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  • Hannah Fielding - Romance Novelist


If you’re reading this blog post, it’s a safe assumption that you’re a reader: you enjoy reading books (perhaps even my own novels; I do hope so). Consider these questions:

How much time do you devote to reading?

In your reading time, which books do you choose to read?

Whatever your answers, I wonder: do you feel satisfied by them? Is the time you devote to reading enough? Are you reading books that really enrich your life?

I had cause to ponder on these questions after reading an article entitled ‘How many books will you read before you die?’ (Lit Hub). The author of the article attempts to estimate how many more books are on your ‘to be read’ shelf, depending on your reading speed, your gender and your age. Based on her calculations, a thirty-year-old lady who is a voracious reader (defined as reading fifty books per year) has 2,800 books left to read; thirty years later, aged sixty, she has 1,100.

My first thought, upon reading the estimates, was this: none of them are enough!

Have you come across the term ‘abibliophobia’? It’s the fear of running out of reading material. I think we need a new term to mean fear of running out of time to read all you want to read. Chronophobia is anxiety over the passage of time; perhaps chronobibliophobia?

Do you identify with that fear?

Half of the issue is time. How much time do you make for reading? Is it enough? Ought you to clear more time for reading?

Recently, I watched a British film called About Time, in which a young man discovers the men in his family have a special ability: to travel in time to places and times they have been before. As the father explains this gift to his son, the son asks him how he has used the gift over the years. His answer: he read many books. The father went back in time to give himself more time to sit in a chair and read and read. Perfect, don’t you think? Here, in case I’ve piqued your interest, is the scene in which the father breaks the big news to his son:

The other half of the issue concerns your choice of book. There are so many millions of books in the world, and so of course you can read only a very small proportion. How do you choose?

The answer, I think, lies in always looking for new reads: classic and contemporary novels alike that you discover through rummaging in bookstores and libraries, and reading reviews online. In the New York Times Book Review, the writer Hari Kunzru explains that he no longer finishes a book if he’s not enjoying it; ‘once you’ve established your taste, and the penny drops that there are only a certain number of books you’ll get to read before you die, reading bad ones becomes almost nauseating’. So perhaps it is best to give yourself permission to give up on books and move on.

Whatever you do, though, don’t limit yourself to reading only ‘within your taste’; the key, I think, is to keep challenging yourself. I will leave you with two quotations that really bring home the importance of making time to read the books you want to read:

‘It is what you read when you don’t have to that determines what you will be when you can’t help it.’ – Oscar Wilde

‘I am a part of all I have read.’ – John Kieran

  • TREKnRay

    Some great ideas. Fifty books a year seems like not reading at all. When I was working at sea I read at least 300 most years. Now it is more like 100 if I include audio books listened to in the car. When I get home I continue to listen until I finish my coffee, then go in the house.

    • hannahfielding

      Thanks for commenting. Audio books are a great way to increase the number of books. I agree that fifty books seems low, but according to recent research the average American reads only 8-12 a year!

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