The Project of a Thousand Books

Not my library, but it makes my point. Photo by Phil Falardeau
Not my library, but it makes my point. Photo by Phil Falardeau

“Life is short. Books are many. What is an honest reader to do?”

I know I am not alone in facing this dilemma. Each of us who loves books and reading them realizes that we will never read all of the books that beguile us from our shelves. I have chosen to ignore that truth for a long time, buying and shelving books as though I would live forever.

Looming andropause reminded me last year that my time on Earth is limited, and if actuaries know anything, I will never read the books on my shelves right now. So what to do?

My choice, I realized, is simple: continue to live in denial, reading whatever suits my momentary urges, or choose to read books that are not only worthy in some objective sense, but that are also meaningful to me. I have chosen the latter, and in so doing have introduced a discipline to my reading that begins with a list.

The Thousand Books Project, once a blog and now a part of this one, is the chronicle of my effort to survey the entire corpus of books published in the English language, identify the 1,000 of those books that are most meaningful to me, read them, explain why I wanted to read them, and, finally to describe what they taught me.

This project is more than a list: it is a process, a search for meaning and beauty through the written word, and the chronicle of that process.

Which brings me to why you you should care. More about that in my next post.

Before I finish, though, a dedication:

I dedicate the literary journey of the last third of my life to my late mother, Valeria Jane Overman Blacklidge Barlow Wolf, who spent most of the last sixty years of her life improving herself through books, and in so doing made autodidacts of her children.

I am a bibliophile today because of what she taught me in life, and I begin this project in salute to the lesson she taught me in her passing: the clock is ticking, so make every remaining minute – and every page – count.

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