Wednesday, June 25, 2008

What's In Your Anti-Library?

My friends that I've never met, Soob and Munzenberg over at Soobdujour, did an interesting post a few months back. It was called "What's In Your Anti-Library?"

I have waaaay too many books in my house. Mrs. Whited Sepulchre occasionally insists on a periodic weeding and pruning of them, both for aesthetic reasons and to avoid potential problems with the foundation shifting. I have some valuable stuff. There are some first edition Twains and Faulkners, lots of other signed copies from my previous career in Literary Retail, and I've got a loaner Geneva Bible that's probably worth upwards of $50,000.00

But those aren't the most valuable books that I own. The true value lies in the books that I haven't read. These are called the Anti-Library.

Here's the point of an Anti-Library, according to Soob and Munzenberg:

Zenpundit mentions in his comments section a great passage from 'The Black Swan':

"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 vistors 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 (you can possibly afford 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 the collection of unread books an antilibrary."

So, dear faithful readers, my question for you is this.... What are the unread books in your library? Why are they unread? And what do you hope to one day learn from them? Here are some of the books in my Anti-Library.

1) The Landmark Herodotus: The Histories. Edited by Robert B. Strassler, translated by Andrea L. Purvis.
This thing is so densely mapped, illustrated, cross-referenced and footnoted that it's not really meant to be read straight through. I'll never finish it, and I love it as much as anything I own. There are hundreds of incidents in this book that are just waiting to be given the same cinematic treatment given to Battle of Thermopylae in the recent animated film "The 300". Despite being written 1700 years ago, you can still hear a distinct voice coming through the years and the translation. Amazing. Reading it straight through would be like too much candy.

2) Mark Twain's "The Gilded Age" and "The American Claimant". These two are about a larger than life, get-rich-quick Twain character named Colonel Sellers. I'm a Twain fanatic and own several 1st editions, as stated above, plus I have all the reference works, biographies, etc. I've probably read every book the man wrote at least twice. But I'm saving these two for my old age, especially if I come down with a severe illness - the idea being that I won't let go of life without finishing all of Twain's books.
Here's one of the reviews from Amazon, by someone named Kerry Walters: "I recently went back to reread "The Gilded Age". The more things change, the more they stay the same! Twain's dissection of unscrupulous tycoons wanting to get richer, corrupt senators jumping in bed with the tycoons by cutting them sweet political deals, and get-rich crazy middle class types who kiss up for their cut of the pie could've all been taken from last night's news."
On second thought, I might start reading these tonight.

3) "Pylon" by William Faulkner. About 20 years ago, I purchased a copy of Joseph Blotner's two-volume Faulkner biography. While reading the biography, every time I got to a Faulkner letter, short story, novel, or screenplay in the biography, I read the letter, short story, novel, or screenplay in question all the way through before continuing any further with the biography. It was a two-year project. But I didn't read Pylon, and I can't remember why. Perhaps it's because I hate closure. (When I finished reading all that Faulkner, it took me almsot two years to re-learn how to speak English.)

4) The "Left Behind" series, by Tim LaHaye and Jerry Jenkins. Just joking.

5) HTML 4 for Dummies. Not joking. Any time you see something on this site besides straight unpunctuated typing, it's because of this book. You can't imagine the pride I felt when, for the first time, I was able to post a YouTube video. I've actually changed the size of some pictures. And that Blockquote thing I did for the Black Swan quote up there?.... pretty impressive, huh?
This isn't the kind of book you finish. It's the kind of book you throw across the room when you forget to properly close off a set of H2 parameters, and you realize that you've posted an entire Blog Carnival in headline sized type. Scares the crap out of the weiner dogs.

So I'd like to ask the following people for their favorite volumes in their Anti-Libraries. Some of you don't have a blog, so please respond in the comment field below. (For a good sampling, look at the comment field in Soobdujour.) If you have your own site, and feel that this idea is worth a post, please do so and link back to this site. Or you can blow the thing off.

I'd really like to hear from:

Dr. Liz at Zbeth Journall Dr. Liz is in a class with me at our church. She finishes one mystery novel per day, and reviews it at her blog.

