Munzenberg’s Viral Post: What is in your Antilibrary?

The other day, I was having a conversation in the comments section regarding ancient Chinese philosophers with my learned friend Lexington Green, when I had cause to quote Nassim Nicholas Taleb, from his most recent book The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable:

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 your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real estate market allow you to put there. You wil accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growig 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.

A passage that immediately made me feel better about having resigned myself to falling further and further behind in reading the books that I keep purchasing ( I’m now also periodically finding myself going to IKEA to buy shelf extensions. I’ve resigned myself to that too).

The obscurely named Munzenberg of Soob, also enjoyed Taleb’s take on the proper function of a book collection and has begun a viral post What is in your Antilibrary?:

I’d like to pose a question to those who read this blog entry: What are three to five books on your shelf that lay unread and what knowledge do you hope to retrieve from them? [ ed.- see Munzenberg’s antilibrary here]

….I suppose I may have to tag people to get a widespread antilibrary booklist going. Feel free if you are reading this blog entry to start your own entry (the more books the better right?). I’ll link to you here if I catch it. I shall tag:




Adam Elkus


As Munzenberg has graciously “tagged” me, here is a fraction of my current antilibrary (the antilibrary appears to be a dynamic state with a definite phase transition to library status) I decided to avoid those recently acquired books at the top of my pile and use some finely-aged examples:

On the Origins of War: And the Preservation of Peace by Donald Kagan

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