zenpundit.com » Blog Archive » Adding to the Towering Antilibrary Pile

Adding to the Towering Antilibrary Pile

The Landmark Xenophon’s Hellenika by Xenophon. Edited by Robert Strassler

Strassler’s “Landmark” series are gems. After enjoying this year’s Xenophon Roundtable at Chicago Boyz, I was glad to see Hellenika newly released. A little pricey though in hardcover.

I am adding more books to my Antilibrary, keeping in the spirit of  Nassim Nicholas Taleb, from his 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 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.

While the real estate markets are no longer “tight”, the substance still applies. Here’s what else I just picked up:


After the Ice: A Global Human History 20,000-5000 BC  by Steven Mithen

Panzer Leader by General Heinz Guderian

Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia, 1600-1947 by Christopher Clark

Strategy by B.H. Liddell Hart

Power, Faith, and Fantasy: America in the Middle East, 1776 to the Present by Michael Oren

The Bitter Road to Freedom: A New History of the Liberation of Europe by Wiliam Hitchcock

This last was an Xmas gift from my scientific amigo, Dr. Von


17 Responses to “Adding to the Towering Antilibrary Pile”

  1. J. Scott Says:

    Xenophon’s reminds me of The Landmark Thucydides edited by Robert B. Strassler—I finished about half, but it was well-done. I bought after-market in PB for $6.

  2. zen Says:

    Hi Scott,
    Much better pricing. I actually need to start thinking about additional shelf space, though I am far from being in the same league of shelved books as Lexington Green.

  3. Ski Says:

    I really enjoy Eco’s fiction.  Have never been disappointed in any of his fictional work.  His non-fictional work is somewhat dense to say the least.

  4. onparkstreet Says:

    I’ve never read Eco’s fiction. I should change that, right?
    normblog (do any of you follow normblog? I adore the site for it’s breadth and depth!) says something similar to the quote above – that piles of unread books really aren’t a problem and if you dig into a book and don’t finish it, eh. No big deal. As I come from a generally non-reading family, I used to feel guilty about buying a book, or too many books, and not finishing everything in sequence. Now I don’t. I love books. I seem to have stumbled into the right place, after all. Oddly enough, the internet was made for book lovers….

  5. zen Says:

    I have not read Eco either – Ski, what would you recommend?
    normblog – looks interesting, Madhu.

  6. lewisshepherd Says:

    I posted a picture to Flickr which actually contains several of my own "antilibrary" collection, among some favorites. Eco’s on another shelf 🙂  http://www.flickr.com/photos/lewisshepherd/4228435138/

  7. Schmedlap Says:

    I almost picked up the Xenophon book while frittering away a Barnes and Noble gift card after Christmas, but I ended up buying The Ascent of Money by Niall Ferguson. Just started it yesterday, now about a hundred pages into it. Very readable (at least if you’re into finance and history).

    While there, I noticed that Donald Kagan had a new (?) book on Thucydides. On a related note – you can download Kagan’s Yale lectures (video) for free on iTunes.

  8. Joseph Fouche Says:

    Iron Kingdom was a good book. The end reinforces the point that Prussia was basically wiped off the map, nation and state. If a nation deserved collective punishment as a people, as many Allied leaders believed after two world wars, Prussia certainly received it.

  9. J. Scott Says:

    Zen, We’re planning an addition to our house to accommodate the books! If I’ve not shared previously, abe dot com is a good resource for books, although s&h is a tad high.

  10. zen Says:

    "Zen, We’re planning an addition to our house to accommodate the books!"
    A very praiseworthy endeavor! Unfortunately, not an option I can exercise in my rigidly governed Homeowner’s Association. I must use space more efficiently rather than expand my territory.

  11. Ski Says:

    Eco’s most famous book is The Name of the Rose, which was made into a decent film starring Sean Connery and Christian Slater as monks.  Both the film and book are worth reading.

    My favorite Eco book is Foucault’s Pendulum, which is what Dan Brown wish he could write.  About a couple of dudes who create a conspiracy based around all sorts of religious/cultish myths such as the Templars, Masons, numerology, Priors of Sion, etc…it’s very difficult to read but it’s funny because the entire conspiracy started as a joke but turned serious because people believed in these kooky myths.

    I would then offer up Baudolino as the next book.  It’s about a Medievel scam artist who sells fake Saints bones, personal belongings, and the like.  Apparently a very common occurance back then.  He finds a map to a distant land full of riches and the like, and he is part of a team of adventurers to find this land.  Very entertaining…

    I would read these three before going starting The Island of the Day Before or  The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana

  12. Ski Says:

    Here are the summaries to three Eco books I recommended:
    An extraordinary epic, brilliantly-imagined, new novel from a world-class writer and author of The Name of the Rose. Discover the Middle Ages with Baudolino – a wondrous, dazzling, beguiling tale of history, myth and invention. It is 1204, and Constantinople is being sacked and burned by the knights of the fourth Crusade.

    Amid the carnage and confusion Baudolino saves a Byzantine historian and high court official from certain death at the hands of the crusading warriors, and proceeds to tell his own fantastical story.
    Foucault’s Pendulum
    Three book editors, jaded by reading far too many crackpot manuscripts on the mystic and the occult, are inspired by an extraordinary conspiracy story told to them by a strange colonel to have some fun.

    They start feeding random bits of information into a powerful computer capable of inventing connections between the entries, thinking they are creating nothing more than an amusing game, but then their game starts to take over, the deaths start mounting, and they are forced into a frantic search for the truth

    Name of the Rose
    Who is killing monks in a great medieval abbey famed for its library – and why? Brother William of Baskerville is sent to find out, taking with him the assistant who later tells the tale of his investigations. Eco’s celebrated story combines elements of detective fiction, metaphysical thriller, post-modernist puzzle and historical novel in one of the few twentieth-century books which can be described as genuinely unique.

    Set in Italy in the Middle Ages, this is not only a narrative of a murder investigation in a monastery in 1327, but also a chronicle of the 14th century religious wars, a history of monastic orders, and a compendium of heretical movements

  13. zen Says:

    Hi Ski,
    Thank you for the extended explanation as I need to read more fiction and now feel that I have some idea of what Eco is about as a writer. I like the sound of Focault’s Pendulum – though Brother William reminds me of Sherlock Holmes in a superficial way.

  14. Ski Says:


    Actually, Eco called him William of Baskerville for that reason!  He is an investigator/inquisitor, but with an interesting past…don’t want to add any more than that.  Sean Connery was a very good choice in the film, Christian Slater…not so much.

    All three are must reads, his other two fictional works are ok but not as enthalling in my opinion.

  15. “Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call the collection of unread books an antilibrary.” « OnParkStreet Says:

    […] 3, 2010 · Leave a Comment The antilibrary. Perfect. Perfect concept. And an excellent chance to link to my antilibrary of links – by […]

  16. T. Greer Says:

    Sometimes I hate this blog. Once again you have forced me to add another book to my reading list. Don’t know if I will ever get to read Iron Kingdom if you keep this up…

  17. Holly H-Miracle Says:

    The information presented is top notch. I’ve been doing some research on the topic and this post answered several questions.

Switch to our mobile site