A Sobering Reflection from a Lifelong Reader

Yesterday afternoon I grabbed Mike Bullmore and interviewed him about reading. My aim was to write an article on how he led his church through a year of reading biographies together, which I did and can be read here. But at one point in our interview he shared the following reflection:

A sobering thing happened to me recently, I looked around at the books on my office bookshelves and I realized I won’t get to read them all. I thought I was going to, and I’m not going to make it. So, that’s alright. But I had this cherished idea that I was going to master all this stuff. And now I realize that I won’t. So you’ve got to be selective anyway.

For a finite book lover like me, that is quite sobering.

11 thoughts on “A Sobering Reflection from a Lifelong Reader

  1. I realized that a little while ago, it is disappointing to think I won’t get to immerse myself in these precious books, but come the day I guess I may well be okay with it, and who knows, a library might be waiting for us to revel in! We shall see.

  2. Tony, I hit that same realization a year or two ago — and accepted it. It is very sobering. But I also sought to double my efforts and now aim to read 52 books per year, and have gotten more read. I still purchase books too, although fewer than I formerly would have. Being selective in our reading is important at every age — all the more “over 50.” db

  3. If every man peed sitting down, he could read 20 second more per visit to the Water Closet. With a copy, say, of Helmut Thielicke resting in the Loo, considering how often a man must obey nature, those cumulative seconds could amount to much intellectual travel in realms of gold.

    I wouldn’t advise doing this standing up.

    The microseconds make the man.


  4. 1 Sam. 25:22, 34, 1 Kings 14:10, 16:11, 21:21, and 2 Kings 9:8 (KJV).

    Preserved manliness is worthy of lost reading time.

  5. I can relate with this.

    I kept on buying books and buying more and more books. I still revert back occasionally and buy more.

    And looking at my library, thankfully it is conceivable that I could potentially have 50 more years to read them, if I live that long, but still–even with 50 years, it may be a long shot….. its pretty crazy.

    I think it can be hard….. if ones passion is not just reading books, but also books in and of themselves, sometimes the buy impulse can be right up there with the reading impulse.

    I did go for about half a year once without buying a single book. It was so good, my reading felt so much more productive when it wasn’t always trying to catch up with buying. I recommend anyone give that a whirl :)

    Right now what I’m telling myself….. if you want a book to read, you probably have one suitable book on your shelf. And if you don’t, you have the local library. And if that doesn’t cut it,t here’s the university library with alumni access. Oh, and also a great church library. After all that is exhausted and my book need is still existent then maybe I can justify going ahead and buying the book.

    (But then again, i don’t want people to go ahead and buy no books to the extreme, because then we wouldn’t have new authors emerging!)

    But I think this quote you’ve posted brings out an aspect I haven’t considered. Maybe not finishing everything isn’t so much a horrible defeat as….. a helpful reminder of our finiteness and need to be humble… and to be selective.

  6. Of making many books there is no end,
    Of reading many books there is, and it’s a dead one.

    …although maybe there is some kind of library awaiting in the new heaven or new earth, who knows?

  7. I’ve thought that as well. We need you ‘experienced’ folks to help guide those of us who will only read one-tenth of what you will (and what we anticipate we will). I scour the web for the best of the best and appreciate those of you who review books and guide the rest of us. Ah mortality and finitude.

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