I’m not a book hoarder. I’m prepping for the possibility that one day I might have 173 years to do nothing but read.JONATHAN EDWARD DURHAM
I was going through my bookshelf the other day, and it hit me – my pile of unread books is on a constant growth spurt.
I was always an avid reader. I remember when I was in school I would eagerly look forward to the library period. While for most of the students, it was a welcome break from studies, I was counting the minutes until I could dive into some good books. They didn’t let us take books home until we hit like 7th or 8th grade, and even then, it was just one book per week. To instill reading habits, our library instructor made it mandatory for students to submit a summary of the book they were issued. I would write summaries for friends in exchange for borrowing their books, allowing me to devour more than the allotted one per week.
My hometown Kanpur wasn’t exactly a haven for bookstores back then. Universal Book Store in Gumti was my go-to spot, but their collection was mostly textbooks. It wasn’t until my college days in Jaipur that I discovered stores like Crosswords and occasionally started purchasing books using my pocket money.
Fast forward to when I landed my first job in Hyderabad. Odyssey in Jubilee Hills was a book lover’s dream (sadly, it has since closed its doors). I set aside a fixed chunk of my salary every month to feed my growing book collection.
Cut to the present, and my bookshelf is now home to a ballooning pile of unread books, which doesn’t go well with my otherwise minimalistic lifestyle. I’ve shifted from an eager reader to more of a book hoarder.
Now, as some of you would know, I keep track of my reading activity in a Google sheet – I have explained my method here. Armed with four years of meticulous reading data, starting from 2019 (regrettably, I neglected to track in 2023, but I am resuming from 2024), it’s time to leverage this wealth of information. This is what a rudimentary analysis has revealed:
- Average no. of days I read in a year: 157 days
- Average time devoted to reading in a day: 23 minutes
- Average reading speed: 40 pages per hour
- Average length of books I prefer to read: 300 pages
- Authors I read the most: Agatha Christie, PG Wodehouse, Ruskin Bond, Sudha Murthy, Satyajit Ray, Jeffrey Archer
- Time taken to finish a book: 300/40 = 7.5 hours
- Days required to finish a book: (7.5 * 60)/23 = 20
- Books finished in a year: 157/20 = 8
Assuming I’ve got a good 40 years left in me, that’s potentially 320 books. Let’s consider a stretch goal of 400. That’s all the books I can read in the remaining years of my life.
Guiding Principles for Curating My Bookshelf
Confronted with this numerical reckoning, I’m standing here, looking at my bookshelf. It’s time to make some tough decisions and establish certain guidelines for myself.
- The time has come to streamline my collection. I’ll donate books that I know I will never start or complete, and exercise restraint in future purchases.
- This also means prioritizing books that bring me joy, not just those that make me (look) smart. So, it’s more P.G. Wodehouse, Agatha Christie, mythology with the occasional dive into history, politics, and business books.
- I’m also going to be more ruthless in discarding books midway if I don’t like them.
- I’ll engage in book swaps with friends so I can read new books without having to find a place for them on my bookshelf. Only if I want to re-read a book later I will consider purchasing it and giving it a space on my bookshelf.
- Although I typically lean away from e-books, I will opt for the Kindle version when I’m uncertain about a book. If I find that I enjoy it, then I will consider purchasing the paperback edition to give it a space on my bookshelf. Sure, I’ll pay twice for the same book, but I believe I can treat myself to this little luxury.
Next on the agenda? Make a list of “To-Read” books from my unread stack and donate the rest. I’ll share the list here, just in case someone is interested in the same reads, and I’ll provide occasional updates on my reading journey.
Here’s to 2024 and beyond!