If you read my post on Monday, you probably noticed that it wasn't my usual tone. It was a little more fretful than my usual "keep calm and read on" attitude. I let it get to me and I thought about why I had this compelling urge to read my TBR list: books that I know aren't going anywhere and I have all the time in the world to read. It just wasn't like me.
But then I realized that, deep down, like so many book nerds before me, I suffer from a crippling fear.
What if I die before I read all the books I want to read?
Dying with unread books is practically every book nerd's secret fear and worst nightmare. I decided to examine just how founded or unfounded this fear might be and, like most fears, found it to be both.
You know, it's pretty crazy to think about, but at one point in human history, it actually was possible to read all the books there were. It was actually possible, at some point, to read all the books available. (I don't know exactly what point in history; I guess it would depend on how avid a reader you were. And I'm also referring to the volume of works only--not taking into account things like access, which I'm assuming wasn't too big of a problem for the wealthy since only the wealthy had the luxury of reading at this time.)
It would be such an incredible accomplishment, the highest honor to a book nerd, to be able to say "I have read all the books in existence." By extension, you would assume that person would be one of the wisest on earth. Sounds fun, right?
No! If you read all the books in existence and you still had life to live, you'd be bored! Sure, you could always re-read, which some people love to do, but for those of us who seldom re-read, we'd be screwed!
I don't know about you, but I'll take the fear of dying before all the books I want to read are read than living without books to read any day. It's strange to think about, in an age where more content is being produced than the capacity for technology to store it all (another thing I learned in library school), that no matter what we do, we will always die before we get a chance to read all the books we want to.
I don't say that to be morbid, but rather to marvel at how fortunate we are that we have the luxury of options and the power to choose. There was a time in human history where if you read all the books in a particular genre, too bad--there weren't any more. That's something we never have to think about now. We live in a reading world where the standard is "there's always more where that came from," especially when you add self-published works to the mix.
It's marvelous to think that no one ever has to read anything that he or she doesn't want to (school required readings aside) because we have so many options that one could never read a genre dry. Even better, no one ever has to read anything that he or she isn't enjoying because there are always more options for potentially better books.
The fear of dying before all the books you want to read are read--or better labeled as "the fear of missing out--is actually a humbling and empowering thing. It frees us from the need to set a book list and stick to it and allows us to embrace our changing reading tastes and give worthwhile consideration to new books coming out.
Who would've thought fear can actually be empowering? So, to all the books I own or have yet to own and might possibly one day read, I'll sing a Death Cab for Cutie song for you: "I'll follow you into the dark." After all, fear is the heart of love.
Now back to my regularly scheduled "keep calm and read on" posts.