Every good bibliophile lives in a hamster wheel of literary pressure: There have always been, and will always be, more great books to read than there is time to read them. Not just in the workaday sense—the job stuff, family stuff, and “ooh a new episode of The Americans” stuff that gets in the way of reading on the regular—but in an existential sense. In the sense that every passing day brings us 24 hours closer to our eventual and unavoidable death. Because who knows if there’s a Barnes & Noble in heaven?
Over at Literary Hub, writer Emily Temple took it upon herself to quantify this ever-shortening window between the book we’re reading now and the last book we’ll read… ever. By combining data from the Social Security Life Expectancy Calculator with US reading-pattern data from the Pew Research Center, Temple was able to calculate the number of books any given age group can expect to finish before shuffling off the mortal coil. She even provides calculations for each of three reading types: average US readers (12 books a year, per Pew), voracious readers (50 books a year) and super readers (80).
The results aren’t scary per se—I’m a 31-year-old “voracious reader” and 2,800 books does sound like a lot–but they are illuminating, and worth remembering the next time you’re perusing a bookstore. Sure, War and Peace is a classic, but it may cost you five page-turners in the long run.
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This feature originally appeared in Quartz.