Frost and Jefferson Library of America books

Your Bookshelves are not Trophy Cases

I love the Library of America imprint. They compile the works of great authors and wrap them in accessible and attractive editions.

When I’m on my periodic browsing trips to Half-Price Books, if I ever see a compilation I don’t own yet, and is in good condition, I immediately grab it (usually for less than $10, which is a stupid deal). I don’t even care who the author is. I know they will be someone worth reading or referencing, in some capacity.

I do a similar thing with the Everyman’s Library imprint, though to a lesser extent.

My most recent acquisitions are shown in the image above: Robert Frost and Thomas Jefferson.

I will probably never read these collections in their entirety. None of my reading plans include even part of them, though that may change. They join an every-growing group of books I own that have not read, and if I continue to be blessed, that group will continue to outpace my reading habits.

Why is that? Why do I hope to have a library of books I have no hope of fully reading in my lifetime?

Because your personal library should not be a record of your literary conquests. Your bookshelves should not be a trophy case.

A library should be aspirational, always looking to the future. It is a valuable, one-of-a-kind reference and educational tool, organized to your whims and desires. Eventually, it can be one of the most valuable gifts you provide to your children. If you mark up and write in your books, even better.

If your goal is an actual library, do not feel guilty about buying more books than you can read, as long as the book you are buying are those that will stand the test of time. You probably want to avoid the New York Times Bestseller lists.

The great thing about a long-term library full of Lindy books is that a book you read 10 years ago, when you were a different person, has the potential to be a completely new book when you re-read it. In this way, a good library is a constantly renewable resource.

You are never really done reading a great book. They never settle down into being a trophy.

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