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« History meme | Main | If you never hear from me again, this is why »

February 27, 2008


What Now?

I once met someone whose bookshelf only contained books he had read and loved, which I found bizarre. I do understand getting rid of books that one did not love and for which one can foresee no need to own at some future point; every once in a while I get the urge to purge on this point, and I do always find it rather freeing. But the idea of having no books on one's bookshelf that one hasn't already read -- madness! I feel security in knowing that, even if I were trapped in my apartment for days, I'd have enough new reading material to keep me going.


I agree with you, LP. My bookshelves store my books. Enough said. The books do get divided up between my office (books I think I'll need on a regular basis) and the rest of the house (books I am not working with at the moment, including non-scholarly books). All of the projection about who wants whom to see what books is pointless--they go where I can fit the bookcases!

J. Hann

Hahaha, well.... As McLemee points out, the books-as-performative-identity interpretation only holds "if and only if you are not a total nerd." ;) He notes that "a very different set of principles is in effect if you are someone for whom reading itself actually counts as one of the primary forms of social interaction." I bet that probably describes you, LP. It certainly describes me, an unabashed "total nerd", for better or worse.

Rohan Maitzen

Books need to ripen on the shelf. You can never be sure when a book's moment will come, but it is important that it, and you, be ready and in close proximity when it does! Also (speaking as someone who finally came across "The Balkan Trilogy" in a used bookstore today) it is foolish not to buy something just because it may be a while before you have a chance to read it.


All my academic books are in my office, and I don't have many books at home. So are they performances of identity if one doesn't have books, as I worry here?

George Kelley

What does a collection of 15,000-20,000 books say about a person? I have all of Anthony Trollope's books (I've read about half of them), all Henry James' books (read most of them), and thousands of pulp fiction titles (which I read when the mood hits). There's something about the thrill of discovering books in a bookstore (new or used) and buying them. The sensation of holding a well-made book from publishers like Night Shade Books is sensual. Any person who owns a substantial number of volumes is having an affair with books.

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