How Many Books Does A Real Person Read In One Year?

I always stumble across these reading challenges online – where the participants pretend to read a book every week for a year, or sometimes they go even further and count each unruffled page – and it always makes me wonder how much an honest reader actually reads.  Because no morally decent person counts the words as he reads them, nor does he boast about the number of pages greased up by his fingers, nor does he remember reading half of the books that he’s read.  That leaves us in a bit of a conundrum if we want to know how much a real person reads: the counters are depraved liars and the readers can’t be bothered to count.

That’s why, in 2019, I decided to write down the name of each book as I finished it.  I had no special ambition, no one to impress, no reason to do it beyond mild curiosity.  And this is the unassuming pile of books I ended up with:


001


The answer to the riddle?  23 books.  That’s one book short of two books per month.  A respectably boring answer.  But since I’ve come this far I might as well go just a bit farther.  Let’s see how many pages have my finger grease on them:

  • Something Wicked This Way Comes (Bradbury) – 293
  • Infidel (Ali) – 350
  • 2001: A Space Odyssey (Clarke) – 297
  • The Rationalists (Descartes, Spinoza, Leibniz) – 471
  • Mythology (Hamilton) – 336
  • Neuromancer (Gibson) – 271
  • Candide (Voltaire) – 146
  • In Our Time (Hemingway) – 156
  • Le Morte d’Arthur (Malory) – 512
  • Guns, Germs, and Steel (Diamond) – 490
  • The Oresteia (Aeschylus) – 330
  • We Have Always Lived in the Castle (Jackson) – 146
  • The Histories (Herodotus) – 584
  • The Iliad (Homer) – 683
  • Foundation (Asimov) – 296
  • Gulag Archipelago Parts 1 and 2 (Solzhenitsyn) – 660
  • Stalingrad (Beevor) – 493
  • Robot Visions (Asimov) – 482
  • Foundation and Empire (Asimov) – 282
  • Fear and Trembling (Kierkegaard) – 165
  • The Time Machine (Wells) – 118
  • Childhood’s End (Clarke) – 212
  • The Empiricists (Locke, Berkeley, Hume) – 517
  •  = 8,290 pages

As a real person I read 8,290 pages in 2019, which comes out to 22 pages per day.  That sounds about right.  If you figure an average of 400 words per page and an average reading speed of 200 words per minute (both numbers grabbed from a quick google search) you end up reading about a ½ page per minute.  So in 2019 I spent 16,580 minutes, or 276 hours, with my nose in a book.  That’s 11 full days, or about 34 8-hour shifts.  It sounds like a lot, but spread out over the whole year it only amounts to 44 minutes per day – a relatively sane number.

As for the contents of those pages, that involves a more advanced calculus and I don’t really feel like going into it.  Infidel was pretty good, though.


 

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