On some fateful day back in 2012 or early 2013, back when I hadn’t yet adjusted to having two steady, salaried incomes in my household, I made a useful but dangerous realization. Each week, we bring home X amount of dollars, which I regularly extrapolate to figure out how many dollars we will bring home in a month. What’s stopping me from figuring out how much we will bring home in a year? Or next year? Or the year after that? Barring employment disaster or major life change, I can predict my earnings from here all the way to retirement.
Knowing our earning capacity is useful for long-term planning purposes, yes. But it’s dangerous because this is exactly the kind of knowledge that will send me into a SPIRALING PIT OF NEVER-ENDING SPREADSHEETS. What if we spend X on Y and Z this year? What if we save A until July so we can B? What if we double down and Q R S all year so we can T before we U and V? Time = sucked.
Now let’s talk about books. It’s August. 2014 marches on. There are five more good reading months of the year. You have X days left to read, Y minutes of each day that you can devote to reading, during which you will likely fit Z books.
Which books will you choose?
I have crunched my own 2014 numbers and made a rough extrapolation of how many books are left for me in the back five of 2014. When I am writing book reviews, I will read 5 to 10 Required Reads a month and 1 to 3 Free Choice books in a month. When I am not writing book reviews, I read between 4 and 6 Free Choice books. Most months I listen to at least 5 audiobooks, whether I am reviewing or not.
I am largely free from reviewing in August and September. I will be reviewing in October, November and December.
This leaves me with 11-21 Free Choice reads for all. of. 2014.
This is a disturbingly low number! It makes me a little panicky (see: dangerous information) (see also: the similar perils of long-term budgeting) For someone who has already read NINETY-FOUR BOOKS in the first 7 months of the year, how can I only have 10 left??? Has anyone even SEEN my TBR list? It will not be kept in check with a measly 2-5 books a month!
A saving grace – a grace that somewhat redeems the fault logic of my previous panicky statement – is that since I review new YA, my TBR stack occasionally overlaps with my Required Reading assignments. Phew.
The other saving grace is, of course, the humble audiobook. I’ve babbled about audiobooks so much this year because audio has become a significant part of my reading life. I listen to a lot of audio these days, yes, but audio is also where I do my fun reading. My “ooh, that sounds good” reading. My “I’ve been meaning to get around to this one” reading. My nostalgic re-reading. My books for adults reading. My new and shiny reading. It’s where I read like a consumer, a patron, a reader.
Sometimes I feel like I need a good excuse to read a book in print these days. If I only have time for a few each month, then the bar is set much higher. And now that I know just how pitifully small my print reading docket really is, I’m feeling even more precious about which books I choose to read.
It makes me panicky.
It makes me discerning – less likely to waste time on a book I find thin or predictable or otherwise of a lower quality than my time is worth.
It might also make me shy away from a longer read. A slower read. This is a shame, because while yes, the stats show I have XXX books left to read before 2015 (read: before I die) the way I spend my reading time and reading life is really mine. If I want to read more or differently, I can shift my time in that direction. At the same time, my reading life is more out of my hands than any chart or graph can show. There are books in my house that I’m not actively reading that I know I will gravitate toward finishing before the year is up without any particular effort of my own. I might have a life circumstance leaves me so busy that time spent free reading will be a long ago dream. I might have a life circumstance where I am bedded up with an illness or injury, where reading will be all I can do. If I want to, I can read more, but the universe will do some of that deciding for me.
All spreadsheets and reading kismet and the unpredictability of the universe aside? I am currently re-reading 1) The Magician King so I can read 2) The Magician’s Land, but in order to do so I had to put aside 3) The Name of the Wind temporarily, so I’ll probably pick that one up again, and also I’ve been re-reading 4) Game of Thrones for like ever so I’ll probably finish that one before the end of 2014, and I’ve also been reading 5) Still Writing at work and I made it through about half of 6) The Writing Life at some point as well, and I want to read 7) Isla and the Happily Ever After as soon as I can get my hands on it, so there, that’s seven out of maybe eleven. My back five will look a little like that, then, plus a boatload of audiobooks and a slew to review and that will be just fine, I guess.
Now excuse me, I have another superfluous spreadsheet to update.