate. So far I’m above my average this year as I’ve started my second book of the year already! However I’d been averaging 1 book every 2 years before that!

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