I started a bookshelf-reorganization project in December–it seemed like something to do over the holidays–but didn’t quite finish. Just yesterday I managed to finally get through all of the fiction books, but in the process I displaced some miscellaneous non-fiction and, more significantly, my substantial collection of Asian fiction (which I don’t shelve with the regular fiction because . . . because I don’t). As I’ve been going through the thousands of books, touching every one, I’ve managed to find some that I can get rid of: the occasional embarrassing duplicate copy; a classic that I can now get for free on my Kindle; a mystery or thriller I know I’ll never, ever need again. Not as many as I’d hoped, though, and so I am still short of bookshelf space. The project needs to move into other genres if I’m going to weed out some more: lots of non-fiction I can live without, I think, and I’ve got way more literary journals than I need. And somehow I have to start getting rid of the discards . . .
For a long time I’ve been embarrassed by the large number of books I own that I haven’t read. I read a lot, but buy more than I read because I love books. I’m currently reading The Black Swan by Nassim Nicholas Taleb, and I was very happy to find this passage in the introduction to Part 1:
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 real-estate market allow 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.
So, it turns out that I have a sizable antilibrary. Yay.