I’m a pretty frugal guy. I don’t waste a lot of money on extraneous expenses, least of all fashion. I buy shoes once, maybe twice, a year. Every time I go shopping for shoes I always make the same remark, often to the chagrin of whichever unlucky sucker I convinced to go along with me: “welp, one pair of shoes closer to death.”

I suppose it’s kind of a morbid thing to think about, but I can’t help if. You figure if you live to be 100, and you buy two new pairs of shoes a year, you only will ever have at most 200 pairs of shoes. Each time I buy more it really drives home that another significant chunk of my life is gone forever, never to be seen again.

I call that my shoe theory, and I have a probably unhealthy habit of extrapolating that to other areas of my life. Right now I’m particularly fascinated with applying that concept to reading.

I think it started when I watched a particularly good documentary on YouTube about bookstores, and how there’s not enough time to read everything you want to. This is similar to what is said in the documentary, but for the sake of argument: if you read one book per week, that’s 52 books in a year. 520 books total over the course of your entire life.

That number drives me bonkers.

Surely it has to be possible to read more than that in your lifetime. But even if you read two or three books a week your entire life long, and live to be 100, that’s still only 1500 books.

How can you possibly decide which books are good enough to make that cut?!? What if you make the wrong choice and pick a real stinker, only to find that time lost forever and one of your allotted books a terrible waste? It’s enough to give anyone heartburn.

Luckily, I think my system works pretty well for me: the truth is there aren’t that many new books released in a given year that I want to read. I purchase or download anything that strikes my fancy. As I finish one I pick up the next one that looks the most interesting to me. If I do encounter a real stinker I feel no shame in giving it up part of the way through. I let my reading life work out organically, same as I do pretty much all the other parts of my life. As the saying goes, mind the pennies and the dollars will take care of themselves.

Read what interests you, read what you enjoy, and do it on your own terms. You’ll never read more than 1500 books, but that’s what makes each and every one so damn valuable.