Like my own Shahrazad, I’ve told myself 1,001 stories to keep myself distracted from (doing) bad things.
Numbers are to be taken with a grain of salt, of course. But 1,001 is the number that now shows up on my Goodreads account next to the shelf that says “read”. It’s likely missing a couple dozen books that I read as a child/teen and that I can’t remember, but we’ll ignore that for now.
So, going along with that idealised number: I have, at the time of publishing this, indeed read 1,001 books during my life so far, from flimsy booklet to massive tome.
Further going by Goodreads’ stats, that was on average 255 pages per book, which indeed does seem pretty average, and means that all of the shorter comic books and mini-publications were well-compensated for by the more hefty books.
The year I read the most books (120) was 2010, not coincidentally the year I was working at the American Book Center before starting my PhD that October. This period, combining enough free time, easy access to books, and the incentive to broaden my literary and scholarly horizons, was very fruitful for me in many ways.
The worst year in recent history was 2016 (11 books), which again is not surprising, as I went through a lot of shit that year, including suffering a hard comedown from finishing my PhD, and I didn’t have the mental energy to read much except what I had to for work.
It’s almost like I operate on inscrutable multi-year energy cycles that also affect my reading habits…
Any way, what does this mean? I think it means I have an insatiable curiosity for many things in life, at least as approachable through the medium of the printed word, rather than embodied experience. The latter has, for a few reasons, always been more problematic for me. Books truly can be an escape.
If you were to ask me “should I read more books?” my answer would be…
It depends. If you want to, certainly. Reading, like many other things, can be something that you need to get into the right mindset for to do. There were years where I read far less than others, sometimes because I was occupied with other entertainments, and sometimes because I was not in the right psychical place. So, inevitably, there will be times when you aren’t reading as much as you’d want to. Give yourself time, the pendulum will swing back when it is ready.
Asking myself “was it worth it?”…
This is a strange question I’m asking myself. It’s hard for me to imagine having done things any differently. Reading has served many therapeutic, intellectual, spiritual, and pleasurable functions for me. It feels so natural that worth almost doesn’t seem to come into it.
My favourite book?
If you were to have asked me that question fifteen years ago, it would probably have been The Lord of the Rings — or The Silmarillion if I was in a mood to look particularly contrarian and esoteric. But the more I read, the less relevant / more difficult such questions became to me. I have the same problem with all of these ‘desert island’ questions: don’t get me started on 10 favourite music albums and such. I’ll save you a rant about why this is.
I have little more to say about this right now; I mainly just wanted to mark a weird milestone. You know where to find me if you have a question about any of those 1,001 books, or the hundreds on my (virtual) to-read pile.