Arranging the Library

When I was in Kindergarten, my teacher gave me a bookmark that said,”my books are friends that never fail me.” It turns out to have been a prescient gift, since I spent much of elementary school (and jr. high and high school) feeling quite friendless, except for my books. However, since college, I’ve sadly mistreated my book friends–schlepping them around the country in boxes, unpacking haphazardly (if at all) and throwing them on shelves willy-nilly. Since we’re completely snowed in this weekend, and my husband has an apparently limitless tolerance for playing Yahtzee with my children (bless him!), I’ve been getting reacquainted with my old friends and trying to find a more comfortable and orderly arrangement for them. I’ve learned a few things:

1) I’m really, really, really Mormon. I don’t have a lot of the standard markers of Mormonism in the rest of my house–no Del Parsons Jesus, no framed copy of the Proclamation on the Family (I know you’re all shocked, shocked!)–but once you get to the bookshelves, my preoccupation is very clear. I think close to half of all the reading material in the house is Mormon-themed. I’m not sure what to think about that.

2) My Mormon books are heavy on secondary sources and really lacking in primary stuff. Also, Hugh Nibley is painfully overrepresented. My parents gave me _An Approach to the Book of Mormon_ the Christmas after I was baptized, and it became a tradition to give me a Nibley volume every year. I’ll have to start asking for volumes of Journal of Discourses instead. Also, there are a *lot* of books that I thought I had that are actually my dad’s. I know exactly where they are on my parents’ shelves, and somehow I carry those books around in my head, thinking they’re mine.

3) I don’t have enough poetry. There are embarrassing gaps–I can’t find my copy of _Leaves of Grass_, for instance. And there’s just generally not enough.

4) For someone who used to be in a graduate program in literature, I’ve got amazingly little lit. crit. It shouldn’t have taken me so long to figure out I was working on the wrong doctorate. Also, I’m horribly reluctant to get rid of books; it’s a safe bet that I won’t ever need _The New Historicism Reader_again (New Historicism having become very old very quickly), but I cling to it as some sort of talisman–as if maybe keeping my grad school books will make it less true that I’m 10 years older and markedly less well-read and articulate than I was back then, and that the academic world has moved on and I can’t just jump back in when Sam starts 1st grade.

5) It’s still too easy to sort the books into mine and my husband’s. I had always thought I’d have a literary marriage, that we would quote poetry to each other, that our individual dog-eared copies of the novels we loved before we met would take up residence next to each other and be mixed with hundreds of books we acquired and read together. It hasn’t turned out that way at all. For lots of reasons, it’s probably good that I married someone more sensible, but it still makes me a little sad.

6) There is, alas, no correlation between the number of books on housekeeping and home organization one owns and the actual condition of one’s house.

7) I’m still not very good at alphabetizing; when I get to those middle letters in the alphabet, I often have to start singing the song at the beginning. Golly.

8) I have written five pages in an *awful* lot of journals.

9) I still really, really love my books, but I’m happy to realize that as a grownup I finally feel like I have lots and lots of wonderful human friends. I’ll always be bookish, but it’s nice to not *need* my books quite so desperately.


  1. Julie in Austin says:

    Great post. Do you really arrange your books alphabetically?

  2. Julie, only the fiction–it’s the only category where I’ve got enough books for alphabetizing to make sense.

  3. D. Fletcher says:

    I love books too! And since I love people who love books, I assume that people will love me for my books, which is why I have so many around. I determined as an adult that I wanted hardback-cover books, to read and to display and to love. I love reading books, designing them, collecting them, everything about them — they’re my best friends, and my true companions in my old age.

    I don’t have a doctorate, and I don’t have a specific type of book on hand, unless one considers that my taste runs to non-fiction and reference materials. I don’t bother with alphabetizing, because I like to browse through the shelves and find a favorite book that I haven’t looked at in some time. I keep the shelves organized by category, music, movies, Mormonism, other theological books, true-life crime stories, design, architecture, New York history and architecture, self-help (too many of these, since I need a LOT of help), art, literary criticism, classic novels, pulpy fiction, etc.

