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:
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.
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."
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 say....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?