November 12, 2005
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Choosing Books

Diane Greco's two-column layout is broken (in Safari, anyway), but if you scroll down to November 7 she's got a very interesting discussion of how she selects books: 7 November: Too Much Information (No Blind Dates).

Excellence is rare, but only relatively. There are a lot of movies and books out there; my feeling is, even if it were possible to watch and read only the very best stuff, one would not exhaust the universe of "very best" in one's lifetime. The collected works of Henry James might occupy a summer; there's a fantastic three-volume biography of Lyndon Johnson on my shelf that I have yet to crack, which will occupy another summer; and right now there are about a hundred books on my to-read shelf, all of which are, I'm pretty sure, excellent. Mark's post prompted me to consider what makes me so sure about this. Is my confidence the result of having more or less information? What about better and worse information?

Diane makes smarter choices about reading than I do. But I have the same 3-volume biography of Johnson on my shelf, purchased in Henniker, New Hampshire (The Only Henniker On Earth) at the Old Book Depot on a sunny day several years back, and still waiting for me to get 'round to it.