Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Of the displaying of many books, there is no end

Matt Selman (of The Simpsons fame) has a delightful post on the rules of bookshelf etiquette, including the rule that “it is unacceptable to display any book in a public space of your home if you have not read it.” Then Ezra Klein responded with a humorous rejoinder: “Bookshelves are not for displaying books you’ve read. Rather, the books on your shelves are there to convey the type of person you would like to be.”

And now Scott McLemee responds by insisting that bookshelves exist simply for storage rather than for performance-of-self. And he makes this nice point: “My experience (which can’t be unique) is that some books end up accumulating out of a misguided attempt to win the approval of authors already well-entrenched on my shelves.”

In my home right now, we’re trying to build a new study, since we’ve run out of room. So in my present circumstances – crammed into a corner of a noisy living room, hunched nervously at my desk between tottering piles of books – I’ve discovered that there is only one essential rule of library management: Don’t bump the books with your elbow, or they will topple down and crush you.

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