Have You Read All These Books?

May 9, 2007 | 39 comments
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I’ll bet all of us with sizable book collections have heard this question from time to time.

How do you answer?

(I’ve got a favorite response that I’ll post later, if no one beats me to it.)

39 Responses to Have You Read All These Books?

  1. Russell Arben Fox on May 9, 2007 at 4:38 pm

    A classic response that any academic should be able to appreciate:

    “Read them?! Are you kidding? I haven’t even taught them all yet!”

  2. manaen on May 9, 2007 at 4:49 pm

    There’s also the distinction between your question and “Have you read all *of* these books?” — every page instead of skimming.

    It’s cousin is, “Are these all your books/are these all of your books?”

  3. Rldds on May 9, 2007 at 5:10 pm

    Depending on who asks…

    1. Only the ones with pictures

    2. Actually, I\’m illiterate. My therapist says it\’s some type of overcompensation disorder.

  4. Edje on May 9, 2007 at 5:12 pm

    Yes. The books I haven’t read are in the other room.

  5. william on May 9, 2007 at 5:27 pm

    this is, by far, the best response (from Harlan Ellison):

    Who wants a library full of books you’ve already read?

  6. Adam Greenwood on May 9, 2007 at 6:03 pm

    “Wrote ‘em.”

  7. Kaimi Wenger on May 9, 2007 at 6:31 pm

    Well, Matt Thurston asked me that question on the MMM thread, and I gave this smart-aleck reply:

    “My interactions with my Mormon-themed books should be viewed in the same way that FARMS views Joseph Smith’s interactions with his polyandrous wives. We can show for certain that I acquired them, but there’s no concrete evidence that I’ve done anything else with any of them.”

    If I had to use that one in a conversation, I’d probably shorten it up a little.

  8. Mark B. on May 9, 2007 at 6:33 pm

    “I can’t remember.”

  9. Ardis Parshall on May 9, 2007 at 6:47 pm

    “Some of them twice.”

  10. J. Stapley on May 9, 2007 at 7:00 pm

    At least part of every one, with the intension to finish all of them.

  11. Cameron on May 9, 2007 at 7:22 pm

    My response is, “No, but I have touched them all”

  12. cchrissyy on May 9, 2007 at 7:27 pm

    no, that shelf is waiting to be read. Everything I’ve read is sold

    (people who know me know I’m a compulsive clear-out-er and my last business was a used bookstore)

  13. William Morris on May 9, 2007 at 8:20 pm

    Yes I have. And because you clearly are very curious about them, let me summarize each of them for you. I think we should begin with the small yellow books you see there on the top shelf. As you may have guessed by the fact that they all look the same, they were all published by the same publisher, namely Reclam Verlag, a legendary, century-old publisher of German classics. Indeed, it was originally called “”Verlag des literarischen Museums,” which, of course translates, literally as “Publisher of Literary Museums.” The first title there in the stack is “Simplicius Simplicissimus” by Hans Jakob Christoffel von Grimmelshausen — or as it’s also known “Der abenteuerliche Simplicissimus Teutsch.” It’s an important early novel written in the picaresque genre and is about the long and horrible Thirty Years’ War, but it’s quite a delightful read, really, in fact….

  14. Clark on May 9, 2007 at 10:12 pm

    I just say, “most of them – except some are reference books and I’ve not read all those.”

    Which isn’t that exciting but it reminds me of this scene from the Derrida movie. The film makers are in Derrida’s rather small condo and basically all the walls outside of the kitchen are shelves filled with books. They ask him if he’s read them all and he says no, he’s only read two of them but he has read them very closely.

  15. Melanie on May 9, 2007 at 10:13 pm

    No… but I need something other than my student loan bill to remind me that I’m educated.

  16. Tatiana on May 9, 2007 at 11:20 pm

    “I like to keep some in reserve, like having money in the bank.”

  17. DKL on May 10, 2007 at 12:27 am

    Any more, I pretty much just buy books because it’s pleasant to have them sitting around the house for a little while before Shannon puts them in the cellar so that they can eventually get water-damaged from some inevitable plumbing mishap.

  18. Ardis Parshall on May 10, 2007 at 12:29 am

    Oh, I get it, DKL. You mean like the way some of us put leftovers in the fridge to store until they are moldy enough to throw away.

  19. Jacob J on May 10, 2007 at 12:59 am

    Of course not. Some of them were gifts.

  20. Silus Grok on May 10, 2007 at 2:01 am

    “The surest way to spot a non-reader: someone who comes into your house, looks at your books and asks: ‘Have you read all these?’.”

    — Charles Taylor

  21. Marc D. on May 10, 2007 at 4:24 am

    I have not finished my Hebrew-French lexicon yet.

  22. lamonte on May 10, 2007 at 8:28 am

    No! I just found these great deals on used books at the library and the books are hardly even used. But don’t they look great?.

