A Lifetime of Literature


Joe Queenan reads books. Lots of books.

In fact, he surrounds himself with them (1,340 lay about his house to be exact). Queenan reads at least four hours a day every day, and although he is admittedly a slow reader, he has still managed to read 6,128 books in the last 55 years. In his essay “My 6,128 Favorite Books,” Queenan says:

­­­­­My reading habits sometimes get a bit loopy. I often read dozens of books simultaneously. I start a book in 1978 and finish it 34 years later, without enjoying a single minute of the enterprise. I absolutely refuse to read books that critics describe as “luminous” or “incandescent.” I never read books in which the hero went to private school or roots for the New York Yankees. I once spent a year reading nothing but short books. I spent another year vowing to read nothing but books I picked off the library shelves with my eyes closed. The results were not pretty.

To put 6,128 books into perspective, if you read one book a week from the day you were born (52 books a year), and lived to 100, that’s still only 5,200 books! If success was measured on the number of books one reads, Queenan would be this generations Bill Gates.

It’s sad to think about all the good books that will go unread during our lifetime. And every day authors release hundreds of new books into the already overflowing pool. With so many books, where does one begin? For starters, you can always check out The Rumpus Book Club and our Book Reviews to help with your next reading decision.

We know we can’t read every book in this life, but that sure doesn’t stop us from trying.

Pat Johnson is currently working on his master’s in Fiction Writing at San Francisco State University, and is the owner and editor of the satirical news website The New Porker. When Pat’s not reading or writing he’s likely squeezing a lime into a Tecate and headed to the dance floor. He also creates short films, documentaries, and sketch comedies. Pat is completing his first novel, The Virgin and Marilyn Monroe, and writing a book of Creative Non-Fiction short stories. More from this author →