You Can Learn A Lot About Someone By Looking At Their Library

One of the better insights of Komarr as a novel was the way in which it shows how you can tell a lot about someone by looking at their library [1]. I do a fair amount of thinking from time to time about my library, its balance (or lack thereof) and what that says about my life. I should, before I get too far, comment that I have at least two branches to my library. One branch, the main branch (for now), consists of several hundred volumes of a largely historical bent but with a strong secondary tendency towards religious writings, literature, and science and mathematics, which as been discussed elsewhere [2]. As I have already discussed the composition of the Tampa branch of my library, I would like to discuss the Oregonian traveling library branch [3] and its composition, as well as the process by which books were acquired for my library branches.

The composition of my traveling Oregonian branch of the library is quite different from that of my more stationary and remote Tampa branch. For one, my library in Tampa was seeded from the remains of my college library in Los Angeles as well as my reading materials at Ambassador Bible Center, which accounted for the specific mix that my Tampa library has, based on its original seeding materials (along with my longtime books in Florida from childhood). My library in Oregon, on the other hand, was seeded by those books that were the most appropriate for my teaching in Thailand, along with those books that I have managed to acquire since my return to the United States, which have mostly been either books from military history journals for the purposes of scholarly review or (much more commonly) books from Christian publishers.

These varied sources of books have greatly changed the composition of my library, making it hard to find the science and engineering books as well as the classic literature that made a substantial purpose of my own library, unless one includes my kindle library, where such elements are more common (along with the ancient and biblical history books I am so fond of that are hard to find free copies of from publishers). I wonder what others would think of me by looking at my library. Would they see my taste for books about social justice as harboring some kind of political motive? If they thought that, they would not be the first people to see the political implications of my passion for justice and my skepticism of authority. My book reading is certainly not revolutionary, but it is clearly the sign of someone who is disaffected with our political, economic, and cultural elites.

It should go without saying that I also look at the libraries of other people to see what their interests and mindset and worldview is. Of course, some people have an impressive library but do it for show, but the best libraries are those which are full of well-read and beloved books that are there for use and not only for show. There are books that have personal meaning because of our lives, because of personal contexts, and because of timing. Sometimes the proportion of books, as is the case for me, can be an accident of situation and not necessarily the result of intent or planning. Yet the patterns remain and are interesting to study. What does your library say about you?

[1] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/04/08/book-review-komarr/

[2] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2011/03/22/a-personal-library/

[3] https://edgeinducedcohesion.wordpress.com/2014/01/09/the-accidental-traveling-librarian-or-the-material-culture-of-nomads/

About nathanalbright

I'm a person with diverse interests who loves to read. If you want to know something about me, just ask.
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2 Responses to You Can Learn A Lot About Someone By Looking At Their Library

  1. Pingback: Book Review: Some Of My Best Friends Are Books | Edge Induced Cohesion

  2. Pingback: Reading For My Supper | Edge Induced Cohesion

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