How many serious books can even a dedicated reader conquer in a year? No more than forty, I should think. Twice that, maybe, for a professional critic, academic, or journalist who is going at it hammer and tongs.
But the late Susan Sontag claimed at the age of fifty-nine that she’d mowed through the whole of her own fifteen-thousand-volume library ‘over and over.’
That would mean, had Sontag learned to read at the age of three, two hundred and sixty-eight books per year (counting each one only once, not ‘over and over’). Give or take. She has to have started off more slowly during her toddler years and gradually stepped up the pace. That’s two days, tops, for each Elias Canetti! And she wasn’t even counting library books, textbooks, or books borrowed from friends.