On my love affair with physical copies of books.

Whenever I enter the office of a professor, I always take the chance to look at the bookshelves. I find that one easily discovers the kind of work the professor does by looking at one’s books – which could indicate the kind of work one engages in, draws influence from, or critiques. (Profs should just put pictures of their bookshelves on their profiles on websites). The most interesting bookshelves I’ve seen was in the office of a would-have-been supervisor, an American – I saw very few English books; most of them were Chinese or Korean.

When I look at my own bookshelf however, I find that many of the books which have been most influential to me were printed straight from the printer and fastened together by a large paper clip. I try to buy books which I think I will refer to endlessly, but I find that one can never know how good a book is until one has finished it, and by the time I’ve finished it, I do not want to transfer my scribbled notes to a newly bought copy. Most likely, to reduce travel cost, I’ll be scanning in such books instead. I feel a bit sad that I cannot parade my intellectual roots on the spines of the book covers on my bookshelf. Instead, what is displayed is a selection bias – many of the books I have were given to me by the ARI reading group or by an ex-supervisor – which are great, but not wholly representative.


~ by moz on July 15, 2015.

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