My books and I

I just realized that I have a strange relationship with books. By this I mean, old fashioned physical books. Without getting too emotional about it, it’s a bit of a fetishism similar to the one I have with fountain pens.

I definitely prefer to read “the book” about the topic, than the paper(s) or the piece that was published. Why? Isn’t this hugely impractical? It definitely is. I have become a bit of a book-shopping junkie, with all those standing on my shelf. Each of them has a stupid story behind it which I told myself to have an excuse to buy it. Some of them are from the time when I wanted to learn a certain topic, and I told myself that buying books about it would remind me of my commitment. Others are there “just in case”. For example, I’m looking at it from here and I have this book I found at bargain price on amazon on contract theory “just in case” some day I want to have a look at it and feel inspired. I have plenty of O’Reilly books that fulfill essentially the function of looking at google.

Having physical books is also a way of keeping track of what I achieve and what is pending. I open a book, start reading it. I usually highlight it, draw all kinds of notes and stuff, and be familiar with it, so that at some point I will be able to come back at it and consult it. This you can do on a paper you print, but the book on the shelf has this strange feeling that it allows you to have a panoramic view of what is pending and what you have achieved. Many of those books are a way of reminding me the number of things I ignore, all those topics that are interesting. As I was saying, each of the books is linked to a story, a motivation of why certain ideas or a certain area of knowledge is important: math, programming, history, psychology, game theory. Everything matters, all are those unfinished books are a measure of work in progress.

You know, it is customary that when two people meet at the place of one of them, they  the host usually takes the guest on a tour.  I’ve never been particularly interested in homes (or in showing mine) but in libraries. I feel you can learn so much about people from looking at their libraries; and libraries are such great conversation starters.

Perhaps I should not publish this, but anyway, it’s already written. Wish me good luck, this started when I was trying to decide which of the four bayesian statistics manuals that are on my shelf I should look at to find a derivation for the exam I have tomorrow.

My books and I

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