Thursday, November 6, 2008

RIP John Leonard

John Leonard bites the dust at 69.

At an average of five books a week ... I will read 13,000. Then I'm dead. Thirteen thousand in a lifetime, about as many as there are new ones published every MONTH in this country.

I have no idea the exact number of books I've read. As a child, I read between 3 - 5 a week for several years, slowed down some in my teens, then picked up to a ferocious pace after adolescence for several years. Nowadays I average maybe one a week, albeit most of it garbage. When I left elementary school I'd read maybe 1/4 of all the books in the school's (small) library. I would have guessed it's a minimum of 5,000 books, and I should have a good 40 years to go. Yet when I look at Leonard's number, and my guesstimate of my own, my number seems a little Wilt Chamberlainesque.

So here's a breakdown: I have with me maybe 1000 books. I've donated about as many to libraries over the years. I've lost some, given some away, and then there are libraries, where a good chunk of the books I've read came from. Add in professional things I've read, and maybe 5,000 is too big a number. Maybe 3,000, 4,000 seems more accurate. It's still a lot of books compared to what most people read, but nowhere near the number I thought I'd read, until I looked at Leonard's calculation and thought about it some. And now it seems an inadequate number to me -- and if mine is inadequate.... What kind of world would this be, I wonder, if people made it a point to read one book a month. That's all, just one a month. It could be on any topic, fishing, sex, stamp collecting, romance -- it doesn't matter, just turn off the TV for awhile, find a quiet corner somewhere and read. What kind of world?