On Knowing Just How Much

I hear someone's goal for the year is 75 books. That seems like the kind of target you can hit only if you are working diligently. The margins for error are slim, and there is little time to fall behind.

To read 75 books in one year, you would need to finish 6.25 books per month. You would need to finish 1.44 books per week. Remember this does not involve page counts so the longer the book the more time you are occupied to reach the same goal as if you had chosen to read shorter books. How does quality factor into status quo?

This seems ambitious but it's also not so difficult to plan. If a book is 180 pages you would need to read 25.71 pages per day to finish it in one week, or 51.43 pages per day to finish a 360-page book in one week. Of course that would still only accomplish having read 52 books in one year which is 23 books short of the goal.

As I try to determine the likelihood of me reading 75 books in one year, it occurs to me that I can easily estimate how many books I am likely to read for the rest of my life.

My vice is acquiring books, to read sooner or later or for someone else. Now I can assume just how many titles I may actually get through and this new idea is terrifying. 

If I live for another 50 years, and if I can read 75 books each and every year without failure, then I will read 3,750 titles between now and when I die.

I suppose that is a lot of titles. That's more than what I have in my library right now.

Although maybe it's too ambitious to assume I would succeed in this.

If I live another 50 years and read only 20 books each year, then I will read only 1,000 titles between now and when I die.

If I only finish one book every month for the next 50 years, I will only have read 600 titles between now and when I die.

My library has more than 600 books in it. And of course I may live longer than 50 more years.

Or I may live for less. And my library will always have outnumbered me. 

To choose the next book I read now feels like crossing off days on a countdown to my death. I can estimate how many books I am likely to read before I die and then I can clear out my shelves of what will never make the cut.

I am distressed by how easily I can reduce a joy to an equation. I can control the answer if I work to maintain it. The idea of chance and pleasure are no longer random variables but conditions around what is already fixed: if I read this book then it is one more I have read before I die, if I do not read this book then it is one less I have read and I am still going to die.

We then return to the original question, which is, what's the point?