I would estimate that I have read perhaps a third of the books on my shelves. Is this what retirement is for? There are so many unread books there that I couldn’t possibly pick out only one. When I bought them, I thought they’d all be worth reading….
“The World Rome Knew”, which discusses the Roman Empire’s contact with other societies as far away as India and China … there are, of course, many books on my shelf now that I haven’t yet read because of two factors: cheap book sales (at which you can pick up plenty of great books at low, low prices) and the advent of young children (who leave you little time for recreational reading, and far too tired to do so even when you find the time!) …. but thankfully the books will last until I retire or they go off to college.
I have probably read about 70% of what is on my shelf. I cheated, though: just after retiring 5 years ago I gave away a lot of things I knew I would never read.
I have committed to finish one a week, er, every two weeks, er, a month, er ……
I have performed a solemn ritual so that my consciousness, upon reincarnation, will be able to find my library and have a chance of catching up on the books left unread at the time of my temporary demise (that ought to mess us the casual reader of dotCommonweal, or at least confirm the suspicions of some!) ;-)
I will not admit how many unread books I have on my shelves, let alone the number I have given away unread to libraries and charities. But my new rule is that I may buy five new books for every one book I finish reading. It is difficult to know which I really enjoy more, buying books or reading them, but the new system is making me read more and buy less (and also buy shorter books!). I just finished What the Gospels Meant buy Garry Wills, which in some ways is a very brief summary of the works of Raymond Brown, whom Wills cites very often and gives the last word to at the end.
I noticed Charles Taylor’s A Secular Age at the bottom of a stack (not everything fits on shelves) and realized that I am probably never going to read it, although sometimes I do actually read entire books that I only understand small parts of, an example being Jesus: An Experiment in Christology by Edward Schillebeeckx.
you have my sincere admiration. it took me 20 years to do the same thing.
may i repeat your final comment times 50?
also, why do we keep buying more?
Mary: because good habits are hard to break!
“People say that life is the thing, but I prefer reading.” (Logan Pearsall Smith)
JAK asks: I would estimate that I have read perhaps a third of the books on my shelves. Is this what retirement is for?
Ann answers: Retirement is for buying more books.
OK, you want to hear something really sad? I will not infrequently pull a book off my shelf, thinking,”I really need finally to get around to reading this,” only to find, upon opening it, my own underlining and marginalia.
To add to the underlining and marginalia note: one of the pleasures of our bookshelves is for me to pick up a book underlined (meticulously) by my better half. In reading only the underlined parts I can be sure that I have absorbed the kernel of the book. Sometimes the marginalia are partisan, so I discount those by 25 percent.
I loved the piece that John referred us to, and I love hearing that Joseph Komonchak has read about 30%. :)
An experience that this theology graduate student has had… I will pick up a book I read years ago, look at something I had underlined, and think to myself “What the hell does this underlined passage mean?”
A couple books that I bought, but only got a few pages into:
Hardt & Negri, “Empire”
Schindler, “Heart of the World, Center of the Church”