Making an inventory of old friends

by Stefan Fletcher June. 16, 2009 4760 views

Title sounds rather sinister, doesn't it? Well, obviously it's not the case.

I suffer from a strange affliction: every time I see someone reading, I have to go and ask what it is. It doesn't matter whether it's poetry, a stock market report, a letter from a loved one or whatever, whether it's in a language I can read or one I can't, I just have to know. My affliction has got me into all sorts of trouble - and I've also made some good and/or bizarre friends in the process.

One of the first things I do when I go to a friend's house the first time is check out the books. Alas, no one will be able to do this anymore at my house, as I have begun the long, tedious and heart-rending processes of boxing everything. Perhaps this explains the obsession with a non-bendy panorama. I wanted to get it right before I took it all down.

The problem is compounded by relatively high ceilings in Greece, which I'm pretty sure I won't find in France (unless I rent a castle). That bookcase is just over 3 metres tall. And I hate sawing things off.

It also dawned on me that I didn't need to do an inventory. All I need is a counter calibrated to the image files and it's done. You get some of the images cropped without the counter.

And now I'm sure, after the picture postcards of Greece and the nudes, you can't wait to see all images of the 1200-odd CDs in my classical music collection!

Teenage reading - when I thought I could actually understand this or that it would help me have more (OK, any) sex.
The horizontal one was there to console me when I eventually realised how wrong that was.

The big red one is the Iliad in the original - still an extraordinary read

Old, old friends - except for the new ones, of course

Undergrad reading (the ones I actually had to buy, as opposed to knicking them out of the university library)

I spent an evening arguing with Prof. Walcott. Needless to say, he won.

Maths and science



What I really read, once I've stopped trying to impress visitors. I'm addicted to Astérix, Tintin and Lucky Luke comics.

There's a very long-running radio show in the UK called “Desert Island Discs” when the guest is asked to imagine what s/he would take if stuck on a desert island. My answer's easy. I've had a copy of Herodotus' The Histories by my bedside since I was twelve.

Part of a rotating bookcase

More of the same

A close second after Herodotus (disqualified owing to weight) is the entire OED, 1921 edition, with four pages printed per page in two volumes and a big square magnifying glass

Some of the tools of my trade. As a translator, I tend to avoid dictionaries wherever possible, but they do tend to accumulate. I remember spending the equivalent of hundreds of Euros for the black one in order to find one lexeme. This doesn't happen to normal people. Luckily for my bank balance, the internet now provides quite a lot of information.

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Lynda 11 years, 5 months ago

When much younger and seeing someone's flat or house for the 1st time I like you always looked at their book and music collection. As I've grown older I am less judgemental although much of the looking was just curiosity. I always meant to read Pascal's Pensees in the original french but all I know of it is the famous quote 'La Coeur a ses raisons que la raison ne connait pas' I have kept books from my undergrad days too- it's hard to part with parts of your life like that. You are a well read, erudite guy and there's a clever woman out there, maybe nr Grass just waiting for you!

11 years, 5 months ago Edited
Kecskemétiné Nelli 11 years, 5 months ago

I enjoyed the music section most and the shelf with Donne's works. =D
Once I wanted to count our books but didn't succeed.. I had to give up because there were piles and boxes of those books for which there was no room on the bookshelves in a 170 m2 flat.. and soon, we are moving into a 120 m2 flat but our friends promised to help us with some more bookshelves. ;)

11 years, 5 months ago Edited
Gillian 11 years, 5 months ago

Having seen your amazing collection I feel very uneducated :( However, I still love reading my books and looking at them.

11 years, 5 months ago Edited
Susan Jane 11 years, 5 months ago

Wonderful collection. I love books too. I love taking pictures of books. I have never posted any of them, but i think there is something magical about them!

11 years, 5 months ago Edited
Dorothe 11 years, 5 months ago

We are all hunters and gatherers, but I think you are more a gatherer...(lol)

11 years, 5 months ago Edited
Doris 11 years, 5 months ago

I look - and scroll - and read: "Oh, how impessing...Byron and Shelley, oh yes!...that i`ve read, too.... Never hard of that... Asterix, yeah!... Upps,ehat`s that..."
II love to be invited for the first time for dinner, and while the hosts are busy in the kithen I read their shelves with an aperitif in my hand.
In this case I sit at my laptop with a glass of wine after a very busy day and an evening with photofriends.
Could be a good "theme of the week":Show me your books!"
Of course I would ban Rosamunde Pilcher from my post...and all my professional social stuff...

11 years, 5 months ago Edited
David Swatton 11 years, 5 months ago

I like the fact that you can weave story around books (sorry, no pun intended). Like you, I'm a bit of a hoarder when it comes to books - the idea of discarding them just seems unbearable.

11 years, 5 months ago Edited
Eric J H Joyce 11 years, 5 months ago

Interesting as always, great post.

11 years, 5 months ago Edited
Thebronzebow 11 years, 5 months ago

I am of the opinion that one can never have too many books. Fortunately for the state of my house, I have moved to ebooks. What can be better then carrying your library with you?

11 years, 5 months ago Edited
Taniamindi 11 years, 5 months ago

like #9 a lot

11 years, 5 months ago Edited
Stormfish 11 years, 5 months ago

well, rent a castle then. there is plenty of them in france... ;-)

blasphemous thought... have you ever considered throwing away some of these old books? ;-)

11 years, 5 months ago Edited