Sunday, October 01, 2006

So Many Books, So Little Time

If you're a massively bibliophilic person like me, you probably tend to buy a lot of books that you intend to read at some time but that have to be put on the back burner just because they aren't necessarily connected to what you do for a living and there are just so many books a person can expect to read in a lifetime. I'm a pretty slow reader, as it happens, slogging my way through one page of academic-level writing only once every other minute. Now, if I live to be 80, Deo volente (kind of a longshot, but one can always hope), I have about 16.5 million minutes left, or roughly 8 million pages. Most academic books are in the neighborhood of 250 pages these days, so I can still look forward to reading 32,000 books if I read constantly, day and night, 24/7, from now until the day I die. Not a bad way to live, if you ask me, but certainly it's not for everybody. I suppose the main worry, if one wanted to attempt such a thing, is that the process of trying to read so many books might in itself actually shorten one's lifespan.

If you add to this the fact that I am not merely massively bibliophilic but massively procrastinatory as well, it is unlikely that I will read 32 books before I die, let alone 32,000. If I could change this aspect of my personality, however, I would, and i suppose that if I were to succeed, I could probably pull off reading about one book per week. That will require a little over eight hours, which I can probably manage in a seven-day period. This will give me time to read roughly 1600 books between now and the time I reach 80 on 30 April 2038. (Geez, that's a lot closer than I thought it was....) I have way more than 1600 unread books between my house and office, however, so some of them will have to pass on unread either to my beneficiaries or the government, depending on how this whole death tax thing turns out.

In light of all this it will seem strange but unsurprising that I'm constantly on the lookout for more books to add to the pile. In pursuit of this I subscribe to a number of email notification services: the major academic presses all have them, and I subscribe to those offered by Princeton, Cambridge, and Oxford. Then there's the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, which not only tells you what the new books in Classics are, it also provides reviews of them the whet your appetite. And for medieval books I subscribe to The Medieval Review, which is much like BMCR. In today's email I received notification of what the next four books to join my pile of unlikely-to-be-read-in-my-lifetime but likely-to-join-my-library books:
Pentcheva, Bissera V. Icons and Power: The Mother of God in Byzantium. University Park: Pennsylvania State University Press, 2006. Pp. xviii, 302, 120 color and B&W illustrations. $60.00. ISBN: 0-271-02551-4.

Mulder-Bakker, Anneke B. Lives of the Anchoresses: The Rise of the Urban Recluse in Medieval Europe. Translated by Myra Heerspink Scholz. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania, 2005. Pp. 312. $55.00. ISBN: 0-8122-3852-4

Mitchell, Piers D. Medicine in the Crusades: Warfare, Wounds and the Medieval Surgeon. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2004. Pp. ix+293, illus. £48.00 (hbk). ISBN 0 521 84455.

Roest, Bert. Franciscan Literature of Religious Instruction Before the Council of Trent. Studies in the History of Christian Traditions, vol. CXVII. Leiden: Brill, 2004. Pp. xxi+673. $280.00. ISBN-10 90 04 14026 3, ISBN-13 978 9004140 26 4.
Joe Bob says check them out. To subscribe to the Bryn Mawr Classical Review, go here; to subscribe to The Medieval Review, send a "subscribe" message to the listserv at Western Michigan University:

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