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By their books shall ye know them?

Hello …

Whenever I am invited into someone’s house, I endeavour to sneak a peak at any books on display, and try then to form an appreciation, however incomplete, of my host’s character.

My guesses have been proven right sufficiently frequently for me to conclude that readers do reveal aspects of character (or personality) through the books they read.

Does anyone else share this view?



Definitely true.
Anyone coming into my house and looking at my books would get a very good idea of my tastes and enthusiams. Lots of poetry, plays, classics, children's books, theatre, art, book illustration, ghost stories, music, cinema, history, Evolution, religion, gay writing.  I hope that my books would suggest that I'm a person with a passion for the Arts, and one whom the Arts have, hopefully, helped to make a caring and thoughtful person. And who is still, as he grows older, trying to educate himself.
I believe, I hope not foolishly, in the humanising effects of the Arts.

The "humamanising effects of  the Arts" is a difficult one. None of us is surprised these days on hearing that the Nazi governor (or whatever title he had) of Prague was a gifted violinist who often played Bach's sonatas & partitas during the odd break from his mass-murdering duties. But while Bach's music had no humanising effect on him, clearly it meant something entirely different to people such as, say, Menuhin or Heifetz. I'd say the arts probably do have a humanising effect, but much depends on the listener, or the reader, or the viewer. Until someone responds to a work of art, it is incomplete; if the response is inadequate, or perverse, then the whole is also inadequate, or perverse; it is only when we can respond in a manner commensurate with the nature of the work can art humanise.

Back to Pilgrim's question: I can't see a bookshelf anywhere without peering at the titles. Our preferences, our likes and dislikes, sa much about us as people. This is hy programmes such as Desert Island Discs or Private Passions are so revealing.

It is great fun to look at other's bookcases too. I feel an immediate sense of kinship with anyone who has some of the books I own. I also like to see them looking well read. Anyone with shelves of very pristine looking volumes looks suspiciously like a person who wants to be seen as a reader but has not experienced a reading addiction like mine Smile

When someone is being interviewed on TV and there is a row of books behind them, I find myself trying to see what the books are rather than concentrate on what they are saying.

Thank goodness you said that! I thought I was the only one who felt compelled to find out what they read believing, like everyone else, that the books on the shelves are an indication of character especially if it is at odds with their comments. I also think that noticing what people like whether it is any of the arts, music, painting etc are a useful aid or excuse for starting a conversation with those we meet for the first time.

I'm doubtful you can tell character from the books people have: interests, perhaps depth of thought, personality, political leanings, but not character, which is more to do with moral behaviour and values.  I don't think I can tell by books whether people will be light-fingered, or brave, or lazy,  or obsessive, or have integrity or a lack of it.  

You can possibly tell that a person values arts more than action by the number of books they have and the type, I could tell by looking at my son's books that he values entrepreneurial people and their attitudes, but I can't tell from them whether he is honest or not, whether he has courage, etc.  And the rather light reading of my friend doesn't show her strength of character and her concern for others, I don't think.  

But I do always look at people's books when I am their place, and not in the least surreptitiously either.  Other people seem to have such interesting books.  I suppose mine are to to others, but I am used to them.

No, I don't think you can form an appraisal of peoples characters from what they read, only what subjects interest them.  

I dread to think what people would think my character is like with my eclectic collections of different genres of books.   Wink

This thread has put me in mind of the thread I started a few years ago where we posted pictures of our book shelf and had a nosy at each others books.

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