There has been a lot of talk lately about minimalism and being more conscious about the number of things we own…even books! The idea of owning a limited amount of books is stressful for any book-lover – after all, there are so many great stories in the world, and although we know we can’t possibly read them all, we sure are determined to try!
But avid readers will be pleased to know that there is an argument in circulation that claims that the more books we own, the better. In fact, the theory, proposed by author and statistician Nassim Nicholas Taleb in his bestseller The Black Swan, encourages us to own more books than we could ever possibly read!
The theory is based on the concept of the ‘antilibrary.’ Now, ‘antilibrary’ doesn’t mean an opposition to libraries – quite the opposite. It means the careful curation of a home library that reminds you of your limitations; that, in its vast overwhelming scope, serves as a constant reminder of all the things we don’t yet know about the world and ourselves.
For example, did you know that Umberto Eco had a personal library of over 30,0000 books? Now, it’s safe to say that he didn’t get around to reading all 30,000 in his lifetime – but that wasn’t the reason why he chose to surround himself with so many volumes. By serving as a constant reminder of all the things he was yet to learn and understand, all of the unread books that Eco lived with day after day kept him intellectually hungry, engaged, and curious. They broadened his vision and perspective – instead of being content with the knowledge he already possessed, Eco wanted each unread book to motivate him to continue to learn, grow, and expand his mind.
The good news is, that unread books have the same effect on the average readers brain, too. It is especially important for children to grow up surrounded by books, so that they are reminded of worlds, stories, lives, and people different to those they encounter everyday. This is the power of books – they expand not only our minds, but also our world, reminding us that there are things happening beyond the comfortable confines of our homes.
So, the final verdict is in. Next time someone reprimands you for owning too many books or suggests that you clear some space on your shelves, you can now confidently tell them that your ‘antilibrary’ is making you smarter by the day, without you ever having to turn a single page.