Tonight while driving home I was thinking about those roughly 130 million books in existence again. I have been marinating on the idea of how to collect all human knowledge in a way that can be easily distributed/ The problem is nothing works.
Then I asked myself how reading the fourth Lincoln Lawyer novel and planning to read the fifth and sixth ones as well add anything to my understanding of all human knowledge, because I am certain if one could read all roughly 130 million books they would have all collected human knowledge. The answer is it doesn’t. Once a person has read one Lincoln Lawyer novel they have read them all, and further than that once someone has read a courtroom thriller they have read them all.
There are notes and rhythms to books like there is to music. You can listen to a song from a particular genre and you’re likely to be able to name that genre. Books work the same way. You read one from that genre and it shares characteristics with other books from that genre. This means that there is an essential core number of books you could read and understand most of what there is to understand about humanity.
The problem is there is a finite number of books a person can read in a lifetime. That number is estimated to be around 4600. A drop in the bucket of the roughly 130 million books in existence. This is where my thoughts turned dark. I reasoned that in order to really read 4600 books in a lifetime I had to have started reading more often sooner. I don’t know how many books I have read, but I’m not sure I’m half way to that 4600 number and then I realized that if I live to the average age of 77 I will be dead in 37 years.
First then I have to boil down the number of essential books to something that can be managed in 37 years and then I have to read them all and figure out a way to pass on any knowledge I gleam from the endeavor. Then I can die.
The thought of my life being more than half over and having less time left than I have already had caused my breath to catch, my eyes and mouth to open wide, and I don’t think I made any sort of sound for a full minute or so. I know I am going to die. I am well aware that that is the end of life, but that knowledge, that understanding, doesn’t mean I look forward to it happening. I honestly really don’t.
I want to know as much as I can, but I also want to enjoy life as much as possible. That means when it comes to reading I have to read what I want and what I enjoy and hope that enough of the novels I read reference other novels, short stories, poems, history, philosophy, and psychology that I really don’t have to try and read everything or boil all literature down to a necessary core to gleam as much knowledge as possible in what remains of my lifetime.
However if any trickster god or devil is listening I am willing to be granted life until such a point that I have read every book in existence.