    And the DVD collection works the same, and fills much of the same need as books. The DVDs sit on shelves, revealing their titles, and they aren’t alphabetized (except for the musicals), but rather categorized, mostly by chronology.

    Oh, I love books and DVDs!

  4. David King Landrith says:

    Of all the material possessions one can own, books are among the greatest (up there with nice watches). When I was at BYU, I spent almost all of my disposable income at Walt West’s used book store. I bought more than 40 books by Bertrand Russell, a first edition of Under the Prophet in Utah, the 1969 edition of Emily Post’s Etiquette, a signed first edition of Joseph Smith: The First Mormon, hardbacks of countless classics, and many others. My book collection would have so many more holes in it if it weren’t for Walt.

    Is Walt West’s book store still in Provo?

  5. D.–your “old age”? Gimme a break! I do remember lots of nice books, tastefully arranged on lovely bookshelves at your place. I’m hopelessly snoopy about other people’s books, and I’m rarely wrong when I decide whether someone is a ‘kindred spirit’ based on the contents of their bookshelves.

  6. D. Fletcher says:

    I forgot for a minute Kristine that you have actually seen my books.

    In the living room, some of my books are arranged decoratively. Green ones on the left, red ones on the right, and white ones in the middle. It makes for interesting browsing.

  7. D. Fletcher says:

    I have a bunch of old Mormon hymnals, mostly received after my grandmother died in 1995. One of them has Heber J. Grant’s writing in it (he was my great-grandfather).

  8. “I have a bunch of old Mormon hymnals…”

    Yet another reason to have another party at your place–Blogscar Awards Ceremony and Hymn Sing-Along!!


  9. Our “library” just is a bunch a bookshelves crammed with assorted books. Every once in awhile we go through them and throw out the more embarrassing relics, but otherwise the organization is by size more than anything else.

    We don’t have a system for book collection, but lately we’ve been trying to read some of the big masterworks of literature and have accumulated a lot of books, mostly cheap, used paperbacks. It’s sort of the opposite from D.’s approach. But even though we’re not attached to the books themselves, I love the way that reading a book together has given us a new kind of common language.

  10. “Our “library” just is a bunch a bookshelves crammed with assorted books.”

    Eek–I hope I didn’t make it sound as if ours is anything grander than that. In fact, part of the reason my books remained in boxes so long this move is that I swore I was finally going to paint my cheap unfinished bookcases. I gave up. AGAIN!

  11. No, most people I know just have a bunch of bookshelves, I guess, but I meant to emphasize the “crammed” aspect. there’s no rhyme or reason to what we’re doing. It’s getting really, really ugly.

  12. john fowles says:

    Well, I’m with you Kristine and Steve on this one. My book shelves are overflowing with the most bizarre array of titles and subjects, fiction mixed with non, Mormon mixed with social science mixed with lit crit mixed with philosophy mixed with dozens of law titles. My pride is the literature collection with titles in English, German, Spanish, French, Danish, Catalan, and Yiddish. It is true that I have never opened many of these books after a course I bought them for or after perusing them for a few days after first buying them. That’s a different issue, though. I too have a lack of poetry but I am proud to have the collected works of several authors (mostly German), which includes the complete poetry of those authors.

  13. john fowles says:

    DKL, I have a major weakness for books and, same as you, spent much of my income as an undergrad and as a grad student on books (to my wife’s partial chagrin, since she also loves books but harbors the more practical concern of lugging them all around). Actually, it’s great to have married someone with a similar love of books. She brings a large collection of French literature and Greek/Roman mythology books and texts to our “library” (French major, classics minor). She gets a kick out of my stacks (literally) of little yellow Reclam titles, though. I can’t bring myself to throw these out though because they are riddled with notes in the margins, many of which were taken as I read for courses and seminars at Oxford. Even if the notes seem naive now (notes taken during a first read often do when looking back), they somehow embody my overall Oxford experience. I guess I’ll still have these on my bookshelves when my kids have to divy up my estate (hopefully closer to the end of the twenty-first century than the beginning).

