The Trophy Case of the Intellectual

posted in: Uncategorized | 23

11.8.11


Most folks aren’t impressed by your trophy collection, which is why they remain hidden away in your attics and crawlspaces. Trophy cases are for high school hallways and trophies are for high school heroes. Your sixth place green ribbon for that drawing contest isn’t exciting either. Most people don’t display their trophies because they realize how silly these plastic and metal gems of narcissism really are.

But as our lives stray from the pursuits of competitive dominance, many of us take up a new sport: intellectualism.

Don’t roll your eyes just yet. Your DVD collection, stacks of CDs, and diverse bookshelves that showcase your varied and engaging reading interests… Do I even spot a few of your college textbooks?

 

Bookshelves are the trophy case of the intellectual.

 

 

If I walked into someone’s house and saw a collection of their trophies on a shelf, I’d laugh. Shiny metal statues, a parody of the sports and activities they represent. Fortunately, I haven’t really seen that often. But I began to notice the equivalent that bookshelves have to the trophy case. Both are meant for public display, whether we admit it or not. Oh, please admire the depth of my quest for knowledge. If you still disagree, then keep your books boxed up or make a bookshelf closet. Yeah, it’s nicer to have them on display.

I’m absolutely guilty of this. There is a charm and mystique (and respect!) that comes with a well put together bookshelf. It’s no surprise that one of my favorite tumblr blogs is Bookshelf Porn. Books are a trophy of sorts. They are dated, dusty, often unmoved, and represent what we want to see and remember of ourselves. Yeah, I know. You just looooove to hold a book, smell the scent of the pages, the degradation of lignin… yeah yeah yeah we get it. I do too.

 

My friend Marty just told me a story about how he wanted the complete works of Shakespeare. His mom bought him a kindle.

He just wanted an intellectual trophy. And there isn’tย  a harm to that, but let’s not kid ourselves.

 

 

The closet doesn’t make the fashionista.

Vinyls don’t make the DJ.

Trophies don’t make the athlete.

Books don’t make the intellectual.

 


 

23 Responses

  1. I’ve never been much of a book hoarder. I like recipe books but I don’t care if food gets on the pages… Not so much a kindle. But that’s also why I don’t have a kindle nor do I want one. I like the ladder shelf but I would want something different then books on my shelves. Like DIY cool projects!! I’ve been really good about getting rid of my books. The only books I will be collecting our children’s books for my classroom and the only reason is it has been proven thT having children hold books and actually turn the pages helps build their reading and phonetics! So unless your age 5-10, it’s time to rid your books! )

    • I struggle with this because I still find a value to some books… or rather, I can’t justify getting rid of some of them. That said, I think I will challenge myself to have a hidden bookshelf, just for me. Perhaps out of direct sight will help ease the departure for me.

  2. Well…yes and no. My books are on display (in a private room) because I love to see them myself. They are not for others to peruse or admire or finger through at all and they are always bought for a very specific reason.

    Mine is a very selfish, particular collection. It was not curated to be shared. And to be honest I could care less whether somebody else was enchanted by them as I am or not.

    So whilst it is not the case with me perhaps you are right in some cases and I understand your rather interesting take on books as a trophy. I can believe that books are indeed often ordered to look impressive for others.

    • Pea, I am going to be like you on this one. I admire your stance and take on the private book collection.

  3. I used to enjoy keeping books as trophies. The problem I ran into was that I’d buy a book I intended to read but wouldn’t get to it right away. My trophies would then be muddled with little demons I’d intend to read.

    I love all the sensory joys you get with reading actual books. You can still have that without storing all of them. Using Amazon.com’s trade-in program, or http://www.paperbackswap.com you can keep getting books without letting them linger.

    Now the only trophy I need is a well worn library card.

    • I’m amazed at how many bibliophiles I meet that don’t have a library card. It is the only trophy one needs!

  4. Chris Richards - Mindnod.com

    I’ve been guilty of collecting books for the sake of having them but not sure they were my trophies.
    But since having the kindle I have read more classic novels than I ever did before.
    I do admit to showing off my books these days but that’s more because I now have the room to do so.

    • Admitting it is a good first step. I’m not even sure I have gotten there yet… ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. I do have a shelf of books for my kids to choose from upstairs near their bedroom. I think that is different than what you are describing and serves a different purpose.

    Most of my books over the past 5 years have been audio or now on my iPhone. The ones that I have held onto have been the ones that are most inspiring to me and I would likely go back to for re-reading or reference. But I do not have them out in broad view. I never really gave it much thought but I do see your point about how some would display these as trophies of intellect.

