The agreeable eye

an eudæmonistarchives

the guest-room bookshelf

Some books, on a shelf, with a plant
Not quite a guest-room bookshelf, ca. 2012.

So many books enter one’s life through happenstance, rather than through the ordered chaos of book reviews or bibliographies or the propinquity of a library or bookstore shelf (each good in its way).1 This aleatoric approach to book selection is something I associate with travelling, and I like to think of it as the guest-room bookshelf effect: these are the books abandoned in hostels, left on a free shelf, or consigned (with other unfavored items that one would not want to discard) to a guest room. These are books that have been worn out, outgrown, or gone astray – the jetsam (usually, but also the flotsam) of an unknown reading life. Books I have discovered in this way include:

My initial thought had been to make up a list of books that I would want to include in a guest room, the sort of things that might spur the kind of reading I particularly had in mind – the unexpected, the not-too-strenuous, occasionally the not particularly great, but often the only thing available with all of its pages in a language one understands. I realized, as I thought about it, that none of the books I would choose for a guest room would be the sort of book I would like to encounter there.2 This was perhaps to be expected, so it was without regret that I set aside the project of furnishing an imaginary guest room with an imaginary library.

  1. Thrift-store bookshelves come close, though. []
  2. Most of the books on the list I have completely forgotten about; whether or not that is a recommendation, I leave to the reader to determine. []


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