The Antilibraries Codex Libri is a small publication filled with enticing “pre-reviews” of dozens of incredible books. I’m combing my extensive book lists for the most fascinating books I’ve yet to read, across genres and topics, and sharing them with you so you can augment your own antilibrary.
Update 4.1.17 — We've hit all the below stretch goals, resulting in some considerable improvements to the final product!
- $500 — Premium Printing: I’ll make sure the print quality is as high as possible: full color and/or better paper, more pages, etc.
- $750 — Extra Essays: I’ll include a preface and an appendix with some bonus material like a useful guide / rubric for adding books to your antilibrary.
- $1000 — Beautiful Bookmarks: I’ll include a set of letterpressed bookmarks for every single backer (all tiers!)
I'm particularly excited about the letterpress bookmarks, which I'll be making together with the amazingly talented Jinjin Sun. We'll be printing these at a letterpress studio in Brooklyn, where we took a class a while back. Here's a draft version of what these might look like!
I’ve long been obsessed with books. And recently, I’ve been fascinated by the idea of the antilibrary — the collection of books that you’re peripherally aware of, but haven’t read.
In Black Swan, Nassim Nicholas Taleb describes Umberto Eco’s massive library of 30,000+ volumes, many of them unread. These unread books, Eco’s antilibrary, embody the potential energy of knowledge, of books and reading and learning. Their value lies not in what they’ve already taught you, but where they may lead.
I love this idea. It’s made me consider all the things I’d like to read and learn more about, and I find it helps make tangible the process of learning, always adding more to my shelves as I explore the adjacent possibilities of my interests.
You probably already have an antilibrary.
Whether it’s books piling up in corners of your home, or lists of “someday reads”, if you’re anything like me you always have more books in your peripheral vision than you have in front of you or under your belt.
This collection of books you know of, but have not yet read — your antilibrary — is tremendously powerful. It’s a window, a record, a goalpost. It will take you in interesting directions, extend the tendrils of your learning in all sorts of unpredictable ways. A well-curated antilibrary can:
- Help you decide what to read next
- Expand your awareness of the myriad areas of human knowledge and creativity
- Give you the ability to “pre-read” books and better evaluate what’s worth your time before diving in
Given the infinitely stretching shelves of our collective universal library, we all have a lot to learn about what kinds of great books are out there. I’ve been collecting all kinds of cool books for my own antilibrary, and I’ve already started sharing them here, about 50 so far: antilibrari.es. I have several hundred more in my “antilibraries” list, and I want to cull these down to a few dozen of the best to share with you.
This collection reflects the current state of my antilibrary, with an eye toward what books I think are at least worth knowing about for all sorts of people, whether because they’re highly regarded, pertain to fields of growing relevance, underappreciated artistic merit, or just plain super cool.
This isn’t a “best books ever” list — it’s too personal for that and it’s of course biased towards my interests (experimental literature! science and technology! systems thinking! ecology!) — but I try to keep it diverse and eclectic. I promise you’ll find all sorts of interesting things here…and more than a few books you haven’t heard of before.
So what am I making? Basically, a small book full of books — something of an index, or annotated bibliography of fascinating books that are worth knowing something about, whether or not you ever read them. The idea is to give you just enough info about each book to pique your interest so you can look it up and learn more.
A small sample of books currently in my Antilibrary include:
- On Dialogue.
- Gravity’s Rainbow.
- The I Ching, or, Book of Changes.
- Free Play: Improvisation in Life and Art.
- Behind Bars: The Definitive Guide to Music Notation.
- Design for the Real World: Human Ecology and Social Change.
- An Experiment with Time (Studies in Consciousness).
- The Systems View of the World.
- The Gormenghast Novels.
- Landscape Futures.
- After Babel.
To the right you’ll find five fabulous rewards tiers, ranging from the inexpensively digital, to affordably tangible, to the ultimate in bibliophile experience. The goal with all tiers is to both celebrate the magic of unread books, and help you have an awesome antilibrary.
All tiers include a copy of the Antilibraries Codex Libri. This is the project’s Main Thing — a collection of short blurbs about amazing books, many of which will be totally new to you, and all of which are worth knowing about!
I’ll be making both digital and physical editions. The former is convenient, takes up no space, and includes links to learn more about each book. The latter is a thing you can actually put on your shelf, which is fun! It will be a small paperback that you can peruse, display performatively, share with a friend, etc. etc. For each book I’ll include the book’s cover images and a couple paragraphs describing why it’s interesting. See below for sample layouts.
With the higher tiers, some antilibraries personalization comes into play! All tiers at $50 and above include a one-on-one chat where we’ll talk about what you like to read and what you’re interested in reading more of. I’ll help you wrangle your existing antilibrary and send some suggestions for books to add to your list.
At $100, you get all that, plus I’ll actually send you a few books based on our conversation. And at $250 we’ll have ourselves a bookstore date — a whole afternoon browsing Brooklyn’s best bookstores. While this is the high roller option, keep in mind this includes lunch and up to $100 of books for you to take home, so it’s actually a pretty great deal and will be tons of fun.
I currently have a special “Antilibraries “ wish list on Amazon with over 400 titles. That’s largely what I’ll be drawing on for this publication, though I’ll surely do some more research and augment this list as I go. I have several thousand books on other lists too!
For each book, I’ll usually start by reading the few paragraph overview blurb. If that piques my interest I’ll dive in and read the reviews on Amazon / Goodreads, flip through the table of contents if available, and Google the book to see what else I find about it. Based on these impressions (and anything else I’ve heard about the book, etc.) I’ll write up a couple paragraphs about th
To create the Antilibraries Codex Libri, I’ll select a few dozen books and go through this process. Then I’ll compile them into a nice browsable book, a page or two for each.
Below are a few example layouts I’ve drafted for books in my antilibrary.
If you’d like a fun way to discover some incredible books, look no further!
Please check out the tiers to the right, and consider supporting the project. If you have any questions let me know. I look forward to sharing in future reading with you.
Risks and challenges
I already have most of the curation done; finding books is not an issue! I’m also confident I can get the print edition designed and delivered successfully. I’ve done similar small-scale print projects and this one will be pretty straightforward. My main limitation is time, and the research process takes a good while to complete, so the only risk to speak of is unexpected hiccups that may lead to delivery delays.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
- (7 days)