The Time Cost of My Book Collection

decluttering books

I have always, always loved to read.

Minimalism is something I find hard to apply to books (although I’m better than I was).

So I thought I’d try a dose of realism instead.

In this post I have attempted to calculate the hours of time that it would actually take for me to read every book I own.

I’ve used some rough and ready figures here for a super-quick estimate:

FICTION (13 books)

Assume 300 pages, 45 seconds to read a page. 3hrs 45mins per book.

NON FICTION (92 books)

As fiction. They take a little longer to read and digest (in my opinion), but often have a lot more whitespace. 3hrs 45mins per book.

REFERENCE (12 books)

No time factor here. They just sit on the shelf.

TECHNICAL (32 books)

I am a programmer and my technical books are hands-on, example driven, practical manuals that are designed to teach concepts that take time to understand and learn. Assume 24hrs of reading/practical application time per book.

COOKERY (32 books)

Assume the average book has 100 recipes.

What my collection represents in personal time

Fiction, non-fiction and technical reading time: 1161.75 hours

Cookery books: One new recipe a day for 8 years and 8 months.

Given that I probably cook a new recipe once a fortnight (if that), my cookery book collection should last me for 122.7 years.

Given that I manage to read for maybe 2 hours a week if I’m lucky, my book collection should provide enough reading material for the next 11.1 years.


And how often do I buy a new book on a whim??

If I made a resolution to not buy any more books until I’d read everything I owned, it would be over a decade before I could even look at anything else.

And that’s not even including my Kindle books and various eBooks.

Now admittedly, not everything on my bookshelf is unread – so those figures would be reduced somewhat – but it is still astonishing to think that what I own has already taken up that much of my future time (even subconsciously from just having all those books in view).

I think it might be time to prioritise the books I really want to read.

Of course, I want to read all of them (hence why I own them), but do I really want to commit the next 11 years to these particular books? I think there will probably be many other books that catch my eye over the next decade.

They aren’t ornaments. If they aren’t being used, then why have them all on a shelf year after year?

Minimalising my books needs to be a two pronged attack of:

  1. Reading more.
  2. Being more selective about what I read.

I have a vision of only owning a handful of books that I am actively using.


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