I could not resist posting an excerpt from this witty essay by Umberto Eco from How to Travel with a Salmon & Other Essays. (I separated some of the larger paragraphs for easier reading. The color and bold parts are also my doing. Just helping Umberto out.) I can’t think why this one resonated with me.
The visitor enters and says, “What a lot of books! Have you read them all?”
At first I thought that the question characterized only people who had scant familiarity with books, people accustomed to seeing a couple of shelves with five paperback mysteries and a children’s encyclopedia, bought in installments. But experience has taught me that the same words can be uttered also by people above suspicion.
It could be said that they are still people who consider a bookshelf as a mere storage place for already-read books and do not think of the library as a working tool. But there is more to it than that. I believe that, confronted by a vast array of books, anyone will be seized by the anguish of learning, and will inevitably lapse into asking the question that expresses his torment and his remorse.
[Now] I have fallen back on the riposte: “No, these are the ones I have to read by the end of the month. I keep the others in my office,” a reply that on the one hand suggests a sublime ergonomic strategy, and on the other leads the visitor to hasten the moment of his departure. ~ 1990