  14. I have a love-hate thing with those Reclam Hefte. They’re cheap and easy to find, which is good, but somehow one doesn’t feel very erudite for having made one’s way through a big stack of 4″ square books! Also, they’re too small for bookshelves. Here’s a question: non-English lit. mixed in alphabetically by author, or categorized separately by author.

    Also, I’m looking for some classification scheme in which it still makes sense to have _Teachings of ETB_ right next to _From Housewife to Heretic_. I really like the idea of those books jousting with each other while I sleep. I keep Carol Gilligan next to Kant’s Critique of Pure Reason for the same reason.

  15. They’re sorta like kudzu in the south. They fill the bookshelves, and then start piling up on tops of books. Then some migrate to the floor by the bed (and never quite recover), and others, z.B., my entire collection of Patrick O’Brian, pile up under the desk.

    My wife told me, a few years ago, that I couldn’t buy any more books until I had built more bookshelves. I suggested that we’d have a lot more shelf space if the non-books were moved elsewhere. Well, the non-books stayed, and the new books just kept cluttering up the rest of the house.

    Once in a while there’s a little ordering, but, as with the mess on my desk, I carry a vague imprint in my memory telling me where to find a book, and “organizing” the library would simply destroy that.

    Besides, what does a shelf full of books say about me? For example:

    Robert Massie Peter the Great, Donald Woods Biko, Fred Plotkin Opera 101, Dave Eggers A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius, Bushman, The Refinement of America, Hemingway, For Whom the Bell Tolls (a first edition, I think, purchased at that great old used book shop, now sadly closed, on Ann Street just off Fulton), Rick Atkinson An Army at Dawn, Wallace Stegner Angle of Repose,, Shakespeare, Macbeth (from a class with Arthur Henry King–speaking of painful marginal notes!), Cormac McCarthy All the Pretty Horses, Gabriel Garcia Marquez Love in the Time of Cholera, R.F. Delderfield Theirs Was the Kingdom (whoever thought the freight business could be so fascinating?), Tanizaki The Makioka Sisters, Middlekauff The Glorious Cause (a good one-volume history of the American revolution), Jane Hamilton A Map of the World, David Hackett Fischer Albion’s Seed, and Stephen Ambrose Undaunted Courage (a good introduction to Lewis and Clark, better than some of the other stuff Ambrose pumped out the last few years of his life).

    The mere listing of those names brings back great memories of what those books have shared with me.

  16. Mark B., some great things on your shelf. I’ve been meaning to get to Angle of Repose.

  17. Don’t get me started, Steve, or I could go on for hours!

  18. We should set up a book trade one of these days! Exchanging junk is a good way to postpone the inevitable purging of the shelves.

  19. john fowles says:

    Kristine, I said that my shelves were in disarray, but I must confess that the languages are segregated. So that means all German lit is with like kind, as is Spanish and French, etc. But those en masse sections are themselves randomly mixed in with, say, European history or Islam or whatever. Maybe there is more order to this than I first expressed, now that I think about it. I have all classics-related books together, all political books and international relations books together, all law books together and all philosophy books together. It’s just that none of these categories are organized within themselves either alphabetically by author or title or anything. The German lit section, however, is different, since that was my academic mainstay; but even there, the order is laughable b/c they are organized by size (larger volumes on the left side proceeding with smaller volumes to the right) rather by alphabetical.

  20. “We should set up a book trade one of these days!”

    And also go through the trash outside of D.’s place at 2 a.m. again sometime. There was some good stuff in there :)

  21. We were drunken on the spirit of the first blorgy. Good times! When can we do it again??

  22. Um, as soon as I get done shoveling the 38″ of snow that fell on my driveway last night?

  23. I am the only reformed book hoarder that I know. As a young lad, I lived for library booksales. In college, I compulsively shopped the BYU Bookstore clearance sales, visiting twice a day to mark the books I would buy when the price dropped. My many bookshelves were filled to overflowing with all kinds of titles.

    And then I got married to a wonderful woman who among other things gets physically ill in the presence of clutter and disorganization. Our first apartment as a married couple had little room for shelves, so I simply used the floor. Kristen gamely put up with me for a couple of months, and then confessed that she couldn’t deal with the mess.

