Tuesday, April 17, 2007

We would like to be what we read

You can tell a lot about a person by their record collection, and no doubt the same thing applies to a person's book collection or the contents of their library bag. I read somewhere that a sizeable proportion of the adult population in Britain admits to buying books they have no intention of reading, purely to enhance their coolness factor in the eyes of their visitors.

(Which is why I think library bags ought to be made of a see-through material - so I can ponce around at the bus stop with Betrand Russell's History of Western Philosophy inside. And hey, the only reason I didn't actually finish the book is because you're only allowed to check it out for 4 weeks)

I like to think of myself as reasonably eclectic, adventurous and intellectual, so I'd be quite happy about people knowing that the following books are on my shelves :

  • A large number of "pop culture and philosophy" books, including the ones about Buffy and The Simpsons
  • My collection of travel guides, including the Lonely Planet guide to South America
  • Lionel Shriver's We have to talk about Kevin
  • Jung Chang's Wild Swans

The books which I wouldn't necessarily want everyone to know about would be:

  • The self-help guides for single women in their thirties
  • All my Marion Keyes chicklit novels, because really, only the first three were any good
  • Dan Brown's The Da Vinci Code would've been included here, but I gave it to a charity shop because I couldn't bear to see it on my shelf. It was a present, by the way.
And, of course, I'd be super-quick to point out to visitors that the shelf full of graphic novels (along with the Star Wars DVD boxed set) belongs to the boy.


Make Tea Not War said...

Good post! We have a big shelf of books with boring titles like "Programming for Data base systems" and "Linux"- those aren't mine. Neither is the one and a half shelves of gaming books or most of the graphic novels.

The Marion Keyes, the many parenting books, and the Harry Potter books *cough* I'm afraid are mine.

The top shelf non fiction including both mine and my spouses books left over from studying philosophy at University, my book on the history of absinthe, my collection of books on Buddhism, and my book by Buckminster Fuller (early environmental visionary and inventor) are the books which represent the TRUE me- (although to be completely honest I haven't read the Buckminster Fuller and the others are (I suspect)rather dusty.)

Laura said...

Marian Keyes seems to be somewhat ubuquitous, doesn't she? I owned a few of hers before our move, when we sold about half of our library.

My books are/ were the collections of plays, medieval stuff, Harry Potter, Laura Ingalls Wilder, chick lit, knitting, the histories of scientific stuff, and dictionaries/ thesauruses.

His are/ were the technical books and stuff on world religions, plus some non-fiction. A much smaller collecton than mine, because he reads less.

I always used the library to stock up on mindless chick-lit, rather than improve my mind... Glad my library bag was opaque and I could use the self-checkout!

Determinist said...

Excellent post Violet!

Let me tell you a story. It all started before New Year's, and I decided that I was going to read all the books that I'd borrowed and all the books that I own before I borrow or buy any more books!

Seeing as it was very close to New Year's at the time, I decided that I'd make it a New Year's resolution.

Since then, more books have appeared on my desk, in gifts, in my mail box and won in on-line contests than ever before.

Books are very important to me and represent a significant portion of my waking brain power. The thing is, I like books so much that I could never read them as fast as I can borrow or buy them, so they build up.

After seeing the movie, "The Secret", I realize that the "Law of Attraction" is at work, and I seem to attract books. I'm comfortable with that, since I like them so much, but I realized that I'll never get through them all - and some of the borrowed ones will have to go back un-read.

Still - I usually juggle several at once, and I'm hardly an exceptionally fast reader (or a particularly focused on - as this comment may indicate) to finish everything.

As for which books to put on display - I'm not overly picky and usually show everyone everything I'm reading - it's a habit, just in case someone else is interested and might want to talk about it. :-)

Nigel Patel said...

I actually had both "The Rules" books in order to skewer them in my zine. But sadly, zines were really expensive to produce.
Whenever I look at my book pile I always wish I read more novels.
Lots ofessayists like Molly Ivins/Jim Hightower/Katha Pollit/I.F. Stone, lots of history.
Lots of addiction/recovery, and yes, there are a few dating manuals that so far haven't earned their keep.

Cathi said...

I have never owned, read or even seen a Marion Keyes book! Waaaah!!!

I'm a big bookowner too. I get a kick out of having fiction in three languages on my shelves, not to mention poetry. Oh the swank. In my defence I **used** to be able to read them.

We have a combined tech shelf, some of the books are mine, some his, all are at least 5 years old so of questionable value now, but there are some gems in there.

There are also some mistakes, particularly amongst the fiction. Most of them don't make it to the shelves any more and are heaped in piles waiting for the next bookfair. Why oh why did I buy the second Jostein Gaardner, having been bored to tears by the first? And as for Digital Fortress...

But mistakes are the sign of an enquiring and open mind so I'm not ashamed of them. I remember my ma showing a guest to the guest bedroom, they'd never stayed with us before or even visited, and she said "help yourself to any of the books, we have something of everything, from soft porn through to Homer and Virgil in the original." That's the model I follow.

Violet said...

mtnw: There's nothing wrong with owning the Harry Potter books. You could always say they're DOTH's and that she has a reading age of 13 or whatever. Buckminster Fuller sounds like a joke name :-)

laura: To the ongoing debate on whether online text will one day be the death knell of print, I would add that I usually go online for research, and to print for enjoyment. I guess that's why I wanted to be a librarian.

determinist: It sounds great to have books coming out of your ears. There've been many occasions when I've had to scan my bookshelf looking for something to re-read, just because I didn't have anything "new" on hand.

nigel: I reckon there's lots of money to be made in relationship self-help books. All you'd need is a catchy title and an interesting take on the subject.

cathi: how enlightened your ma sounds! I discovered Anne Rice through a guest-room book shelf. Fortunately, I started with The Vampire Lestat rather than one of the later, more incest-laden witch novels.

Angela said...

I haven't done much reading lately. I use to read a lot. I will read soon I think. Right now I have too much studying to do.
Oh I tend to hide my romance books.

Desiree said...

Well, you know what our music collection looks like - 'nuff said!
We also have so many books there are some I haven't got around to reading yet.
But if you really want, you can borrow BR's History of Western Philosophy off us - it's sitting on my bedside table...8-)

Violet said...

angela: I know. It's just so uncool to be seen reading a romance, eh?

desiree: really? Is that in case your hubby snores too loudly in the night?

The Editter said...

I think maybe the reason I have so many unread books on my shelves is the fear of running out of things to read!

Or something.