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Shelf Awareness

Over at The Millions, Ed Simon writes about an anxiety that is all too real to me: a fear concerning “the manner in which the enormity of a library’s collection forces me to confront the sheer magnitude of all that I don’t know, all that I will never know, all that I can never know.”

Preach, brother.

“Intrinsic to my fear,” Simon continues, “are those intimations of mortality whereby even a comparatively small collection must make me confront the fact that in a limited and hopefully not-too-short life I will never be able to read even a substantial fraction of that which has been written. All those novels, poems, and plays; all those sentiments, thoughts, emotions, dreams, wishes, aspirations, desires, and connections—completely inaccessible because of the sheer fact of finitude.”

Like I said, it’s real. How do I not throw up my hands in despair, you ask? By regularly reminding myself that reading is a pleasure, not a duty—which means you can happily ignore the scolds who think otherwise. It also means that (knock on wood) there’s quite literally an endless supply of good times ahead. Sure, it’s probably better if you spend that time with Moby-Dick rather than, say, dinosaur erotica, but hey, we’re not here to judge.



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