    I put the overflow into boxes hidden in the closet. The books made it across the country to graduate school. Our family grew. Our storage needs grew greater.

    One day I had the realization that I had not missed any of my boxed up books. I further realized that I had less time to read than previously. I further realized that I have borrowing privileges at both an excellent university library and an excellent public library.

    So I no longer buy books for myself, and am actively seeking to reduce the size of my holdings. I don’t suggest that any of the rest of you do the same. The process has been quite liberating for me, but at the same time, I wouldn’t deny anyone the joy of owning books.

    I have managed to redirect some of my book-buying impulses into children’s literature. I still shop library booksales regularly, but I limit myself to one or two books for myself, and spend the rest of my time in the children’s section, where I can buy bags full of books with my wife’s blessing.

  24. Aaron Brown says:

    One of the coolest, but oddest, book collections I’ve ever run across was maintained by a fellow law student who lived across the hall from me during my 2L year at HLS. A graduate of Stanford undergrad with a degree in Linguistics, his dorm room was filled with hundreds and hundreds and hundreds of dictionaries. Pick any two languages on Earth, and he was likely to have a tome that would translate from one to the other. Very cool (if a tad nerdy).

    As I continue to prepare for my move, I am once again going through my book collection and trying to decide what I can and cannot part with. I am completely irrational. I’ve held on to so many books that I claim to want to read, but never do. Yet I can’t seem to justify getting rid of them. What if I miss them when they’re gone? (Why the hell would I?) I mean … it’s not like I can visit the library, or anything! :)

    Sometimes I tell myself, “I should just quickly read this book (finally), so I can then justify getting rid of it.” But of course, I never get around to it.

    Then again, why keep the books I’ve already read? Am I really going to read them again? Am I going to use them as reference works? In most cases, no. So why do I have such trouble getting rid of them?

    I think my books have become more of an intellectual status symbol than anything else. Why do I subscribe to so many magazines, and insist on laying them out just so on the coffee table, when I could just as easily and cheaply subscribe to the online versions, save a few trees, and save a heck of a lot of space in my house? Something to think about.

    Aaron B

  25. David King Landrith says:

    It’s been several weeks since I spent any time in my library: at least a dozen boxes of books (ordered with no rhyme or reason) in the corner of our stone cellar. we haven’t moved in many years, but as my wife and I have more and more children, we have fewer and fewer spaces for the things we own. The only unboxed books are 11 shelves of books that ended up in the common areas (again, with no rhyme or reason) of the house (the foyer, the guest bedroom, etc.). My wife continues to marvel that I even buy books anymore.

  26. As Bryce’s roommate the first year at BYU I can confirm his story. His bed was piled high with so much junk and books and papers, that he had to burrow under it all each night to sleep.

    All those books were very useful, however, in writing college bowl questions.

    I hardly buy books anymore or cds, preferring to make frequent trips to the library. In spite of this, my apartment is still disorganized.

  27. Wow, ya’ll sound so very literate and intimidating when you go on like this. Just when I start to get comfortable . . . .

    Seriously, I own very few books. Most of my reading has come from the library or from thrift store and then returned to those places. I guess one reason is probably that I’ve been on the lower lower end of the middle-class for most of my life and books are spendy little suckers. And space is always limited. Plus, I have low tolerance for rereading, so I pass them along to people I think would enjoy them.

    I grew up in a very very small town and just about read every book in the little tiny library there. And we go to the library here once a week. Good times.

    And most of what I read any more is probably too beneath you guys for notice. I’ve been through several phases of reading classics, and a bit of history, but mostly I read fiction, and not the classy stuff either. I always think I should find some ambition and get all smart on good-for-me books, but ambition just isn’t my strong suit.

  28. I am the only reformed book hoarder that I know.

    My wife has made me into one of sorts myself. I sold thousands of volumes back at one time and have given a couple hundred or so to libraries. I still buy new books, and keep good ones, but I use libraries more and spend time with kids and people more.

