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The Antilibrary


I’ve been doing something pretty stupid and I just realized it.

This week, I caught myself feeling guilty as I walked into my home office and looked at the ever-growing number of unread books. Luckily, Nassim Taleb pointed out my error.

Only a person who doesn’t understand knowledge walks into someone’s library and asks, “have you read all these?”

In fact, a good library is filled with mostly unread books. That’s the point.

In The Black Swan, Nassim Taleb writes:

The writer Umberro 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 is that a private library is not an ego-boosting appendages but a research tool. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means … 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 your menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

Looking for something to add to your antilibrary? Check out Your Favorites For The Best Books of 2012 and my 2013 Curated Recommendations For a Curious Mind, Summer Edition.