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!by