After numerous debates with my friends on the organization of bookshelves, I was pleased to discover this article about how we select what even makes it on the bookshelf, and how it reflects our self-perception.
There are two general schools of thought on which books to keep, as I learned once I began swapping stories with friends and acquaintances. The first views the bookshelf as a self-portrait, a reflection of the owner’s intellect, imagination, taste and accomplishments….
The other approach views a book collection less as a testimony to the past than as a repository for the future; it’s where you put the books you intend to read….
Older people, curiously enough, seem to favor the less nostalgic approach. When you’re young and still constructing an identity, the physical emblems of your inner life appear more essential, and if you’re single, your bookshelves provide a way of advertising your discernment to potential mates.
Personally, I feel like I’ve got a foot in both of those camps – maybe time will make me pick one. But I will
say that in discussing the always growing number of unread, vs. read, Miller could have been speaking for me when she said “Dr. Johnson once said of second marriages that they represent the triumph of hope over experience. So, too, do my bookshelves.”
Which of these approaches best represents your own collection?