  29. Lisa,

    I’m with you, books cost a lot of money. I try to buy them used if I have to but other than that, I’m a library junkie. I’m also in graduate school to become a librarian so I feel like I have to promote the heck out of the place. Our county library here is excellent and it has almost anything popular you would want, music, books, movies–you have to put a hold on a lot of it but you get it eventually. I also work for a university library so I use the interlibrary loan service all of the time to get titles that I can’t get here on campus or in the public library.

    Like Bryce, I’ve decided to rid myself of titles that I’ve kept around “just because.” I found that I was holding on to them because of the reaction they would get when people saw my book shelves or to show that I’d actually read the dang thing or to show some kind of intellectual status. I’ve started holding onto only those items that I really prize.

    Books functioned as a filter for me when I was dating. I would leave some choice titles on my shelves of my apartment, along with choice CD’s, etc., and if they guy knew the titles, he had a step up, if not, that was it. Now I’m married and well, the guy I did marry had a beat-up paperback copy of Franny and Zooey too.

  30. Alas, I learned my lesson to late to be of use to Bill. Looking back, I feel terrible about making my pre-marriage roommates suffer through my mess.

  31. “the guy I did marry had a beat-up paperback copy of Franny and Zooey too.”

    A very important test book!!

  32. Wait, stop, don’t throw away the New Historicism Reader, Kris! It’s a classic for the ages! Seriously, although New Historicism as a deliberately launched (and marketed) “school” of literary criticism waned during the 90s, it has influenced literary criticism generally in significant and irreversible ways. The New Historicism permanently changed the way period work is done–historicism, whether of the old, new or indifferent varieties, is standard in departments across the world, really. And the NH synthesized, distributed and re-theorized the Marxist and post-Marxist cultural theory at the heart of the Cultural Studies movement that is rapidly taking over the universe. If you do intend to go back into literature, the collection could actually still be very helpful. Plus, its best piece is by my PhD advisor, Louis Montrose, the other man in my life for so many years and the shining star (professionally and personally) of the discipline.

  33. My copy of the New Historicism Reader was one of the first victims of my first purge :)

  34. Don’t worry, Rosalynde, I wasn’t going to throw it away. I *like* the NH approach a lot–I was less pained than I might have been on leaving my Ph.D. program because it was very clear that the NH dissertation I had planned would not land me a job (at least it wouldn’t have in 98 or 99), and that it was going to take a few years for things to shake out again in the discipline. And there are some pieces in there that I love–Joel Fineman’s, Michael Rogin’s, Jane Gallop’s. Now I’ll have to go reread Montrose’s too (dangit!)

  35. Bryce the reformed book hoarder has a compatriot. I also used to go buy every half-decent used book I could at libraries, garage sales, etc. (I’m a bit embarrassed about the garage-sale thing now …). Growing up my bed was in the center of a room that was enclosed on all sides with bookshelves (except for where the door was of course).

    My wife and I were first married and I was thinking about going rummage-saling or whatever to call it … and she pointed out to me that we “don’t need more stuff.” Since then I’ve hardly purchased books at all.

    Our living room still does have an entire wall devoted to bookshelves. But that’s kind of the limit on things. I do want to go through and get rid of outdated books and replace them with books that are more useful over time. I find that books of commentary on religious texts are always useful for keeping around (the Bible, Qur’an, etc. are going to be significant for a long time to come). On the other hand, books about Hafiz Asad or the Taliban seem rather unnecessary.

  36. By the way … I’m kind of fascinated that D. Fletcher collects old hymnals. That’s pretty cool.

  37. I agree with Aaron that having mountains of never-referenced books can be little more than an intellectual status symbol. On the other hand, my parents had a few thousand books in their library and all but the most arcane among them were probably read by at least one of the ten people in their household. No doubt many more good (and not a few worthless ones) books were read than otherwise would have been if we had to go to the library.

  38. I don’t have many old LDS hymnals (only because I haven’t spent enough time in Utah), but I do have lots of hymnals from many denominations. In fact, now that they’re all in one place, I can say precisely how many there are: 17.

    What I really want for Christmas? A copy of the 1939 Primary Song Book.

