What book(s) have you had in your antilibrary the longest?

For me…Gödel, Escher Bach is one of the first that comes to mind — heard of it back in college, picked up a copy probably 6 or so years ago, and probably ~3 years back even read the first few chapters, but have yet to get through it!

It’s not that I’m not into the subject matter; I think it’s super interesting and I finished reading (and loved) another book of Hofstadter’s a couple years back: Le Ton beau de Marot. I guess partly the combination of a) challenging and b) not really one simple through-line to carry you through the text has me stalled…

Similarly: Structure and Interpretation of Computer Programs:

Regarded as one of the classics / bibles of computer programming. But also super intimidating (especially having never formally studied CS) and the difficulty level ramps up quickly. I read the first chapter or two a couple years back but haven’t continued with it since.

Anyway I thought it would be fun to share and crowdsource some books along these lines!

These could be books that are particularly long / challenging / intimidating (as with the two above), or ones that are actually approachable but you’ve been putting them off for whatever reason.

Others I’d add here would include a couple classics of pedagogy like bell hooks’ Teaching to Transgress:

And Paulo Freire’s Pedagogy of the Oppressed:

This well-known art book I heard about in college and now own a nice re-print copy but haven’t gotten around to yet, Anecdoted Topography of Chance:

Also I feel like I really need to finally read some James Baldwin:

Finally (for now) these two books by amazing authors named Ursula — Franklin’s The Real World of Technology and Le Guin’s Always Coming Home:

(The latter I’m planning to start soon & perhaps spin up a virtual reading group here on the forum!)

See also: this tweet thread for a nice Twitter roundup of such books (+ my replies here)! I wish the list ended up a bit more diverse but there are a lot of great picks there.

I chipped away at Gödel, Escher, Bach over a full year. I found it to be very fun and rewarding, but it does require a good bit of focus, and re-reading some of the more dense and conceptual parts, which doesn’t lend itself well to reading casually or reading to unwind. I read some lighter fiction in parallel, which I think helped. I’d love to discuss it in more detail, if you get going with it again.

The book I’ve been sitting on the longest is Order Out of Chaos by Ilya Prigogine.


A friend of mine gave it to me to read back in high school, and it seems really interesting but I’ve just been putting it off for years and years.

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Nice, that definitely sounds like the way to do it! I tend to do the same when it comes to long / dense nonfiction, reading a bit at a time interspersed with other lighter reading (usually one novel or a handful of shorter nonfiction books).

Only downside is I think the switching can cause me to lose momentum and sometimes neglect a book indefinitely, even one I’m intending to keep reading. I feel like a reading group, even casual / virtual / occasional, could help add a bit of external motivation to make consistent progress.

Anyway yes I’d love to get going again and talk about it more here! Maybe can find others interested in reading it as well. Any particular things you’re thinking of re: further GEB discussion?

Order Out of Chaos looks quite interesting. Looking at some of the reviews…sounds like it starts out with history of science, then moves into highly technical equation-laden explanations.

Hard to know the best way to approach these sorts of books that are highly influential and about some fascinating subject, but can also be, in part or in whole, impenetrable to the lay reader. I feel like in many cases it’s totally justifiable to consign that book to your antilibrary forever, and instead of reading it straight through, learn about it indirectly e.g. via reviews, articles, summaries, newer books that digest and contextualize it…

I don’t know enough about this particular book to say if that’s the right approach here, just thinking out loud b/c I definitely have books in my antilibrary that seem similarly intriguing yet probably tough to get through!

re: further GEB discussion

I have already read it, but I would be happy to discuss any thoughts or questions that you or others have while reading it. It’s very dense, and full of random thoughts and tangents that I think would lend themselves to further discussion.

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Gödel, Escher, Bach is definitely my big antilibrary item. I’ve had it on a bookshelf next to my bed for literal years without cracking the cover. Got 50 pages into it once and loved it, but it’s just such a door stopper. I know someone commented on here a while back about doing a book club on it. I’d be in!

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