Chipotle’s System of the World

Last night I finally finished Neal Stephenson‘s The System of the World. The receipt in the book says that I bought it on October 4, 2006, but I don’t think I actually started reading it until sometime mid-November. Even then, I don’t think I read more than a few pages at a time until a month later. My time spent working through the 900-page volume is marked by the stack of receipt-bookmarks that it has accumulated since December 13. You see, I haven’t been reading much outside of dinner and lunch breaks for the last year or so.

So how much did it cost me to read this book?

Neal Stephenson's The System of the World

The overwhelming majority of the receipts come from, as you could guess, Chipotle. And when I say “overwhelming”, I mean overwhelming: I had 72 Chipotle receipts stuffed into various parts of the book. Thus, one could infer that I read approximately 12-13 pages per meal break, which is about right when you also figure that I get through Stephenson’s prose at about one page per minute. There are also a few receipts for pizza and hot dog places, Chinese and Italian places, coffee and smoothie shops, and even a few hair cuts.

The grand total: $734.67, which does not include the $25.36 I paid for the book. At a gross cost of $1.20 per page, that’s easily the most expensive book I’ve ever read. I think that I’ll stop the numbers here before I am tempted to go back and figure out how much it cost me to read the first two volumes of the series, as well.

And yet, it’s a great book, and a great series. It’s certainly not for everyone, but I enjoyed it immensely. I think most coder-geeks would enjoy it, too. For the enjoyment I’ve gotten out of the last 6 months of reading it, $750 isn’t too bad a price.

Thanks, Neal.