Poetry & ProsePsychology

1001 books

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.