Out of the books you own, how many have you read?

I saw an interesting question on Reddit today. A poster asked, “What percentage of your personal library have you read?” and it got me thinking about my own library.

I’ve always been of the mind that my library isn’t large enough. I never seem to have enough books; letting me walk into a bookstore is like letting me burn a $100 bill, at least in the sense that there’s no way you’re getting that $100 back. I would buy books at the grocery store if I ever let myself go down that aisle, which I don’t, because I don’t need to be buying books at the grocery store. But the siren song of paperbacks is a hard one to resist.

But back to my library as it currently stands. I could never tell you off the top of my head how many books I own, but I know they take up this many shelves:


Of course, this was taken in September, so it doesn’t include any of the books I got for my birthday or Christmas or Valentine’s Day or books I’ve just bought on my own. I probably acquire anywhere from 20-30 new books every year. Occasionally, I’ll find a bargain book bin somewhere—Staples, Walmart—and buy a few more. These are most often the books that remain unread; I’ll take them down from my shelf, wondering where they came from, and then see the “Clearance” sticker on them and remember.

Then, of course, there are my husband’s books, some of which I’ve read and some of which I haven’t. I definitely haven’t read any on the two bottom shelves of the bookcase nearest the window; those are Andrew’s dental school textbooks. The shelves above them house our nonfiction collection, most of which I also haven’t read (or, at least, haven’t finished).

Out of that whole collection on all those shelves, I’d say I’ve probably read about 60%. Out of the fiction books housed there—most of the fiction we own is mine, I think—I’d say the number is more like 80%. It’s certainly nowhere near 100%, as I would go crazy if I didn’t have at least a few unread books to look forward to. I admire people who can wait to buy a new book until they’re finished reading their current one, but if I did that, I’d be going to a bookstore every 3-4 days. That’s just not sustainable. I’m guessing these people generally don’t read more than one or two books a month, or perhaps read mostly ebooks that they can buy from their couch and receive immediately.

I wish I wasn’t too lazy to do some scientific study of the average percentage of books remain unread, despite being purchased and spending months (or years!) on someone’s bookshelf, because I feel like it could reveal a lot about people’s buying habits as well as their reading habits. Oh well. I’m an event planner, not a researcher.

How about you? Do you have the incredible amount of self-control required to only buy books one at a time, and not until you’ve finished one? Or do you buy books with wild abandon, glancing only momentarily at their covers before tossing it in your bag? I imagine most of us fall somewhere in between. Let me know in the comments!

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7 thoughts on “Out of the books you own, how many have you read?

  1. So based on what I’ve entered into Goodreads (which is more or less accurate), I’ve read a little over half of the books I own. The REALLY bad thing about it is that I don’t have permanent shelving. I have utility shelves at the moment and hubs has plans to build floor to ceiling bookshelves (one of these days) so the books I’ve read actually go back into my office, boxed up for when that day arrives. Which means that ALL of the books people actually see in my house are books that I’ve never read. It’s bad!

    • Funny! I’ve never really put Goodreads to use the way I should, and my to-read list there is miles long and I don’t own most of those books, so Goodreads definitely wouldn’t help me there. I hope your future built-in shelves are the best thing ever (I bet they will be!!).

  2. This is really interesting to hear because I almost exclusively buy books only after getting them from the library or borrowing them from a friend, loving them, and deciding that I will want to re-read them one day. So I’ve read basically 100% of the books I own.

    • That’s awesome. I’ve never been so good at the library thing, and I’d like to get better, but I also like owning my books from the start, rather than going out and buying them once I’ve already read them. Interesting perspective though!!

  3. I have one bookshelf of books and I’ve read them all. I’d love to have more, but with frequent moves, this makes more sense for me. I take books off my shelf and send them to or share them with others. That just frees up room for new books! Since I use the library mostly, this system has been pretty successful. Although, one day I’d love to have a Beauty and the Beast style library with a ladder and everything!

    • That’s so cool! I…definitely acquire too many books, despite moving a lot. We have two large shelves that pretty much contain them all (or they did at our old house, pre-BEA…we’ll see what happens now, as we haven’t unpacked them yet). I’ve said this about a billion times, but I need to get better about my library usage.

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