The Anti-Library

A selection of my personal library, 20 August 2008

From Nassim Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable:

The writer Umberto Eco belongs to that small class of scholars who are encyclopedic, insightful, and nondull. He is the owner of a large personal library (containing thirty thousand books), and separates visitors into two categories: those who react with “Wow! Signore professore dottore Eco, what a library you have! How many of these books have you read?” and others — a very small minority — who get the point that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendage but a research tool. 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. (p. 1)

Great! On that basis, I’m going to allow myself to buy three more books this week.

Update, 26 August 2008: Two-thirds of the way there: I bought A Thousand Years of Nonlinear History by Manuel De Landa and The Concept of the Political by Carl Schmitt yesterday.

Update 2, 27 August 2008: Book number three purchased. At the suggestion of John, I ordered a copy of singularity-oriented sci-fi novel Accelerando by Charles Stross.