I wondered this morning, with all of the news, blogs, books, and magazines I read every day, just how many words pass through my eyes and into my brain? And what happens to them when they get there?
I tend to print three of four longer articles to read while riding elevators throughout the day, and another four or five for the subway. I also read Rolling Stone, New York, Esquire, Wired, and whatever else is lying around at any given moment.
At home, I’m currently reading four books: Davy Rothbart’s “The Lone Surfer Of Kansas, Montana,” Linda Ellerbee’s “Take Big Bites,” Bill Moyers’ “Moyers on America,” and Rajiv Chandrasekara’s “Imperial Life in the Emerald City.” Thomas E. Ricks’ “Fiasco: The American Military Adventure in Iraq” is on deck.
Let’s just guestimate a total. Let’s say twenty online articles at 500 words per (10,000 words), twenty blog entries at 250 words per (5000), one magazine article at 1000 words, and — for the sake of argument — one chapter of any given book at another 10,000 words. That’s 26,000 words a day, 182,000 words a week, and nearly 9.5M words a year.
Oh, and let’s just disqualify email alltogether.
9.5M words a year.
To what end? Am I any smarter? More articulate? More informed or intelligent?
My memory for detail isn’t great. My brain works a little bit like a library in which the staff is a bit tipsy. When I ask it for a copy of Herman Melvilles whaling classic, it tends to return data on the bald guy who recorded “Porcelain.” Close, but not quite. So when it comes to witty cocktail party banter, well, I’m not sure I can offer much more than concept.
Which has nothing to do with why I read. Or, I guess, what I know.
By the way, the first words I read upon entering my office building today?
And completely superfluous.