Thursday, October 24, 2013

What your book collection says about you: posthumous edition

If you google some variation of the phrase "what does your book shelf say about you," you will find a ton of goofy articles on dating websites about the meaning you can read into your prospective love interest's choice in reading material. You will also find a lot of articles ruing the ascendancy of e-books—how can we judge a book reader by his/her book covers when all we have to go on is their choice in Kindle or iPad case? Whenever I ponder this subject, like when I'm flipping through a shelter magazine and taking note of what weighty tomes the prop stylists selected for a photo shoot, I always think of that great scene in Play It Again, Sam when Woody Allen is arranging the books and LPs in his apartment in a studied-casual way contrived to impress his blind date. Everyone has been guilty of doing that at some point, right?

I spend a lot of time thinking about this stuff because I spend a lot of time digging through the book collections of the recently deceased, imagining what their lives were like based on what they read (or didn't read—like all those bibles and Readers Digest Condensed collections with spines uncracked). I've written about it here and here and, well, all over this here blog. Sometimes the books line the shelves exactly as their owner left them. Sometimes the books have been picked through by family members, dealers, estate sale company staff et al., and only the rejects remain, spread across a table or two. Such was the case with this melancholy assortment that I instagrammed at a sale a few weeks ago. Thereby hangs a tale of housewiferly frustration and fantasy, no? Sheesh. I wonder how many Amazon cloud libraries look just like this, but will never be pawed through and judged at a future estate sale.

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