I’d started coming to bookstores because I wanted to learn how to write and the only consistent advice I got from established writers was to read everything. It was good advice. It’s still good advice. It’s also impossible. No one reads everything, nor even all the books they’d like to. You make your choices, come what may.
Harvard economist Alexander Gerschenkron once calculated that if one reads two books a week over the course of an adult life (from roughly age 20-70), the final tally will be about 5,000. I’d never suffered from FOMO until I read that. No actuarial life table ever hit me so hard. After my yearly physical this week, there was a brief 48-hour window where my doctor was investigating the possibility of me having an aortic aneurysm, but even the wait for the ultrasound results didn’t bring with it the cold touch of the grave like that unforgiving numeral sitting there, marking the end of all potential. Today I counted the total number of books on my shelves (1500 exactly) and it was like watching sand falling in a hourglass. “Oh, my greed is a flame! Oh, that I might be reborn in a hundred beings!”