Pete at Cowtown Chronicles Pete, you're expected to be memorable, please don't disappoint.

I must include Dr. Ralph. BTW, Dr. Ralph, I saw your spousal companion at a meeting tonight, and she says you look at this site before you even speak to her in the mornings. I...don't...really know....what to that.

How about DG at TCU. DG doesn't have a site, but is now formally invited to type away in the comment field below. Ditto for JG from BBC.

GW at Wolf Howling should be interesting.

Whatever Her Name is at GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD. When you get a chance, look at the "Favorite Books" section of her user profile. I just want to see if there's anything she hasn't read.

TomG, wherever and whoever you are, please comment below.

Durango Texas, you're invited. Haven't heard from you in a while, but I'm sure that will change during football season.

"Literal Anonymous", "Angry Anonymous", and "Hospital Anonymous", please write something to act as a counterbalance to Pete.

Francis at Food & Fort Worth, Suzette at Morning Coffee, Evening Wine, and all the other Eastsiders.... the world would like to hear from you.

Everyone else, what books have you bought but not opened? And why?


GW said...

Hello Mr. Sepulchre. I do appreciate the tag. I was actually tagged on this some time ago and posted here in case you are interested:

I hate to admit that I have not read the Twain books you site, but they sound so interesting I will look for them in my local book store

TarrantLibertyGuy said...

My Anti-Library (per your description - books in my possession not read) are:
-"The Anti-Federalist Papers", (makes sense its in my Anti-Library) I've picked and choosed at this one, but haven't read it completely.
-"Predictably Irrational" by Dan Ariely... looks good, birthday present from my daughter.
-"Let's Get Real or Let's Not Play", good project management/sales/biz book from friend Todd Hedgcoth.
Unlike you and my friend Todd (largest private library I've seen), I get rid of my read books quickly.
Also remember, William from the Tarrant Libertarians drives a book mobile. If I or anyone ever mentions a book that hasn't been read, he says "Hold on" goes to his car and brings the book out! Never fails. It's like a magic trick or a weird device from the TV Show "Lost". He gave me "The Anti-Federalist Papers" and gave somebody else a copy of "Atlas Shrugged". He's great!

Jay@Soob said...

An impressive collection, though the antilibrary was purely Munz.

The Herodotus seems to be a "bible" of sorts that I should own. In terms of non-fiction my favorites include those tomes which you never quite seem to have the time to finish (lest you absolve yourself to a rather monkish existence) but continually lift and refer to. One of my own would be a massive book on Rome, entailing the histories of the republic and running right through the principate.

And I'll admit I haven't read nearly enough of Twain. In this literary essence I feel damn near unpatriotic.

Francis Shivone said...

Give me a day or two -- I'll chime in. Thanks. Great idear.

Anonymous said...

Present. A little out-of-touch with the daily blogging but glad I stopped by tonight. Always can count on The Whited Sepulchre for enlightenment. A book I bought but have not read one word yet is...The Architecture of Happiness by Alain de Botton. I know nothing about architecture so I figured this would be an educational, interesting read for me.

Dr Ralph said...

Okay...Took a little thinking but here's the short version of the list (long version can be seen here).

CSS: The Definitive Guide, by Eric A. Meyer. O'Reilly publishes the best tech books around.

V, by Thomas Pynchon. I bought the book but just haven't gotten to it yet.

The Story of Civilization, by Will and Ariel Durant. Got it through Book of the Month years the first 4 volumes and was tempted away by trash fiction.

The Baroque Cycle, by Neal Stephenson. Seventeenth century cyberpunk SciFi. What I've read is inspired, but there is a lot of it.

Buddha, by Osamu Tezuka. Manga (Japanese comics) retelling of the holy-man's life by a master of the medium. Waiting to collect all 8 volumes in hardback before I read from the beginning.

Bonus: Lord of the Rings, which try as I might, I've never been able to plow through more than the first 30 pages of.

By the way, the Spousal Companion likes to sleep late, so reading your blog before talking to her in the morning is an act of kindness!

Steve-O said...

Great post. I'll chew on this one a little, but Herodotus and Faulkner are right up there for me, along with James Joyce.

Dr Ralph said...