  39. Since getting married I have moved seven times. I find that it has a winnowing effect on my library. I own fewer books than I used to, but I think that the quality has improved. Basically I have a large shelf full of legal and political theory (exclusive of casebooks), a large shelf of Mormon stuff, a large shelf of non-political philosophy and non-Mormon religion, and a shelf of history and everything else. Sadly, very little fiction or poetry (although I do have a copy of Leaves of Grass). When my wife and I got married all of my books were packed in boxes and we had no book shelves. I found it upsetting to not have access to my books, so I bought some boards and built several bookshelves. Right now we have a room in our house devoted to books, although if we are ever able to have another child, I suspect that the books will lose out to a baby and we will have to find them a new home.

  40. what better nursery than a library nate?

  41. What better dukedom?

  42. Although he was taught Latin at school, Leibniz had taught himself far more advanced Latin and some Greek by the age of 12. He seems to have been motivated by wanting to read his father’s books.

  43. Silus Grok says:

    I absolutely love books… so it’s natural that my first post over here at BCC should be in this thread.

    My own library — which I’m slowly cataloging using this amazing software — is only about 750 books… most are non-fiction (cookbooks, food memoirs, social commentary of food and farming, social commentary of economics and land use), with a growing of children’s picture books (Toot and Puddle! Toot and Puddle!) and literature (Harry Potter, of course).

    Of course, the best way to understand my library currently, is to see where my library will be in 10 years (and after $30,000 or so of investment).


    Yeah… I need to get a life.

    As for Mormon letters… I’ve never much cared for them. I have the requisite Nibley library, but what else would you recommend?


    “A cornerstone of democracy is the well-appointed personal library.”

  44. Christina says:

    To me, a book is the one material possession that is not materialistic. We live in a tiny, Manhattan studio and yet I continue to collect books and just pile them haphazardly on top of each other (I do worry that they will someday avalanche me in my sleep, but what an end that would be!). I have nothing resembling a collection, just a disorderly assortment, mostly fiction, but with lots of “Mormon” and philosophy and theology mixed in.

    I try to buy used — when we lived further uptown there was a great used bookstore on Amsterdam that I frequented almost daily — but as often as not I buy new, and I have relatively little guilt about it, because, primarily, I like to trade books with friends. I like lending books out, only to recover something three years down the road when a friend remembers to return a favorite I had long since forgotten I owned. Like Kristine, I had hoped to marry a scholarly bookworm, but I’m okay with my film-fiend husband who expands my horizons in that direction. Actually, I don’t mean to make Manahi sound illiterate, as one of our favorite dates is to go to a Barnes & Noble on a Friday night and spend hours browsing.

    But what I am really craving is another dumpster dive for books outside of D.’s – I think when they are soaked in dirty snow, the books will be even more cherished.

  45. CTK, apparently we all are looking forward to diving into D.’s garbage again soon! LOL.

    “one of our favorite dates is to go to a Barnes & Noble on a Friday night and spend hours browsing.”
    You know, you’re supposed to BUY the books, not just read them and put them back on the shelves…

  46. All you Manhattanites have it tough — all those bookstores that are so easy to get to.

    When I was an undergrad, I would make one trip each major break down to the Strand, then the Strand annex down by South Street Seaport, and then Barnes and Noble annex (can’t remember where — near the new Guggenheim in SoHo?). You guys probably know better places.

  47. Christina,

    You are in luck–I have had two of your books sitting here in my office collecting dust and I’m dying to return them to you–if only to prove wrong my wife’s claim that I never return what I borrow.

  48. CTK,

    I think there is a real possibility that you could die in a book avalanche. You should take steps–the world has so few Maori documentarians.

  49. Christina says:

    Mat, you’re right, there is a real danger. The world would be lost without the raven-haired videophile. And, Steve, for the record, we browse and buy, not just the former! Another thing in my collection is cookbooks. I love cooking, but considering that I have more room in my apartment for cookbooks than actual kitchen, I have a ridiculous number of cookbooks.

