I read a short article on the BBC a couple of days ago about books and the number of them that sit on bookshelves unread (http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/blogs-magazine-monitor-26470286). With this in mind, I thought I would perform a quick count of my own bookshelves and see how I measure up.
Firstly, the stats: The average British house has 138 books and the majority have not been read. The writer also speculated that the majority of unread books would probably be found in the living room, as those would tend to be your display books, put there to make people believe you read Kafka.
So, how do I measure up? Pretty well actually. For the purposes of this count, I have ignored my son’s books; mainly because it’s hard to really say whether they’ve been read or not… I’ve tried to read many of them to him, but does it count if you get halfway through and he wanders off? I have also discounted any books that are not intended to be read, such as dictionaries and books of sheet music.
With those caveats in place, I have 508 books on my shelves, of which I have read 456. Drilling down slightly, I have 225 books in the living room, of which I have read 197 (including Kafka, though I wouldn’t recommend him to most people… too depressing); the remaining 28 are all my wife’s books and I believe the majority have been read by her. So, we’re bucking the trend already… go team Cockburn.
In my study, there are a further 283 books (mainly non-fiction), of which I have read 259 (the others are on my reading list, but that list has to compete with my watching list, my playing list, my practical stuff I need to do list and my mustn’t forget about wife and child list).
So, overall not a bad result, though if you take into account the eBooks on my iPad, the percentage I’ve read drops a bit; I do have a tendency to forget about eBooks if I don’t read them immediately… ‘out of sight’ and all that. (Fortunately, I’ve usually picked them up cheap or completely free, so I don’t feel too bad about them remaining unread.)
On a final note, I personally don’t understand the “buying a book, just to look smart” mentality. Books are not cheap; if we’re to believe that the average house has about 70 unread books in it, at £7 for an average paperback, that’s about £500 of wasted purchases… all so you can look like an idiot, when someone who actually has read the books on your shelves tries to engage you in conversation about them.
Now if you’ll excuse me, since my son lacks the reading ability to work his way through my books in the usual fashion, he’s made it his mission to see that they are all thrown on the floor at some point instead. The thud I just heard from the ceiling suggests that he’s just crossed something weighty off the list. Cheerio.