The book I'm really looking to add to my library (and never read again) is the leather bound edition of this.

I keep thinking the recent Dobson post will end up the New Testament to the Cal Thomas piece Old Testament, but it just hasn't taken on the same flaming intensity.

Go fig.

Pete Wann said...

steve-o, yours should be easy, I've seen your library! There's NO WAY you could have read all of those!

Geez, Allen, pressure people much? This is gonna take a LOT of thought.

zbethwalker said...

Dr. Liz said...

I will post my anti-library bit by bit. I have four piles of books on my carpet that I plan to read. Many are text books from a series of courses I took on women writers.

Currently I have borrowed from library Shelby Foote, Vol. I Civil War. River Horse
I don't have much of a private library. I have moved too many times across too many miles. Mostly I borrow from public library.

Francis Shivone said...

I'm late in, but here you go.

First, I have never felt it a necessity to read a purchased book.

It's not like lettuce.

Second, truth told I would be wiser for reading just 10 good books all my life, than the hundreds I have read, or partially read.

Three. I am great at reading about a chapter or two then going on to the next.

Four. Here's 6 of the 10 books I should stick to, and then 6 in yhe anti-library category:

Should read more off:
1. Bible -- all of it, including what the Protesters call the Apocrypha.
2. Sophocles -- Oedipus Rex, Antigone, Oedipus at Colonus.
3. Shakespeare: King Lear or Macbeth.
4. Aristotles, Metaphysics.
5. Plato's, Republic
6. Constitution and Federalist Papers.

Anti Library:
(I have at least one copy of all below and read only portions)
1. Moby Dick
2. Brothers Karamazov
3. Ben Hur
4. Apocrypha (yes, I am a hypocrite.
5. Pick any of Whited's, Faulkner. A great writer, and I haven't read him I am ashamed to say.
6. F Scott Fitzgerald. Same as above.

Great idea for post. Thanks.

CraigNickell said...


I really liked "The Hobbit" but started the "The Lord of the Rings" several times and always moved to something else. The movies were greatness.

I know that this will offend your Faulkner worship, but I prefer Stan Lee. Spiderman. X-Men. Avengers. Seen any Faulkner movies lately?

Don't get me started on James Joyce. Actually, I have tried several times but prefer punctuation. Or at least pictures.

The Whited Sepulchre said...

John S.,
I don't remember meeting Todd yet. Hope he's at the July Libertarian Meetup.

You're a Yankee, and you're not expected to have read much Twain/Clemens. However, knowing your love of all things Historical and Military, may I suggest that you start with Connecticut Yankee? The ending is a massive clash of civilizations.

Thanks for the HT to de Botton. I read "Status Anxiety" about a year ago, in an attempt to determine why I don't have any.

Dr. Ralph,
I too have the Will and Ariel Durant set. I think I got it for joining a book club. Great for dipping into, but not much of a Beach Read, is it?

AWwww C'mon, post it all at once. the point of this thing is to get people to hit that link on your name, so they'll read your book reviews. Oh, I get're going to sign on and totally spam this comment field, aren't you?

I've tried and tried to get through Sophocles, and failed miserably. Ditto for the Federalist Papers. (I know where to go for quotes and "smart sentences" from the FP's, though.)

Craig, my beloved employer who will soon be introduced on these pages with the pseudonym "Marvel Variants".....,
Truly, you are the product of a Baylor education.
And yes, I recently re-watched the movie of "Intruder In The Dust", filmed in Oxford, MS. It's greatness. "The Reivers", with Steve McQueen is also good.
"Sanctuary", "The Long Hot Summer", "The Sound & The Fury", and "To Have and Have Not" (Faulkner screenplay of Hemingway novel) - they all blow chunks.

You might be pleased to know that Classic Comics Illustrated is coming out with a stream of consciousness cartoon version of Joyce's "Ulysses".

Pete Wann said...

Okay, It's posted. I hope it lives up to your expectations, Allen!

GrEaT sAtAn'S gIrLfRiEnD said...

Yep. I've read them all plus like abillion others too.

sandersonmom said...

Some of my anti-library..
1. Don Quixote
2. The Souls of Black Folk
3. Origin of Species
4. Communist Manifesto