I grew up in a home that had bookcases in nearly every room. I thought most homes had the compact OED, Encyclopedia Britannica’s Great Books of the Western World and the Feynman Lectures in the bookshelves, and everyone had read and loved Fahrenheit 451 and How to Read a Book. One of these days I will make a list of books that are in my canon, which is a combination of books I think are excellent, what I think everyone should have read to have a well rounded reading experience.
I took it for granted that reading was part of everyday life. Most of my friends read multiple books a month and were in the middle of several books at any given time. I have since learned that a significant portion of the world aren’t readers. This makes me sad because I think books are incredibly powerful.
I love reading and I love books. A house without bookshelves filled with books seems empty. I will admit I have purchased too many books over the years. Even when I have 100+ books waiting to be read, I still purchase new books. Why? One, my immediate interests or needs might bump the new book to the top of the list. Second, is a fear that the book will go out of print and I won’t be able to pick it up at a later date. Third, it might be that buying the book gives the illusion that I will have time to read the book… so it feels a bit like I am buying more time. I know that’s not true, but it sort of feels that way. I discovered that there was a forth reason I purchased books. That being a reader was part of my identity, and that a large book collection was like a badge of honor.
A number of years ago I started to simplify my stuff which included downsizing my physical book collection. I have mostly switched to using ebooks because they are more transportable, searchable, and I every book can have giant print for my aging eyes. Ten years after I started to reduce the size of my physical book collection I feel a bit divided. Studies have shown people often retain 30% more information when reading a paper book compared to using an e-reader. When all my books were physical I found it easy to find a book which addressed a particular topic. I have found even with all my ebooks in a database and the ability to do full text searches, that I often have trouble finding a particular book unless I remember it’s title. I have also found that ebooks aren’t as inspiring. When rooms were filled with bookcases, sometimes just glancing over at the books would inspire me to investigate a topic.
Nassim Taleb has inspired several articles about the value of the anti-library (unread books), specially having more books than you will ever have time to read because it keeps us aware of all that we don’t know. The Japanese call this tsundoku.
Today, I strive to buy books I will immediately read. Whenever possible I get books from the library, but I still keep an Amazon’s wishlist of Books to Pickup Someday. I still believe it’s valuable to nurture a personal library, and there is value in having a collection of unread books.
I am trying to record all the books I have read on goodreads, but there are still a lot which are missing.
Libraries are more than just places that stores or loans books. They tend to be places that prompt learning, fight against repression, and build community. Many offer resources such as tools, access to art, and many other worthy endeavors.
- Mountain View Library
- Santa Clara County Library in Los Altos
EBooks / Free Reads
- access foundation great books and the great books index
- Project Gutenberg & GutenMark converting tool
- Free Books for Kindle
- Books free to borrow for Amazon Prime members
- Faded Page: Free books in Canada
- Samizdat Press (free tech)
- lulu.com: on demand printing w/ free distribution for ebooks
- dailylit: books by daily email or rss feed
- librivox.org: public domain audio books
- retroread.com: converts google books epub to mobi for kindle use
- /reddit books cited
- Books Everyone should read – meta list count mentions on a number of reading lists
Other Peoples Lists:
- John Walker’s Reading List
- FogCreek Software Management Curriculum
- Personal MBA
- 100 Best African Books of 20th Century
- Derek Sivers Book Notes
- Kyle’s sloww.co recommended books
- Mark Frauenfelder’s Book Freak
- Bob on Books
- Tim Ferris Reading
- Kevin Neuner
- rabbit hole by Blas Moros
- Blinkist (my experience)
- Samuel Thomas davies