We can tell a lot about a person by looking at the company they keep. (You should know that all my friends are funny, intelligent and good looking.)
Supposedly you can tell even more by looking at the books they keep. Books (or the lack of books) are a great way to probe a person’s personality. Maybe you shouldn’t judge a book by looking at the cover, but you can judge a person by looking at the covers of their books.
Self-aware people know this. To help them display their preferred personality coffee table books were invented: oversized, colourful books chock-full of art, architecture and far away places. Phaidon and Taschen offer an amazing range of books that just scream at you: “Look! My owner wants you to know he’s sophisticated enough to spend 120$ on a book just about Malevich!”
It isn’t just coffee table books that perform this trick. Most books don’t even have to look good to make you look good, because – supposedly it’s their contents that matter. Books however, are much like trash cans. We spend much more time looking at their outsides than we do studying their innards.
Clever people know this too. There’s no quicker way to establish intellectual dominance than to inquire: “I see you’ve read The Malay Archipelago too?’ Quickly followed by a snide: “It’s nice, but did you also read (insert some obscure title)? I thought it was a lot better.”
Ouch! That hurt.
There’s only one remedy to such snobbery. Fess up. Yup. Just proudly proclaim that you haven’t read most of the books you own and that you probably never will. I think less than half of the books I buy gets read – ever. I just want them to look pretty.
Before you ask: I also own three ridiculously expensive designer trash cans.
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