Benefits of planning one’s reading

Never mind a few years ago I thought making any plans beyond the end of the week was silly and misguided. That was before I hit 40 and was slapped in the face with the spectre of my own mortality. An unpleasant experience that was, in more ways than one. First off, ever been slapped by Death? Not high on anyone's list of Fun Things. Second, there went any hope I'd live long enough to get around to reading those ancient classics, at least not willy-nilly at my own leisurely pace.

I no longer think it's silly planning out not just a year's reading but five year and ten year plans as well. And not to say I'm elderly or suffering from a fatal disease but it's simple math/probability the longer you live the more likely you are to die. I never was good at math but I think I may have that one right.

First, those authors whose works I'd like to read to completion (insert joke about "happy finish" here):





Dickens Woolf Faulkner






Henry James

Edith Wharton

Thomas Hardy

Truman Capote



Wharton Thomashardy Capote







Then, works I want to say I've read, in order to throw that fact around at dinner parties (which I never attend but never mind that):

Remembrance of Things Past



Anna Karenina


Remembrancepast Ulysses Moby-dick Annk









Infinite Jest

Gravity's Rainbow










Authors whose works I've read almost completely and want to finish because they're either handsome and I want be thoroughly conversant with them when next I meet them, god willing, or I just plain respect the living hell out of them:


Sebastian Barry

Julian Barnes

Sebastian Barry

Margaret Atwood

Whomever I'm reading at the time and feel thoroughly impressed by.



Julianbarnes Sebastianbarry Margaretatwood






Joyce Carol Oates, though I'm not sure my mind can remain stable if I do so








Writers whom I haven't read yet and should have, which encompasses so many I cannot even recall them all.




Writers whose series fiction is completely addicting:

Susan Hill

Ian Rankin









Books which seduce me, often new books sent to me for review or those I stumble upon serendipitously.




100 best novels – Modern Library (except those of no interest to me).

100 best nonfiction – Modern Library (see above).


All the books I personally own, number in the thousands, save those I start and find uninteresting and either donate or exchange for credit at used book stores.

[Mental Note: Should consider photographing major book storage areas in my house, to post at a later date, assuming blog hosting site can handle that much photo storage space.]




Alright. Well, that's not so bad, now, is it? Totally doable. Assuming I can read 100 books per year (not out of the realm of possibility), the Modern Library will keep me busy a mere two years (and I've read many on the list of novels already), though I won't read them all in one year because I distract far too easily.

Big, chunker books like Ulysses should take, what, six months to a year to read slowly and digest? So that's four years for what I've been able to remember, countless years for those I've forgotten.

Completing authors: five years each, perhaps? Fifteen years, again plus those I've forgotten or have put on the "maybe" list. Assume a good twenty more of these for a total of (gets out calculator) 100 years.

Authors I respect and want to impress: I've listed four, plus let's assume 50 more for whomever else should be on the list. Total shot in the dark Best estimate: Fifteen years.

Series fiction? Depends how long each author lives. Forty years?

Serendipitous books, paired with the thousands I own: Roughly 100 years.

Grand total:   271 years at 100 books per year


Piffle! Scientists say they'll eventually cure death, so that's one point for me. The sun will eventually consume the Earth, if the Andromeda Galaxy hasn't gotten us first, but that's a good few billion years out. Oh, but that's if Yellowstone or another Super Volcano doesn't erupt (could be any day now), or idiotic people with nuclear and other world-destructive capability don't accidentally hit the Red Button (ditto), or a mutant disease doesn't escape from some laboratory somewhere (ditto). Like that super-strain of bird flu recently developed. Something of that nature, which was a BRILLIANT IDEA, by the way. BRILLIANT!

To my mind, my goals are totally doable. I can rest much easier knowing that. What a relief! Ah, I feel better.


4 thoughts on “Benefits of planning one’s reading

  1. Well, Moby Dick is April’s Classics Book Club read! So there you go.
    I can totally relate. It’s so overwhelming to consider all the many books we want to read!


  2. Rebecca, I remembered MD was a book club read a couple days after posting this! So that’s one I’ll definitely accomplish this year.
    Depressing all the books I’ll never get to, though. I’ve been loading my Kindle with a lot of classic freebies, including some short works by Dickens. Curious to see how I like those.


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