Despite the next presidential election being more than two years away, hopeful candidates are already carving out a spot in the public eye. Hillary Clinton, probable democratic front runner for 2016, spoke to the New York Times about what books she’s read recently, as well as her list of favorite authors. While some, like Ralph Nader, doubt Clinton’s sincerity when it comes to having actual read these books, I’ve decided to run the numbers.
I know I’m a decently busy person, and this year, despite that schedule, I have read a total of 30 books. I will admit that half of those books were for classes, but overall, I have read about 15 books this year for pleasure (not that my school books aren’t pleasurable—I love my major and my reading).
I’m on the fence when it comes to Clinton’s sincerity. I think one dedicated and with a love for reading and books could most definitely find the time to do the reading on her list. But, with all of the campaigning she is doing, plus her former positions as a member of President Barack Obama’s cabinet as U.S. Secretary of State, Senator for New York, and, of course, her stint as First Lady, it is really hard to picture her with a lot of down time for reading.
I won’t try to sway the reader one way or the other on the likelihood of Clinton actually reading this list, instead, I will provide a list of the books, the page count, and the time it would take to read the book based on an average reading rate of 450 words (which is generous. I read faster than that, but the average reading rate of say, a college student, is about 350 words a minute).
The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt
The Goldfinch is 775 pages long. With roughly 250 to 300 words a page average for books, that makes this book about 193,750 to 232,500 words long. At the reading rate of 450 words per minute, it would take roughly between 7 hours and 15 minutes to 8 hours and 45 minutes to finish this book.
Mom & Me & Mom by Maya Angelou
Mom & Me & Mom is considerably shorter, page wise, than The Goldfinch, clocking in at just 224 pages long. Figuring the average word count per page, this book has between 56,000 to 67,200 words total. At the reading rate of 450 words per minute, Mom & Me & Mom would take between 2 to 2 and a half hours to finish.
Missing You by Harlan Coben
Missing You is 400 pages long. To continue with my pattern of math, that is 100,000 to 120,000 words long. That means this book would take someone reading at 450 words per minute between 3 hours and 45 minutes to about 4 and a half hours to finish.
The Hare With Amber Eyes by Edmund de Waal
The Hare With Amber Eyes is 354 pages long, which means it has between 88,500 and 106,200 words total. For a faster-than-average reader at 450 words a minute, that would take 3 hours and 15 minutes to 4 hours to complete.
The Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert
The Signature of All Things is 512 pages long. With 250-300 words per page being the average, there should be 128,000 to 153,600 words in the novel. Reading at 450 words per minute, that means it would take 4 hours and 45 minutes to 5 hours and 45 minutes to read this novel.
Citizens of London by Lynne Olson
Citizens of London is 496 pages long. That means this book roughly has 124,000 to 148,800 words hidden within. With a higher-than-average reading rate, this book would take between 4 and a half to 5 and a half hours to finish.
A Suitable Boy by Vikram Seth
A Suitable Boy is 1,488 pages long. That means it has between 372,000 and 446,400 words within the novel, which translates to taking about 13 hours and 45 minutes to 16 and a half hours.
Decision Points by George W. Bush
Decision Points is 512 pages long, in other words, it’s exactly as long as The Signature of All Things. This makes math easier for me—I can just cut and paste the answer. The final results are that it would take 4 hours and 45 minutes to 5 hours and 45 minutes to read this novel.
Faith of My Fathers by John McCain
Faith of My Fathers is 349 pages long. Doing all the same calculations, this book has between 87,250 and 104,700 words in it, meaning it would take an above average reader between 3 hours and 15 minutes and 4 hours to complete this book.
Hillary Clinton also mentioned a wide range of authors she enjoys regularly, such as Laura Hillenbrand, Walter Isaacson, Barbara Kingsolver, John le Carre, John Grisham, Hillary Mantel, Toni Morrison, Anna Quindlen, and Alice Walker.
Just counting the books, it would have taken Clinton at least 47 hours and 15 minutes to complete her “recent” reading list, if she reads faster than average, hasn’t had to go back and re-read any passages after being interrupted, and if the books only have 200 words per page. I’m sure she has time on flights or at night before bed, but, even to an avid reader like me, this seems a bit extreme. I guess our definition of “recent” might vary. Feel free to draw your own conclusions as to whether this is an authentic reading list, or a PR move.