Suppose you read one book every week. If you are able to do this from, say, your youth at 15 until your old age at 85, you will have read 3.640 books. Let’s compare this respectable amount of reading with some output figures.
These figures were provided by Gabriel Zaid in his excellent work So many books. As Gutenberg started printing, the annual output of books was something like 100. Five hundred years later this amounted to 250.000, but as the television made its appearance, the end of the book was predicted. Not so, in 2000 one million new titles were published. 275 times more than you can read in a lifetime.
Of course that’s not correct. From these one million books you’ll have to deduct the books written in languages you can’t read, technical books and all kinds of books outside your fields of interest, pulp literature, etc. But even so, I believe that every year more books that I’d like to read are published than I’ll ever be able to read. Picking them good is becoming an art in itself.
To make my point: reading the right books is as important for your life as meeting the right people. They can form you, they can help you, or they can have a very negative influence.
In these pages, I’d like to talk about some of the books that matter very much to me. And the first book I’d like to comment on is Orwell’s Nineteen eighty-four.