Notes: Maria Popova, “Umberto Eco’s Antilibrary: Why Unread Books Are More Valuable to Our Lives than Read Ones”

Popova, Maria. (2015). Umberto Eco’s antilibrary: Why unread books are more valuable to our lives than read ones. BrainPickings. Web.


Popova writes about the epistemic bias implicit in library logics that privilege what is already known as certain by doing a brief reading of Nassim Nicholas Taleb’s The Black Swan: The Impact of the Highly Improbable and the work of Umberto Eco, and, more specifically, the creation of the “anti-scholar.” There is value, Popova argues, in problematizing this epistemic bias, focusing on the unread (and thus unknown), and the formation of an antilibrary

Keywords: antilibrary, antischolar, information literacy, library, library science, literacy, literacy studies, theory, writing studies


Taleb, Nassim Nicholas. (2010). The black swan: The impact of the highly improbable. New York: Randomhouse Trade Paperbacks.


“We tend to treat our knowledge as personal property to be protected and defended. It is an ornament that allows us to rise in the pecking order. So this tendency to offend Eco’s library sensibility by focusing on the known is a human bias that extends to our mental operations.”

“Let us call this an antischolar — someone who focuses on the unread books, and makes an attempt not to treat his knowledge as a treasure, or even a possession, or even a self-esteem enhancement device — a skeptical empiricist.”


Would this almost deconstructionist archive–the archive of what isn’t–explored in this resist the process of archiving? In what would this way of enacting knowledge be Derridianly spectral? And in what ways would the act of reading the unread and utilizing the knowledge it provides perhaps tarnish the anti in antischolar?

Are there means of composing texts that resist the act of assuming knowledge? In what ways can we enact a writing (post post process) that is not built on what is previously known–or at the very least, doesn’t own what is already known? Is collaboration too simplistic a means of enacting this–or, perhaps, authorship that acknowledges textual interconnections as ownership?

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