Try telling that to a G-man…


From The New York Times:

It’s probably time to update the list on my Facebook profile for the books I “like.” If you think that “liking” a book is a fairly nebulous and meaningless concept, you’ll get no argument from me. I made the list a couple of years back and jotted down the first few titles that came into my head (“Gravity’s Rainbow,” “The Big Sleep,” “More Pricks Than Kicks” and “The Anatomy of Melancholy,” if you must know). They weren’t selected entirely at random — they’re all books I think are great — but I didn’t spend much time pondering the selection, and on another day I might well have chosen four completely different titles.

Looking at the list now, however, I can see that it contains elements of the pretentious littérateur and the moody loner, both of which are obviously to be avoided. And if the horror of the Arizona shooting has taught us anything, it’s that some place a high value on what can be gleaned from a man’s reading habits, whether actual or simply professed. I have no idea if Jared Lee Loughner was really a great reader of Plato, Lewis Carroll, “The Will to Power” or “The Communist Manifesto,” as he claimed, but he wanted the world to think he was. And perhaps you really can judge a man by the books he displays on his bookshelf (or keeps on his Kindle).

In which case I pray that no F.B.I. agent, criminal profiler or (worst of all) news pundit ever gets a look at my bookshelves. There, alongside Swift, Plato, Lewis Carroll and Marx, you’d find the Marquis de Sade, Mickey Spillane, Hitler and Ann Coulter. Books are acquired for all kinds of reasons, including curiosity, irony, guilty pleasure and the desire to understand the enemy (not to mention free review copies), but you try telling that to a G-man. It seems perfectly obvious to me that owning a copy of “Mein Kampf” doesn’t mean you’re a Nazi, but then I would say that, wouldn’t I?

“The Perils of Literary Profiling”, Geoff Nicholson, The New York Times