Have you ever paused to peek at the contents of a bookcase at an open house?
I know I have.
In a brief glance I form a picture of the owner of that book collection. Their fiction choices might give off a whiff of their personality and tastes. Their nonfiction selection may furnish clues about their beliefs and ideals.
I’ve sometimes wondered what conclusions would be drawn about my beliefs and ideals if all someone knew about me were the contents of my home library.
The makeup of my library has evolved over the years but some things remain constant–among them, the fact that I always have a few books by authors who hold views with which I vehemently disagree.
This is especially apparent in my Christian spirituality and theology section.
There are roughly 130+ books (and counting) in this section of my library. The number of books by authors whose views I find problematic has varied over the years, shrinking as my collection grows and my total available shelf space shrinks, but there remains a notable presence.
Judging solely from the books on these shelves, you would be hard pressed to suss out what I believe about a range of issues. You might wonder if I’m reformed, progressive, or something in between.
I have certain books by authors with whom I vehemently disagree on many issues (John Piper, anyone?). I even have a couple books by authors I truly despise (that one John MacArthur volume is ringing a bell). And of course, there’s a plethora of books and authors I have mixed feelings about.
The classics section of my library also houses a few volumes I don’t particularly like or find unpalatable in some way (usually because of sexism…those old guys from the nineteenth century, you know?).Book Chat: Do You Hold on to Books You Hate?Click To Tweet
The majority of my shelf space is filled with books I love by authors I respect but I read and hold onto these outliers for a couple reasons.
First, I want to understand how people (especially people within my own faith tradition) who believe very differently than me came to those conclusions. Second, this information allows me to skillfully challenge some of the more harmful and/or discriminatory philosophical and belief systems within and outside of my religion.
I recently did a major purge of my bookshelves out of pure necessity. (Space was becoming a serious issue.) In the process, I rid my collection of quite a few books that hold ideas contrary to my own. If forced to choose between the books I love and the books I hate, I will [obviously] choose the books I love and respect. Still, I value the chance to interact with and challenge books and authors whose ideas run counter to my own.
Someday I will probably chuck that lone remaining John MacArthur book (there used to be a second–a gift I dropped off at Salvation Army long ago), a couple of the John Piper volumes, and others that have had their fair turn on my shelf. For now, though, they’re sticking around.
Do you hold on to books by authors you vehemently disagree with? If so, what are your reasons?