2014-02-04 – I have 375 books on my Amazon wish list. According to the US Census Bureau life expectancy figures, I can expect to live another 20 years. To complete my list, I need to read almost 20 books a year.
That doesn’t sound like much. But consider this: every book on my wish list generates a number of suggestions that Amazon offers me. Let’s say that each book generates one suggestion that would be acceptable to me (some generate more, but there’s substantial overlap). That means that I might really have twice as many books that Amazon thinks that I might want to read. We’re getting close to a book a week for the rest of my life.
There’s a problem, though. Few people have ever seen my Amazon wish list, but several years ago, my sister-in-law Mary took a look and pronounced the list “depressing.” This pronouncement has two effects. First, Mary promised never to buy me a book from my depressing list, so any presents she might get me will simply add to the backlog of books I have to read. Second, depression tends to adversely affect health. My list of depressing books may have the effect of reducing my life expectancy, thus increasing my pace of required reading. This increased pace should depress me even more. . . . And so on.
The fact of the matter is that I don’t really want to read all of these books.
In some genres, say fiction, I might be interested in specific titles, so there might not be much room for paring down the list. But maybe I’m interested is sampling a particular author. If I don’t like what I read, I might put other books by the same author on hold.
With nonfiction, I might be interested in a topic. There’s no reason I would want to read a dozen books on the history of the labor movement in America. Two might give me what I’m looking for. The question is: which two?
I’m really not very good at culling my list. When I see a book I am interested in, it goes on the list. Once it is there, it stays.
But often . . . usually . . . when I go shopping for a book, I tend to pick titles that are not even on the list.