  23. Dallas Robbins on May 10, 2007 at 8:36 am

    I get this question all the freakin’ time. Especially my family is always asking me this repeatedly, every time the enter my abode. Anyways, my favorite answer to this is found in Umberto Eco’s “How to Justify a Private Library.” One of the best pieces of writing on the subject. He says something like, “These are the ones I need to read by the end of the month, the rest are in storage.”

    All I can really say is, ask a stupid question, get a funny answer.

  24. NJensen on May 10, 2007 at 9:05 am

    Well, no. But my more educated wife has.

  25. John David Payne on May 10, 2007 at 11:03 am

    “Not even half.”

    Because I haven’t. And since I seem to acquire them faster than I read them, I don’t know that I will ever catch up.

  26. jjohnsen on May 10, 2007 at 1:00 pm

    A neighbor that saw our bookshelves full asked why we had so many books. When I said “to read?” wondering what the joke was, he said he just didn’t know people that read books once they finished school, and it seemed like a waste of space that could be used to store DVD’s. I realized most people I know don’t really have bookshelves (at least where I’ve seen them) that are used for anything more than to put up picture frames and the latest issue of the Ensign and/or People magazine.

    Being raised in a family that had designed their family rroom around a bookshelf, this was very depressing.

  27. jjohnsen on May 10, 2007 at 1:02 pm

    “Not even half.”

    Because I haven’t. And since I seem to acquire them faster than I read them, I don’t know that I will ever catch up.
    Why do book lovers do this? Even though I know I have ten books I need to read, I still can’t stop myself from buying number eleven. It’s a sickness.

  28. danithew on May 10, 2007 at 2:04 pm

    I’ve read most of them. That’s probably what I would say. Isn’t that hilarious?

    BTW, looks like T&S is getting reasonably close to having had 2,000,000 visits. Not bad.

  29. manaen on May 10, 2007 at 2:46 pm

    I suffer the unbearable temptation of working within a mile of this.

    BTW, the full texts of 25k+ books are available here.

  30. S.P. Bailey on May 10, 2007 at 3:50 pm

    No. They hide the entrance to my subterranean superhero lair. You see, my wife insisted when we got married that books neatly organized on shelves would replace the life-size bikini posters I had previously used to obscure the passage into my appropriately furnished (impossibly large blinking computers, stalagtites, etc.) diabolical plan-foiling space.

  31. manaen on May 10, 2007 at 3:58 pm

    I suffer the unbearable temptation of working less than a mile from this.

    BTW, the full texts of 25k+ books are available online here

  32. lxxluthor on May 10, 2007 at 4:40 pm

    You mean all of these are mine? Woohoo!

  33. Johnna on May 10, 2007 at 6:30 pm

    Yes, I have read them all–so you probably CAN borrow whatever is catching your eye.

    if they are nonreaders, it’s funny watching them decide whether or not to live to the everybody-reads assumption.

    I loved explaining that we do read the books to the guy from the relocation company who had to tote them out to the van. Yes, sometimes we do read instead of watching a movie.

    If only I could convince my husband that a library where books arrive but never leave is like the Dead Sea. I’d like some shelf space for things I haven’t read.

  34. Mark B. on May 10, 2007 at 6:58 pm

    There’s always room for more bookshelves.

    Anna Quindlen’s comment on interior decoration resonates with me:

    I would be most content if my children grew up to be the kind of people who think decorating consists mostly of building enough bookshelves.

  35. Nate Oman on May 10, 2007 at 8:39 pm

    I don’t know that I have ever asked a person if they have read all of their books, but I do know that whenever I visit someone’s house I always check out the book and then judge them based on what they have on their shelves.

  36. Julie M. Smith on May 10, 2007 at 9:40 pm

    “I always check out the book and then judge them based on what they have on their shelves.”

    I wonder if my system of hanging on to Mormon Studies and Biblical Studies but purging 95% of everything else is leading to righteous judgment.

    Two weeks ago, I had the pure pleasure of assembling my first real library. I now have 720 inches of matching shelves (thank you, IKEA). I felt like I had been socked in the gut when I realized that not everything would fit. Thankfully, there is an empty wall in the master bedroom and IKEA is just up the road . . .

  37. meems on May 11, 2007 at 12:09 am

    Yay, IKEA!

    Oh what a sore subject, though. Every summer my husband goes on a book purging rampage and we give literally boxes to GoodWill. Hrumph. We have a teensy apartment and the books always seem to take over. His rationale is once you’ve read them, why keep them around?

    I tend to disagree.

  38. Melissa on May 11, 2007 at 9:08 am

    “I don’t know; go check my blog. That’s why I keep it.”

    Megan’s answer: “Most of them. They’re really good books; you should read them.”

  39. tj on May 11, 2007 at 12:43 pm

    or when asked if you have read all those books i just say “no way” just my years supply of TP for the bad times

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