Friday, March 28, 2008

The Antilibrary of Babel

Munzenberg has initiated an intriguing exercise: What's in your antilibrary?

Read books are far less valuable than unread ones. The library should contain as much of what you do not know as your financial means, mortgage rates, and the currently tight real estate market allow you to put there. You will accumulate more knowledge and more books as you grow older, and the growing number of unread books on the shelves will look at you menacingly. Indeed, the more you know, the larger the rows of unread books. Let us call the collection of unread books an antilibrary.

Here are a few denizens of my antilibrary:

The Soviet Cultural Offensive: The Role of Cultural Diplomacy in Soviet Foreign Policy by Frederick Barghoorn

Sam Adams: Pioneer in Propaganda by John Miller

Both of these books I bought as part of an effort to get a better understanding of "persuasion operations" which has over the past few years become a major interest.

Mavericks of the Sky: The First Daring Pilots of the U.S. Air Mail by Barry Rosenberg & Catherine Macaulay

One of my oldest areas of interest is aviation history and the air mail pilots of the 1920s have had a special place in my imagination since I was a kid.

A Vigorous Spirit of Enterprise: Merchants and Economic Development in Revolutionary Philadelphia by Thomas Doerflinger

Economic history is another more recent interest and so I have been slowly collecting books in this area. I bought this book to get a better understanding of the economic history of the founding era. We tend to focus our attention on the political and military aspects of this era and I think we need to add the entrepreneurs and businessmen to the pantheon of "founders."

The Feud that Sparked the Renaissance: How Brunelleschi and Ghiberti Changed the Art World by Paul Robert Walker

Architecture is something that I've been wanting to read more about for quite a while and yet it always seems to get subordinated to other interests. I had been reading another book on the history of Italian Renaissance architecture that was interesting but kind of dry. So this books caught my eye because not only does it talk about the art and architecture, but it does so through the device of the competition between these two artists which adds a depth and richness to the subject that is missing when a book just focuses on the buildings and artworks.


M├╝nzenberg said...

great selection! I think I have the cultural offensive one on my tobuy lists (or what younghusband pointed out was a virtual antilibrary).

Have you ever read any of ladislav bittman's books? He was a czech intel officer that specialized in deception/disinformation operations and cultural-type warfare during the cold war and then he defected. He's now known as Lawrence Martin-Bittman. One particular deception op he conducted has a short overview here:

phil said...

I had come across references to Bittman in the blogosphere in the past but had actually forgotten about him, so I'm glad you mentioned him. I'll check him out.