    And now that I think of trophies, I think my poor mother is still storing my soccer and sailing trophies in the loft above her garage… ๐Ÿ™‚

  6. Todd | Channelingmyself

    Hey David,

    This was a funny article, as I was reading I was immediately reminded of the “displaying of knowledge” that goes on here at work. I am and work with telecom engineers and I think that 90% of the books my colleagues display in their cubicles have never been read. LOL

    • It sounds like you may need to go into work and clean house. Start calling out their trophies!

  7. Books are the reason I don’t call myself a minimalist anymore. I have a Kindle, but there are some books I just want to touch.

    I do love to display my books, but I view it as a public service to potential friends. My girlfriend’s collection of astrology books lets people know it will be awkward if they diss astrology. Likewise with Harry Potter, social justice, nature, etc. I don’t see it as bragging about what I know, but advertising what I’m interested in. When someone make a faux paux in my house that creates an awkward moment, I can mutter indignantly that they didn’t pay any attention to my bookshelves.

    • Chase, this makes me want to come to a dinner party at your place. Please invite me. ๐Ÿ™‚ I promise to make a scene.

  8. My colleague speaks in hushed tones about the magic of having the author with you, in person. There are striking similarities to this and anything we begin to cherish. The books I’ve annotated go to students who’ve improved the most. Decided. I have an unhealthy relationship with the books “I’ve eaten.”

    Decided: no books (save the kindle) going home to CA w/me in May.

    <3,
    M
    p.s. let me know something of your almoboho plans. yeah?

    • Perhaps I secretly despise book collections because it reminds me of the burden that comes with moving them…

      As for almoboho plans, the warehouse is getting emptier and the banks accounts are swelling. Or at least are fattening up a bit. 2012 it is!

      • hilarious

        I love books & I agree with the above comment about showing off your interests. I also love to have a good conversation where in the midst of it, I can grab a point of reference book right at my fingertips to illustrate.
        Of course, having a good physical dictionary is also a thing of a great household in my opinion!
        Then again: A) books are a bitch to move! and B) I have actually just recycled some bad ones…. because no sense keeping a bad book around with which anyone else might have a bad book experience.
        Also, donate your books to libraries when you downsize!! Always! Libraries are your best, best friend – you book lover, you!!!
        It seems your blog is on hold…. but I’ve found it today & read many of the posts starting from the warehouse/alt housing how-to. Hope all is going well!

  9. I’m guilty of collecting these intellectual trophies.

  10. kit johnson

    Since moving to Thailand, where good books, films and music is harder to find, I’ve gone digital. I buy digital music from amazon.com and then download the lossless version in a torrent. Most of my new books (except for photography) are on the kindle.

    It’s harder to show-off, but that’s a good thing. It feels lighter, like I’m dragging around less possessions with me through this life. But I still get to enjoy quality books/music/films.

  11. Jackie Rose (@letssitoutside)

    Oh! This was a hard one for me! Iโ€™ve previously found my room wearing intellectualism as a prostitute wears sex. Each shelf perfectly organized with the most potent (well known or obscure) philosophical books and mysterious spiritual talismans, with little regard for the amount each item resonated within myself. I often kept my favorite academic articles and tokens of faith tucked away out of fear of judgment. Silly me!

    Desiring to break myself of this behavior, I began giving away books in 2009. Here and now I sit, having intently given away all but one of my most favorite books. What’s left: A copy of The Awakening by Kate Chopin Iโ€™ve read and written in many times over the past ten years. It brings me so much peace to think of not having to move books to Boston in a few weeks, to remember what it felt like to give away some of my very favorite books and donate the restโ€ฆ

    Now I just have to be wary of becoming too proud of my minimally occupied shelves ๐Ÿ™‚

    The Ego, it never shuts up.

    • kit johnson

      @letssitoutside
      Beautifully said. Such freedom from giving things away!

  12. hilarious

    I love books & I agree with the above comment about showing off your interests. I also love to have a good conversation where in the midst of it, I can grab a point of reference book right at my fingertips to illustrate.
    Of course, having a good physical dictionary is also a thing of a great household in my opinion!
    Then again: A) books are a bitch to move! and B) I have actually just recycled some bad ones…. because no sense keeping a bad book around with which anyone else might have a bad book experience.
    Also, donate your books to libraries when you downsize!! Always! Libraries are your best, best friend – you book lover, you!!!
    It seems your blog is on hold…. but I’ve found it today & read many of the posts starting from the warehouse/alt housing how-to. Hope all is going well!

  13. I’m curious to find out what blog platform you have been using?
    I’m experiencing some small security issues with my latest site and I’d like
    to find something more risk-free. Do you have any solutions?

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