Here’s Why Everyone Should Have an ‘Antilibrary’

updated May 3, 2019
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(Image credit: Hayley Kessner)

Now is the time when year-end book lists abound, hardcovers are gifted at family holidays, and your favorite writer announces that they’ve got something in store for 2018. But even if it feels like there are too many books and never enough time, that could actually be a good thing.

“Antilibraries”, those collections of books we own but never get to, can keep us intellectually curious and humble. Brain Pickings teased out a particularly interesting section from Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s book The Black Swan, where he talks about Umberto Eco’s approach to knowledge, scholarly pursuits and the antilibrary:

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 allows you to put there. You will 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 this collection of unread books an antilibrary.

There are plenty of benefits to reminding yourself of everything you don’t know, and keeping an antilibrary—yes, even in digital form—reminds you that there’s much left to learn in life, and one’s work is never finished.

That pile of unread books is no longer a scheduling failure, but an inspiration! Score.

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h/t Inc.