1 April 2018 Susannah

Birthdays and Books

'Patented Hammocks', R. Fideau

Birthdays often bring some nice books as presents, but they also bring a reminder that there is less and less reading time left in your life. This depressing prospect has now been quantified, using average life expectancies for men and women:


Have a look and see how many books you will probably read before you die. According to the chart, I am a ‘super reader’, managing more than 80 books per year (I actually manage quite a lot more than 80 each year and would be most disturbed if I ever managed less than 100). But their chart shows me that I have less than 2500 books left in my life, which is a terrible thought. I want thousands and thousands more! Perhaps this is a reminder not to waste time on total rubbish, or persevere with a book I am not enjoying. Perhaps I should give up spending time on this newsletter and cram in a few more books instead?? It is all very sobering, but I think also a useful jolt as to making the most of reading time for quality and enjoyable books.

What type of reader are you? How does this list make you feel? Please leave a comment to tell me.

Leave a comment.

Comments are moderated, and will not appear until approved.


Featured image credit- ‘Patented Hammocks’, R. Fideau. Image from page 485 of “The American stationer” (1873). Internet Archive Book Images, https://www.flickr.com/photos/internetarchivebookimages/14785970423/in/photostream/

Comments (23)

  1. Gaby Meares

    Only 2,080 left for me! For a long time now I’ve cut my losses at 40 pages – if I’m not engaged by 40 pages, the author is not doing their job! I recently purchased a Man Booker Prize winner (I won’t say which one in case you loved it). By page 40, I felt I’d dragged myself through 400 pages – enough is enough. Off to the book exchange it went!

    • Marsha

      I’ve been doing the same. It’s enjoyable to read a book that starts well, but a book that has problems early on—e.g. storyline, characters, development—causes readers to lose faith.

      • Susannah Fullerton

        Yes, there are too many good books out there waiting to be read to persevere with something that you are finding dull.

  2. Helen Gentle

    Don’t desert us Susannah! We need your guidance to productively use our remaining reading time.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Thanks for your kind vote of confidence, Helen. Much appreciated.

  3. Patty Bruniges

    Now here’s the problem – spending time reading about such dire predictions means less time for reading the important items such as novels, biographies, poems, parts (literary) of the newspapers, etc. Combined with the sense that time is fleeting and we need to spend more time with family and friends, volunteering etc. – it’s all too confusing! Must be time to escape to a good book!

  4. Brian Doyle

    Having read many books by and about the Mitfords yes Nancy is definitely my favourite, her life in many ways was quite a sad and unfulfilled one and yet she maintained her sparkle to the end and is now more highly regarded than during her lifetime and I’m sure would have loved the television series made from her two most read books.Harold Acton wrote a beautiful memoir about her, a must read if you haven’t, one of her friends who knew her better than most.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Yes, I love the Harold Acton biography of he. It is sad that she never found the love she wanted, but she would have loved to know her books are still loved today.

  5. Ann

    How depressing….nearly my entire quota is already in the ‘Pile Beside the Bed’ and I love bookshops…

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Isn’t it depressing. I often wonder if I will ever get through the pile by my bed. Not enough reading time!

  6. Ekin Kench

    Hi Susannah

    I am in your league when it comes to how many books I read each year but I have been doing some serious self-examination lately!

    I am 75 this year and the brain and eyesight appear to still work well but who knows?
    I am planning to get a young thing to read to me when it all fails but there probably will not be many of them around who will want to do that.
    My husband is a good fellow reader with more biographical and historical tastes so we complement each other well and with the deterioration of TV and our age we do go to bed earlier and earlier to get the reading hours in.

    So this morning, inspired by your words, I went to the bookcases and took out T’ang Dynasty poems, Montaigne, Aeschylus and the next book on your list!
    I am so easily seduced by the latest modern novel and can sink into a thriller stupor very easily………….

    Thanks for reminding me that there is not so much time left
    Kind regards

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I have been in a bit of a thriller stupor for most of Easter, but this morning time to return to something more challenging. However, it is important to have variety in our reading. Good luck with your poems and Montaigne (someone I’ve been meaning to read properly for ages).

  7. Brian Doyle

    There’s a photo of Colin Firth as Mr Darcy signed by him priced at 36 pounds on eBay which falls into the affordable category, anything with the Mitford name brings huge prices on the rare occasions it comes up

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I am not keen on a photo of Colin, but something Nancy owned is a different matter.

  8. Brian Doyle

    Am now on the hunt for books that Nancy rated very highly, she mentions particularly loving a book on Lytton Strachey,a book that several months ago was given to me by Margie Abraham,having chanced (unknowing of the Nancy connection) on it it a second hand bookshop, such a thrill to have it.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      Is Nancy your favourite Mitford? Someone once told me that the best way to know a person was to ask which Mitford they liked best.

  9. Miland

    It’s true that tomorrow is not promised to us. But I have a way of dealing with this problem, of quite possibly not being able to get through the books we might like: donate thme to suitable libraries! Then quite likely someone will benefit from them, even if we don’t know who. Leaving them to family or friends, or giving thme to charity bookshops like Oxfam are of course possible solutions as well.

    Still on the subject of mortality, I just read about people being killed by driverless cars. I hope they don’t allow them, because I am not certain who would be responsible for the loss of human life under such circumstances.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I have just got a Little Free Library, so any books I no longer want to keep go into that where people in my neighbourhood can take and enjoy them. Yes, any library is a great place to donate books we have finished with or know we will never have time to read.

  10. Brian Doyle

    What a truly frightening article, I only have 950 books left and that’s depending on my eyesight lasting and still having my wits about me, speaking of wits I’ve just finished Nancy Mitfords letters which were a treat, like bringing her back from the dead, when she wasn’t writing books she was writing letters, thousands and thousands of them,and being a voracious reader also thousands of books.After reading this article one thing is certain, there is no longer any time for re reading, I wonder what happened to all of Nancy’s books.

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I have just finished listening to an audio version of Love in a Cold Climate, which I loved all over again. Nancy was so witty and clever. Yes, her letters are fabulous too. Wouldn’t it be interesting to know what happened to her book collection. Some of Debo’s things were sold at auction recently and fetched an incredible price. A friend of mine wanted to bid on something so she could own a piece of Mitford memorabilia, but it soon became clear the amount was going to skyrocket. Possibly Debo had a few of Nancy’s books in amongst those auction lots?

    • Susannah Fullerton

      I know your forthcoming book will definitely NOT be a waste of reading time! Looking forward to it.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *