When A Bookshelf Speaks Volumes About Its Owner

Posted: May 27, 2009 in Random
Tags: , , , , ,

When you walk into an artist’s house, or that of an art lover, for the first time, rest assured you will be privy to a special tour, showcasing the various works on display. And be prepared for speech from this budding dossant as he/she throws out the Artist, Date, Style, Period, Value, etc., of anything and everything mounted on the wall

If you happen to be friends with a sommelier or wine connoisseur, he/she’ll do the same with a trip down to the wine cellar. You won’t remember what year that chardonnay was bottled or in which very special Australian vineyard the grapes for that Shiraz-Merlot mix were grown. White. Red. Done.

And the same goes for everyone’s favorite cigar aficionado who proudly shows off his walk-in humidor and illegal Cuban cigars, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.

I’m not bashing these people or such practices; in fact, they have every right to be proud of their collections and display them to unwilling victims visitors.

Every one of us has something we feel represents an aspect of our respective identities. Something that reflects our interests and personality. Maybe even our entire lives.

Being that today is my birthday, I wanted to tell you all a little about me, but without straying too much from my M.O.

So I thought, “What do I have that accurately sums up my interests & personality?” Answer: My bookshelf.

In this nebulous industry of PR & social media, reading is a must. I have dozens of articles open at any given time, each tab slowing down my computer. I can barely make it halfway through one story before another headline or link catches my eye – a problem I was able to keep in check prior to my twitter addiction which has since run rampant.

Keeping up with current events, industry practices, & emerging media trends can be exhausting. Articles effectively cater to our need for short bursts of relevant, timely, information. But occasionally, I enjoy a good book. I don’t have a kindle yet, so I can’t pontificate on how that will impact my “Bookshelf Theory” but at this point, I take pride in displaying my reading material, for the sole reason that I feel like I’m displaying a part of myself – each title articulating another aspect of my individuality. And I suspect I’m not the only one.

It’s not about bragging – “ooh look what I’ve read” – it’s more about showcasing our identity as it can be summed up in titles.

This morning, as I mulled over this concept with some fellow twitterers/bloggers/writers, David Holliday remarked “My bookshelf would show that I have too many interests to be good at any one of them :-)”

I think this is true many of us, myself included. I’ve amassed quite a collection over the years, spanning Robin Cook’s medical thrillers to Harlan Coban’s twisted mysteries, though I’ve only ventured into the world of creative nonfiction, my favorite genre, relatively recently (since college). So, for those of you who are interested, I’m sharing a few of my favorite books (and for some – why I enjoy them), in part hoping that you learn something about me, but more so that you might read them and learn something about yourself.

Before I go ahead and expose my shelf (*snicker*) I’d like to encourage you to do something similar. Not the annoying and irrelevant Facebook style ’25 random things about me,’ but something that lets your readers in on a part of your life otherwise unseen. Be it art, videos, commercials, books, movies, anything that you feel accurately reflects your personality.

Here’s my Bookshelf. What’s on yours?

My Bookshelf

This book opens the discussion of memetics. A must read for anyone in the advertising, marketing, PR, or social media realm, the book explores and attempts to explain culturally viral phenomena – why we are subject to their influence and how understanding the mechanism by which they operate can help us develop a cognizance of, and eventually a resistance to, these ‘mind viruses.’

Rob Walker – Author of the New York Times Magazine’s Consumed column discusses what he calls murketing, consumer behavior, top-down vs. bottom-up branding, and how our purchases reflect who we are.

I’ll be honest, I’ve picked this book up more times than I can count, but I think its cursed because I keep getting sidetracked, putting it down for a few months, and having to restart the whole thing. What I’ve read so far is amazing and insightful. Anthropology, psychology, evolution and more. The title alone drew me in – even an attempt to answer that question amazes me.

  • Blink – Malcolm Gladwell

Another one who needs no introduction. This is far and wide my favorite of Gladwell’s books to date.

Brilliant Book.  Written entirely in online forum posts. I can only assume a twitter version isn’t too far away.

  • The First Idea – Stanley I. Greenspan, M.D. & Stuart G. Shanker, D. Phil

        The Best Book I’ve Read In A while – In Search of Time explores time from every possible perspective, historical, anthropological, religious, and of course scientific. To paraphrase a quote from the book – You think you know what time is, until someone asks you to explain it.

          These were the only books I actually enjoyed, of all the ‘assigned reading’ in high school. I hated any coming of age novels – the ones in which we were supposed to relate to the protagonist (A Separate Peace, Catcher in the Rye…etc. I HATED Holden Caulfield) not to mention a Tale of Two Cities, The Great Gatsby and those other alleged ‘classics.’ Maybe it was that they were forced on me and being the contrarian, I despised them in my anti-establishmenty ways, maybe it’s because these authors got paid by the word and consequently spaced out any interesting narrative with a gazzilion pages of gibberish.

          But I digress. Lord of the Flies was my first real foray into philosophy. How might men live in the absence of the constraints civilization & societal norms? Lord of the Flies forced me to question the luxuries which we take for granted, not material possessions, but the luxuries of rule and authority and the direction and guidance they entail.

          Of Mice and men was a powerful narrative, fiction, sure, but powerful nonetheless. It probably didn’t hurt matters when, upon completing the novel, I made the connection to the old Looney Toons Era Line “Which way did he go George…Which way did he go?” (for those of you who get that, great, if not, youtube that shit now!)

          As for Bartleby, the first erudite, semi-coherent, paper I’ve ever written in which I successfully articulated at least some of what I intended to, was when we read this Melville short in AP English.

          So now it’s your turn, share – music, movies, books, art, beer? Show us your bookshelf!

          1. katbron says:

            Great post and hope it is a Happy Birthday! Some excellent reading and suggestions I will heed. The second person in a week to mention Why We Lie – so I definitely will check it out. I’ve got a stack of reference books – AP Stylebook, Ogilvy on Advertising, What Clients Love by Harry Beckwith, Barlett’s Quotations, The Art of Thank You by Connie Leas and The Big Book of Business Quotations. These are serve as my inspirational library.

          2. jenhalloran says:

            Thanks for the insights into your private library. Looking forward to checking out “In Search of Time” and now “Train Man.” (Who can resist ‘brilliant’ as a recommendation?)

            As for me…well, I’m an editor, so (like Katbron) my AP Stylebook is always within arm’s reach, as is Strunk and White’s “Elements of Style.” Of late, I’ve been fascinated with the Japanese concept/symbol ‘Enso’ and a book of that title also graces my desktop. Rand’s, “The Fountainhead” and Stegner’s “Crossing to Safety” are permanent fixtures in my stack. Nearly through Gladwell’s “Outliers” (you’ll like it!) and I’m *finally* getting to McCarthy’s “The Road.”

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