Recent acquisitions

She has always done this, bellied up to a ledge, a box, a pillow, a leg, an armrest, a stack of books, then crossed her arms to hang out for a bit. That she did it when I set down my new books to photograph — and that she then looked me right in the eye as I held the camera — was unheard of.

Recently, Joseph asked how I decide which books to add to the collection. I located an entry on that topic from the archive of my original site, but much has changed in the sixteen years since that was posted. Besides, although I talk about living in a library, it really is a sort of antilibrary, as more than half of its contents are books I haven’t yet read. As I’ve written before, while this once embarrassed me, it now alternately enlivens and frightens me. From early in Nassim Nicholas 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 the 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 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.

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