  50. Christina says:

    And Mat, that just means the four of us need to get together for a book exchange :)

  51. Having all those books in the public library is a little like having all of the militia’s arms only in the armory. I stand firmly for the proposition that we should keep and bear books.

  52. I’m a bookshelf snoop like Kristine. When I go to someone’s house for the first time, I have to force myself to actually engage in small talk rather than spend the whole time digging through their books. Because of this bad habit, I can personally attest to the quality of Mark B.’s library. From what I saw during my hometeaching visits, the biggest collections were the colonial era and WWII (and Mormon studies, of course).

    And I love my wife’s collection of Reclam (or as I call them, the little yellow books). My favorite is one called “Simplicisimus” (or something) — it is as thick as it is tall.

  53. Ah, Greg, if only you had been allowed into the special collections rooms!

  54. Greg, interesting that you are such a book snoop! If I’d known, I would have done a better job at hiding all that pr0n on the shelves. I have to wonder, though, if bookshelves are as good an indicator of people’s lives as the contents of their medicine cabinets. After all, bookshelves are open, pubilc testaments to the accumulated knowledge of the couple: they are who we’ve aspired to become.

    A better test of who people are might be their bathroom reading, or whatever they read on the subway.

  55. Steve,

    I actually still remember some of the highlights of your bookshelves — that’s how bad it is with me. And by the way, I think anyone who has not read at least X percentage of the books on their bookshelves is a fraud and a poseur.

    (Where X represents the percentage of my books that I have read.)

  56. john fowles says:

    I worked for a summer in London as a law student. Down near the Royal Courts of Justice and interspersed throughout the Inns of Court and the Legal Society etc. were some agonizingly tempting used book shops. Some of the best books were in there. I bought a few titles as gifts. Most things worth getting were far too expensive, though. For example, an old set of Blackstone could run between 300 and 500 pounds. But it sure was fun to pop into them when running between the barristers’ chambers at Gray’s Inn and the RCJ.

  57. Great quote from’s Charles Taylor in a recent review of Nick Hornby’s book “The Polysyllabic Spree”:

    “Anyone who buys more books than he or she can read (i.e., any reader), and who then lets those acquisitions hang around for months or years, will look at those lists and sense a kindred spirit. (The surest way to spot a nonreader: someone who comes into your house, looks at your books and asks, “Have you read all these?”)”

    We get asked that all the time — I was happy to find out that we’re not alone!

    One of life’s great pleasures is finishing a book, and then deciding which of the many un-read books on my bookshelves to read next.

  58. Wendy, you get asked that all the time because I KNOW that you don’t really read all those things. I know I’ve asked you that question.

    Greg, good measure for the poseur. I wish now that I could remember more of your books. I remember your music collection, though, with great envy.

  59. This is as good a place as any to confess my sin against books in general and Mormon studies in particular. When I was a missionary in Southern California, I would haunt the local used book stores looking for old Mormon titles. One day in Ventura I found a treasure: A first edition of “No Man Knows My History” that was inscribed by Fawn Brodie (I didn’t recognize the name of the inscribee) selling for less than 20 bucks. I bought it, read it, and lugged it around for the rest of my mission , and then back to BYU. But a fool and his treasure are soon parted: At the very height of my student poverty I was dating a beautiful and intriguing Swiss girl. After too many consecutive nights of watching “Hard Boiled” or “True Romance” together, I decided that I was going to have a nice night out with my girlfriend — finances be damned. So in a romantic fervor I grabbed Brodie of my shelf and took it down to a used book store I frequented on Center Street. The proprietor gave me something like 40 bucks for my troubles and we had a nice night out — Carver’s, as I recall. But I regretted it the next day and still do today. My only consolation is that everything worked out quite well with the girl.

  60. Carver’s??

    You know, I heard that place shut down in Orem.

    I had a similar story, alas, with a first printing of the Death of Superman. I sold it and unlike you, regretted it immediately. Also unlike you, I didn’t have a girlfriend at the time, and didn’t get $40 for it (I think I got less than $10).

    So, I guess I don’t have a similar story at all.

