mardi 25 août 2009

The Anti-Library

I realized when I went to my parents' house this weekend just how many books I've accumulated over the past seven years since I left home - AND just how many of these books I still haven't read! I'm guessing I haven't read about 75% of the books in there (at last count over 1200 of them).

I googled "unread books" and "personal library" to give me an idea of how many unread books other people keep in their libraries. (I google everything. I love finding that I'm not the only one who thinks a certain way... Do other people do this as well?)

Should I just get rid of the books I haven't read yet? Is it wasted space? I know I want to follow my friend's advice and only keep books I liked. But what about books I haven't read yet?

Then I found an article that quotes Umberto Eco as saying he has an "anti-library". I love this concept!

"Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight read-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary."

And more from the article:

"My anti-library is growing, and it does invoke a bit of unease. All that work to do! So much I don't know! So much I'd love to learn! At the same time I feel some pride when I look at my shelves, and I respect the spirit of insatiable curiosity sitting behind those books." [My case in point!]

"Perhaps it is that our antilibraries represent the person we would like to be (the one that has read those books) and the one we would be if only we weren't so busy being this person. When we finally do read one of those books, it is a little graduation."

From the comments:

"I have started an anti-library in an effort to keep myself 'intellectually humble'. There is so much I don't know and it is worthwhile to keep this perspective because it forces me to keep an open mind and to constantly challenge my own assumptions."

It's really fun to be able to find people who have the same "guilt" as I do about buying books and not having time to read them right away. Oh, Internet, what would I do without you?

I also want my kids to grow up in a house full of books, so they NEVER run out of reading material, like I did when I was younger. I had an insatiable appetite for books and if I had access to more of them who knows how many great books I would have gotten through? It was probably the period in my life where I had the most free time to read too.

On a related note, I just registered with LibraryThing and GoodReads. Potentially a great way to keep track of my books. And I like the possibility of being able to write reviews - so I can remember which books I liked the most and why! It'll make it easier to recommend books to friends.

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