Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Have you read that?

Via the amazingly prolific and popular postings of Instapundit, a link to an article on bookshelf etiquette. Per the author, Scott McLemee, a blogger for Time magazine opined that you should not display a book in a public space if you haven't read it, where Ezra Klein wrote in the American Prospect that the books on your shelves should indicate the sort of person you want to be. The author of the piece is sensible "Likewise for bookshelves. Many items there are staples. Others are ingredients that, like salt, are only good in combination with something else. Some things you keep around are healthy, if not very tasty, while a few might count as junk food. (A couple of scholarly presses are indeed known for their Pop-Tarts.) And it’s hardly a decent pantry if you don’t have a few impulse purchases you later regret, or gourmandizing experiments that didn’t quite pan out."

Looking around, most of the books on my shelves are things I have read, but have decided to keep around. Some things are showy, I spent a while (pre-Internet) haunting my local used book stores to pick up Robert Ruark's various novels in hardback. Just recently I came across a 1963 hardback of John Graves' "Goodbye to a River" and bought it, even though there is a nice trade paperback on the shelf. The couple of dollars for the nice hardback were worth it, as I'll read or lend that book again. On the other hand, the shelf nearest me is a hodgepodge of read and un-read books- paperbacks stashed for the next plane trip, the fruits of my last book-browsing, others that I'll keep for a while or perhaps forever. Unlike a couple of other shelves in the front of the house, only a few things on this one have an assured place.

I'd guess the real question if one were concerned with bookshelf etiquette is where to put the books you started but couldn't finish.

3 comments:

Matt Mullenix said...

"the real question if one were concerned with bookshelf etiquette is where to put the books you started but couldn't finish."

I put them right back up on the shelf but I dare you to pick which ones they are. :-)

mdmnm said...

Matt,

I usually put them back up, too. They glare at me until I try to finish them again. After a second or sometimes third try, they go away, though.

a. said...

"the real question if one were concerned with bookshelf etiquette is where to put the books you started but couldn't finish."

because i always feel like a failure when i don't finish them, they stay near my bed...piled high on the nightstand and next to my pillows. but because i keep bringing new titles in, the older ones get relegated to the foot of the bed, and eventually underneathe the bed - where they have taken on the shape of a small fortress in the middle of which my cat likes to sleep during the day. oh, it helps that i have a queen size bed and i sleep alone. :-P