  61. D. Fletcher says:

    You know, that “dumpster dive outside of D’s” you all refer to could happen very soon. When I sell this place (probably in the next two months), I’ll certainly be having a big purging sale, books, CDs and DVDs, and furniture, going cheap.

    Of course, you might not be interested in my collections of musicals, Disney animated movies, and bios of Cole Porter and Richard Rodgers.

    I do have a fairly recent edition of the Encyclopedia Brittanica (1989) that will be going.

  62. john fowles says:

    D. are you moving to SLC after all?

  63. D. Fletcher says:

    honestly, John, I don’t know what I’m doing. I’m drifting…

  64. John: My judge was a historian of medieval English life in an earlier reincarnation as a law professor. He spent a while at UCL and had a tremendous collection of old English law books, really cool stuff. For example, he had a first edition of Blackstone’s Commentaries, a lot of reporters from the 17th and 16th centuries, a 17th century edition of Coke’s Institutes, to say nothing of the filing cabinets in chambers full of photocopies of pipe rolls, year books, manuscript medieval treatises, and the like. One of my favorite things to do in Little Rock was to go through his library looking through four hundred year old legal books. I suspect that it is one of the best private collections of its kind in the United States.

  65. john fowles says:

    Nate, I am extremely jealous! I am actually familiar with some of Judge Morris’s publications (that is who you are referring to, right?). Did he pass away recently? Maybe I am getting confused here.

    I love spending time in such libraries. I would love to establish one of my own. Right now, the oldest books I own are from the nineteenth century. I couldn’t buy Blackstone’s Commentaries when I was working in London b/c the cheapest set was far too expensive for my budget at the time.

    My supervising professor, Professor TJ Reed, at Oxford has such a private collection–only his books are German lit not law.

    The libraries at Oxford are magnificent. The library I most often used, in addition to my college’s own library, which was housed in an old church called St. Peter’s in the East, and, of course, the Bodleian, was the Taylorian. One of the things I loved best at Oxford was spending much of every day in the library with old and sometimes obscure texts in front of me. It is a remarkable feeling to research in a library with stacks and stacks of such books.

    Now I am hopelessly homesick for Oxford and academia and will have a difficult day preparing this motion for summary judgment.

  66. Nate Oman says:

    I clerked for Morris “Buzz” Arnold. He had a brother named Richard Arnold, who was also a judge on the 8th Circuit. Judge Richard (as he was known in Arkansas) died a couple of months ago. Both of them published extensively, although I believe that Buzz has written more than Richard. (In addition to lots of LR articles, Judge Buzz has written something like five books.)

  67. I love the South–where people don’t automatically shed nicknames like “Buzz.” The longtime Chancellor of Vanderbilt was named Joe Billy Wyatt, and Joe Billy was not short for Joseph William.

  68. Greg:

    That book would be Simplicius Simplicissimus by Grimmelshausen, a picaresque romance published in 1669. Not that this helps anyone, but a German language version is available online.

    It’s a funny, often violent, sometimes repetitive (but in an interesting way), long book.

  69. john fowles says:

    So Judge Richard died, not Morris? I think that Morris Arnold’s writings are the ones that I have seen, e.g. something on the early English law of contract obligations in the Law and History review. Off the top of my head, though, I can’t remember which of the two that I met at the Federalist Society conference at Notre Dame. It was probably Morris.

  70. Nate Oman says:

    Judge Richard is dead. Judge Buzz is probably the guy you met at the Fed Soc. If you read articles on the early English law of obligations it was almost certainly Judge Buzz not Judge Richard. Richard was never an academic and never wrote anything on legal history. Buzz was an expert on medieval English law back when he was a law prof at U. of Penn. and Stanford.

  71. Eep – now I’m wondering what Kris was thinking when she saw my bookshelves. There’s no mention of them . . . is that because they’re embarrassingly bad? Merely adequate? Probably not that they’re too dazzling for words.

    Time to run out to the bookstore and find some hefty books to suitably impress any other bloggernaclites who happen to see my collection.

    Hmm, maybe I’ll even read a few, one of these days.

  72. Kaimi, I was too distracted by your scintillating children to spend very many minutes perusing your shelves!