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We Should Read Old Books

It’s simple advice, but it bears repeating: read old books. Not only is the tactile experience of ink on paper refreshing for bleary eyes and cramped fingers, it’s a fine way to resist what C.S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery,” i.e., “the uncritical acceptance of the intellectual climate common to our own age and the assumption that whatever has gone out of date is on that account discredited.” 

E-readers are fine and convenient to take on airplanes, but they’re a lesser form of reading with fewer benefits. The physical demands of holding a book and turning its pages make information gleaned from that book more memorable than anything acquired by looking at a screen and pressing a button to get to a new screen, something we already spend hours a day doing. 

Also, what if all those files that you don’t really own disappear someday? We could all end up like poor Burgess Meredith at the end of “Time Enough at Last.” If it’s worth stockpiling lentils for the apocalypse, it’s worth stockpiling books. 

We recommend going to a local used bookstore or two and letting fate take over. It’s how we stumbled upon E.B. Sledge’s riveting and brutally honest account of his time fighting some of the bloodiest battles of World War II, “With the Old Breed at Peleliu and Okinawa.” In the sad event that you no longer have such essential outposts of civilization in your area, you can always browse online. Try downtown LA’s own The Last Bookstore

As for buying online, Biblio connects you with 7500 independent booksellers around the world. Check out their state-by-state by guide to American bookstores, many of which still maintain brick-and-mortar shops. 

In this clutter-phobic age we seem to have forgotten the value of building a library. And yet nothing is more conducive to developing and nurturing intellectual curiosity than having a bunch of books around. Don’t feel guilty for acquiring far more books than you’ll ever be able to read – just embrace Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s concept of the antilibrary:

“Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real-estate market allows you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call this collection of unread books an antilibrary.”
While there’s nothing wrong with stacking books on the floor or in unused kitchen cabinets, Dutchcrafters offers a wide array of bookcases (and many other pieces of furniture) handcrafted by Amish woodworkers. When you get to the point where you have more books than you can keep track of, a number of easy-to-use home library apps allow you to catalog your growing collection. We like Libib.