However misguided the priorities of Burgess Meredith's character may have been, I'm sure most bookworms sympathize with his desire to have enough time to read everything that catches our interest. I consider myself reasonably well-read, particularly within my favourite genre, science fiction, but in truth after forty years of reading I've barely scratched the surface of even that single narrow discipline.
I didn't need to read Science Fiction: The 101 Best Novels 1985-2010 to come to this conclusion, but doing so did illuminate the gaps in my coverage rather starkly. Of the 101 novels listed by Damien Broderick and Paul Di Filippo, I've read precisely 20: The Handmaid's Tale (Margaret Atwood), Ender's Game (Orson Scott Card), Queen of Angels (Greg Bear), Barrayar (Lois McMaster Bujold), Jumper (Steven Gould), Red Mars (Kim Stanley Robinson), A Fire Upon the Deep (Vernor Vinge), Permutation City (Greg Egan), The Diamond Age (Neal Stephenson), Forever Peace (Joe Haldeman), Salt (Adam Roberts), Light (M. John Harrison), Altered Carbon (Richard Morgan), The Separation (Christopher Priest), The Time Traveler's Wife (Audrey Niffenegger), The Labyrinth Key (Howard V. Hendrix), The Plot Against America (Philip Roth), Spin (Robert Charles Wilson), In War Times (Kathleen Ann Goonan) and Steal Across the Sky (Nancy Kress).
I own several of Broderick and Di Filippo's chosen 101 and I'll doubtless read them soon: Use of Weapons (Ian M. Banks), Sailing Bright Eternity (Gregory Benford), The Cassini Division (Ken MacLeod), Perdido Street Station (China Mieville), The Road (Cormac McCarthy), The Yiddish Policemen's Union (Michael Chabon), Boneshaker (Cherie Priest) and The Quantum Thief (Hannu Rajaniemi). Even if I read them all this year, though, I won't have made my way through even a third of this particular list.
On the other hand, lists like these are by their nature subjective and therefore debatable: Di Filippo and Broderick include no works by several important SF authors, including John Scalzi, Jack McDevitt, Larry Niven, Catherine Asaro and Robert Sawyer. Had any of these writers or a number of others been included I would have "scored" higher.
On the gripping hand, if these lists are imperfect they're also quite useful for leading readers to authors they may have missed. Having read the book I'm now eager to read This is the Way the World Ends (James Morrow), Life During Wartime (Lucius Shepard), Brittle Innings (Michael Bishop), Galatea 2.2 (Richard Powers), The Golden Globe (John Varley), Cave of Stars (George Zebrowski), Super-Cannes (J.G. Ballard), Under the Skin (Michael Faber), Natural History (Justina Robson), River of Gods (Ian McDonald), Never Let Me Go (Kazuro Ishguro), Air (Geoff Ryman), Accelerando (Charles Stross), My Dirty Little Book of Stolen Time (Liz Jensen), Blindsight (Peter Watts), Harm (Brian W. Aldiss), Little Brother (Cory Doctorow) and The Windup Girl (Paolo Bacigalupi), among others.
This, to me, is the great tragedy of a limited lifespan: there simply isn't enough time to enjoy even a limited selection of even one genre, let alone the broader range of all literature. Some people claim that immortality would get boring after a while, and that attitude baffles me. Reading and watching movies alone would keep me entertained for hundreds if not thousands of years. And then there's travel, meeting new people, discovering new hobbies, learning new skills...
I wonder if I could blog every day for a thousand years straight?