All The Books I Cannot Read

You know that millenial-generational thing, FOMO? Fear Of Missing Out? I have that, kind of, but about books. When I stop to think about it I get genuinely upset when I think about all the books in the world that I will never have time to read. There are so many stories, so much research, so much to know about, and I will never be able to do more than scratch the surface. As I continue to add title after title to the list of books I want to read I become more and more aware of how little I actually know. There are millions and millions of stories I’ll never hear, and zillions of facts I’ll never understand or even comprehend that such information exists , so I will never question. The weight of all the knowledge that exists is both sunlight and soul-crushing, it feeds and inspires me and feels exclusionary; I’ll never know it all.

Thus, I love reading, I love discovering a new-to-me, fascinating topic and devouring a bunch of books about it before moving on to another. I love to return to favorite topics year after year, increasing my knowledge base about, for example, Charles Darwin, or life in North Korea, or neuroscience, or notable feminists, or the reign of the Russian Romanov tsars, or whatever. I do tend to skew heavily towards non-fiction, and typically the novels I have read are not new releases, I usually wait a few years until the initial hype is gone to determine whether or not a fiction book has staying power. If it does, I’ll take the bait; otherwise, I’ll pass. As I’ve gotten a bit older I have honed in on the type of book I like and generally choose ones that will fall into that category from the get-go; so I feel like I am enjoying reading more than I have previously, and I’m reading more, but that has everything to do with the books I start in the first place.

Currently, my “To Read” list is over 400 titles long and I typically add 6 or 7 new ones each week. It’s a never-ending cycle of falling behind. One of my favorite daydreams is that I would be able to download vats of information directly into my brain. I just want to know ALL THE THINGS! And then I want to relate seemingly unrelated pieces together and think about it for a while.

For example: There are a lot of similarities between slavery in the United States and the repressed lives of citizens of North Korea, both in how the people live, think, the psychological damage, and the struggle to transition into a more self-sufficient and independent existence. Am I saying they are equal, absolutely not, but a super repressed regime creates citizens who are in many ways slaves to their government and without free access to information they are unable to imagine a different life. There are many programs in China and South Korea that are dedicated to helping North Korean refugees settle into modern life, including learning about money, what a debit card is, and re-learning basic world history. North Koreans have been so repressed for so long they have very little culture outside of what the Kim family has allowed. Enslaved Africans in the American South had a lot of their own cultural pieces and stories and history, and they could clearly see their own slavery in comparison with free whites. So, again, not equal, but the similarities are so fascinating to me!

Yes, this is what keeps me up at night. Literally. Whether I’m thinking about modern slavery, or the science vs religion debate, or gender discrimination, or the amazing psychological and communication abilities of elephants.…or just about all the things I’ll never know. I lose sleep over this and it seems the only cure is tucking my nose into a book until the wee hours of the morning when my eyes won’t focus anymore and my body demands sleep and wil no longer accept an argument about elephants or Romanovs as an excuse.

I am a sick person, terminally ill with a non-curable disease: I want to know everything in the world. (I also want to see and travel to everywhere in the world, but that is another ailment to discuss on another day.)

Harriet sig

0 thoughts on “All The Books I Cannot Read

  1. onestepmomentatatime

    I’ve been an avid reader since I was able to read. For a few years there in the somewhat recent past it got away from me, but I’m happy to say in the last year or so I’ve been trying to get back to it. I’m also with you on wanting to know all the things. If someone would fund my education, [and maybe my bills :)], I’d be an eternal student. If only….

  2. amylso

    I feel this way too. I sometimes joke with my kids that I need 6 months or a year in prison. They can bring me books and I can just lay around and read. (I think that’s how prison works, right???)

  3. Saskia

    My sister once gave me a book, _How To Talk about Books You Haven’t Read_, which sounds like a hipster disaster waiting to happen, but is actually a theoretical treatise about how you shouldn’t want to read everything, and you can’t read everything, and how reading an sich is such a fraught enterprise that can’t be replicated or even really shared with anybody. I didn’t agree with all his points, but it was interesting nonetheless.

    1. Feisty Harriet Post author

      I don’t want to read everything, but I want to read everything about the topics I’m interested in. At least, the ones that are well written about the topics I’m interested in.

      Ha. Now *I* sound like a hipster disaster! πŸ™‚


      On Thu, Jan 28, 2016 at 11:42 AM, Feisty Harriet wrote:


  4. WhenInTurkey

    I wish I was so deeply thoughtful about books like you. For me, books are an escape from reality for a few hours…and a method of sleep inducement. I heavily veer towards crime fiction. Heavily. Almost exclusively. While I do enjoy other books, they have to be recommended to me or I won’t read them (e.g. Required high school reading of Jude the Obscure. Legen- wait for it- dary. Legendary)


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