How Much Is Left?

crop person with book in sunlight
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There is one question I ask myself to determine how much I am enjoying (or not enjoying) the book that I am reading: How much is left?

When sitting with a paper book it is an easy question to answer. One look at my position in the book tells me that I’ve just gotten started, or I’m halfway though, or I’m almost to the end. With hardcover book, pages move in different ways at different points in the book. At the beginning of a book, the pages want to flip to the right. At the end of a book, the pages want to flip to the left. Only the middle of the book do the pages stay put when I open the book on a table or on my lap.

With ebooks there is a percentage or page count that answers the question “how much is left?” But the most accurate of all is the audiobook, which tells me, to the second, how much longer it will take me to finish the book.

When I’m not enjoying a book, the question comes out in a kind of incredulous, annoyed tone: How much is left? Too much. This is when I am most likely to bail on a book, usually with little or no regret. There are too many good books to read to waste time on ones that are slogging.

For a really good book, on the other hand, I am so absorbed by what I am reading that I completely forget to ask the question. When I finally come up for air, the question comes out in a kind of panic: How much is left? Too often it is very little. The book is almost over, and the Audible app tells me with deadly precision that there is only 10 minutes and 15 seconds remaining. That’s not the answer I want with a good book. I want to see hundreds of pages, or dozens of hours still laid out ahead of me.

Today, for instance, I have been reading a wonderful collection of essays, A Place to Read, by Michael Cohen, a retired college professor. I’m not sure how I came to find the book, but I have have been charmed by it. His essays–which range over a wide variety of subjects–are delightful. As I arrived home from an afternoon walk, I happened to ask the question–how much is left?–and discovered, much to my dismay, there was just over an hour of book remaining. It means that I’ll finish the book on my morning walk tomorrow. That’s sad. This is the kind of book I wish would go on forever.

There is a trifecta of the reading experience, elusive, but something for which I yearn. I start to read a book and (1) it is amazing almost from the start; (2) it is very long, preferable over 800 pages; and (3) I recognize these two things early on and delight in knowing that I have an outstanding book to read, spread out in front of me, possibly for days.

I sometimes wonder if this is a common phenomenon among readers, but I hesitate to ask. I’m afraid someone will say, “Yeah, I ask myself ‘how much is left?’ every time I see one of these posts.”

Written on July 13, 2022.

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One comment

  1. Have you read Musashi or The Assassination Of Jesse James by the coward Robert Ford? Those are very wordy and comfy. Slow and descriptive. Musashi is 970 pages!


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