Welcome to another bookish discussion! Today’s topic is antilibraries: yay or nay?

Some time ago I read a short book-related article called “The Antilibrary: Why Unread Books Are The Most Important“. The concept “antilibrary” was coined by Nassim Taleb in his book “The Black Swan” and it is defined as follows:

The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means … allow you to put there. [..] Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

In a nutshell, I understand that an antilibrary is a huge collection of unread books. The author of the article also mentions that “A good library is filled with mostly unread books“. Reading this article raised many ideas that I want to share with you, and I am also very curious what do you think about it!

tsundoku readers high tea
Japanese have a term for this idea of owning unread books

Let’s start with the yey arguments for antilibraries:

§ Knowledge at hand when you need it – Having so many and diverse books close-by means that you have quick access to (almost) any type of information you want to explore. In the mood to read about birds? There’s an encyclopedia about them in your library!

§ Inspiration from unexpected areas – Having an antilibrary with books from all kinds of areas might enable unpredictable inspiration moments that otherwise would not happen. Who knows, maybe an anatomy book can inspire a solution for a mechanical problem.

§ The feeling of having a huge library – Priceless! If you love spending time in a bookstore and just wandering around without wanting to buy a specific book, then you know what I’m talking about 🙂

And here are the nay arguments I thought about:

§ Books are made to be read, not put aside – From my point of view, accumulating books without a clear purpose means stealing others’ opportunity to read them. This is why I initiated the WanderBooks project – I send books I read to other people around the world. It’s a great way to share the bookish joy while also enabling re-use of books!

§ Why collect all books when we have internet? – I find it more convenient, more eco-friendly and also cheaper to buy the books you need after doing research about them. Or maybe you don’t even need to buy the book in case you find the information you need on the wonderful world wide web

§ Not eco-friendly at all – Buying and storing books just in case you might want to check them out at some point is not a very ecological approach to learning. Just think about the poor trees … I love reading physical books, but I buy only books I need or I really want to read. Not to mention that storing books for a long period of time also leads to bacteria formation.

§ Why invest in books you might not need at all? – The financial aspect cannot be ignored in this discussion. Taleb says that the antilibrary should have as many books “as your financial means allow you to put there“. While this leaves a lot of room of interpretation, the idea of having a library full of unread books implies some costs that can be easily avoided.

After so many ideas I’d say it’s time for a conclusion, isn’t it? While I appreciate the philosophical concept of antilibraries, serving as “a visual reminder” of what we still don’t know, I personally think there are wiser approaches to be aware of our lack of knowledge.

My final verdict for antilibraries: nay!

What do you think about the concept of antilibraries? Do you see the value of having a huge collection of unread books? I am very much looking forward to reading your comments! Join the discussion!

‘Till next time … happy reading!


Images: Sisil.wordpress.com | Andrea de Santis | Cover picture by Janko Ferlič on Unsplash

4 thoughts on “Let’s talk about antilibraries: yay or nay?

  1. Goodness, this is such a witty and insightful post!
    I don’t even know the answer. I mean, personally I love the feeling of coming home and being welcomed by my bookshelves that line my walls. I’m always looking for ways to evoke a vintage, 50s like feel to my bookshelves, whether that comes from lining my shelves with older spines, or buying products to put alongside my books. I love the feeling of having so many books around me, even if I don’t end up reading them, similar to coffee table books. I don’t look at it as a reminder of everything I do not know but rather of what is out there in the world, yet to be discovered by me, but always there when I choose to discover it.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you very much for your kind words! I totally understand what you mean – I also love the feeling of being sourrounded by books, especially if it comes to books that bring back good memories or books I just read from time to time (like the coffee table books) 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Antilibrary… nice concept… I agree with some of the arguments pro, with some of the nay arguments too. 🙂 In fact, it is a good feeling to have some (unread) books close to you, some books maybe you need for your work, maybe you will need them sometimes. Maybe you are just curious and you think maybe sometimes you will have time for them. But buying books just to have an antilibrary… that needs money and … determination 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

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