Saturday, 23 October 2010

A rather serious matter – deciding what to read

If you are not interested in the full post, the concept of it is: “What are the 500 books that are worth reading before I die?” What do you recommend?

Here’s the full post:

I’m a keen reader since I was a child, and I’ve recently become an enthusiastic user of Kindle.

Infinite (well, I know they are finite, but allow me this mathematically inconsistent emphasis) opportunities have suddenly become available: I can have thousands of books on my Kindle in seconds. Kindle books cost less their paper version, and often are even free (what’s slightly concerning is how easily you can buy a Kindle book: you just click on a button and your Amazon account is charged automatically - that’s why I set up a password to lock the device).

Anyway the point of this post is about decisions: what to read.

Let’s start with estimating how much I can read in my life, to give more sense on what follows. I need about one month to read a technical book of 400-500 pages, about two weeks to read an interesting novel of 200-300 pages.

I’m not sure I should consider technical books as a separate topic, because I typically like them, and so they are relevant not only for my job but in general for me (or I just can’t manage to read them, so the time spent is 0).

For sure, they require considerably more time than novels (mainly because it’s more “studying” than “reading”).

I’ll leave them out to focus more on “what I should read as a human being, rather than as engineer”, and to simplify my point.

So in a month I could read 2-3 interesting books. Holidays will probably tend to increase the average, but first I don’t have so many holidays, and second there are working months in which I don’t find the time to read as much as I’d like.

Let’s say 2 books/month. It’s 24 per year; 20 with a more conservative estimate.

20 books per year means that from today until I die – depending on how things go – I could read from 0 (damn double decker on a Sunday morning) to about 800 books.

If you just refer to some “1000 books to read before you die” articles, you see that I already can’t read 200 of them (I think I can safely remove the “Love” section for now though), and still there are thousands of options out there. Furthermore, each year new books worth reading are published – let’s say between 5 and 10? This means that even if I want to keep reading books that are really worth the time, I have to pick up now only about 600 existing books. 500 makes it a nicer number.

So the question is: “What are the 500 books that are worth reading before I die?”

What do you suggest?

(hint: consider that 40 good books will keep me quiet for a couple of years, so no need to completely drain your energies on the other 460 for the moment).

I know what books I liked so far though: I’ll write a separate post on it.


  1. Catch 22, Shantaram, 1984, million little pieces, hitchhikers guide to the galaxy series, and the dark tower series are my personal favourites. That should buy you a bit of time.

  2. Thanks Daves,
    apart from The Dark Tower series those titles looked new to me, so I've spent some time learning more: I think this is interesting stuff. Definitely added to the list!

  3. Also just finished Stephen Kings 'The Dome', def recommend :-)

  4. Little Women by Louisa May Alcott; Siddhartha by Herman Hesse; L’Isola di Arturo by Elsa Morante; La Coscienza di Zeno by Italo Svevo; Eugenie Grandet by Honore De Balzac; The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald; Goodbye Tsugumi by Banana Yoshimoto. with them sweetheart <3

  5. Nice blog Giacomo - it sounds as though it's been troubling you for sometime! I'd recommend 'What would Google do?' if you haven't read it already and I can lend it to you so it'll be free!