08 November 2007

A Confession, I Guess

I was talking to a friend of mine today who told me she didn't judge people based on the books they owned or were reading.

I was kind of shocked when she said this, because I just want to get one thing straight: I am quietly judging you based on your books. If I go to your house, I will look at your bookshelf and draw conclusions about you as a person. These may be erroneous conclusions, and maybe you just put those books there so I would draw a particular conclusion, but I still like to look. Of course, I'll judge you far harsher if you don't have any books at all. (But if you don't, why are you reading this site? Also, do you want me to send you a few?) Maybe you don't judge like this; if that's the case, you are a far better person than I.

In retrospect, it's kind of ironic that I had this conversation with this particular friend, because one of the reasons we became friends is that I borrowed a book from her. After my first week at summer camp (in which I was incredibly homesick), I had finished all the books I brought with me. Since we weren't allowed to get library cards for the university where the camp was held, I began asking around... which is how I ended up reading Bernhard Schlink's THE READER, and Michael Paterniti's EINSTEIN'S BRAIN, and (incidentally) making friends and having an amazing summer. But that's neither here nor there.

It's okay if you judge me based on my books. I kind of expect it, which is why if you come to my apartment, there are a few books I deliberately do not have on my shelves. They're tucked away under...something. I'm not ashamed of having them, it's just... well... there are always those few you might not want to cop to having.

So feel free to judge that today I gave away my copy of Jennifer Weiner's THE GUY NOT TAKEN and got THE NATURAL, which I have never read, on Bookmooch. I returned FOURTH COMINGS and THE TURN OF THE SCREW to the library and picked up Yannick Murphy's HERE THEY COME and Dawn Powell's A TIME TO BE BORN. What does this say about me? You decide.

(I don't own that very funny Gawker T-shirt, but you can buy it here.)


Emily said...

i most definitely judge people. the harshness of my judgment increases exponentially if they enjoyed the da vinci code.

Elizabeth said...

But the books on my shelf and the books I read are distinct populations. Being cheap, most books I read are from the library, so it doesn't matter how snooty or trashy they are, you'll never know either way just by looking at my shelf.

The books on my shelf are either textbooks (so you can conclude that I'm the kind of person who buys textbooks, which I guess says something) or gifts (from which you can deduce only what other people think of my reading habits, but nothing about my reading habits themselves).

Ellen said...

But Elizabeth, can I not judge your library books just as well?

Of course textbooks are a different matter into which I do not dabble. But I'm talking about that shelf of books you own, your favorites, the ones you move around with you and read over and over.