The Sobering Mathematics of Reading

Most of us like to assume otherwise, but the fact of the matter is that the number of books any person can read is pathetically small compared to the number of books available.

Canadian author and Bookninja blogger George Murray recently reminded his readers of the dreary mathematical quandry faced by all avid readers:

“How many books can you read in a week, or a month? If you’re judging the Booker prize you probably have to slog through a novel a day, but most people would do well to finish a novel a week. That’s about four a month, or perhaps 40 a year (allowing for holidays). So, even if you throw in a few extras, the average reader will have done well to consume 50 new titles a year, probably many fewer. Yes, there’s an astounding amount of choice and novelty out there, but we are unlikely to explore it, however much we might want to. We simply do not have the time, or perhaps the energy, to fully exploit the contemporary cornucopia of print.”

Although George was making this point with respect to the controversy on whether or not electronic books will be Good For Readers, we think it’s actually a periodically-needed reminder that we might consider being a bit more choosey in selecting the books we decide to spend time with.


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