Thursday, January 8, 2009

What would a stranger think?

There is a hot new news story kickin around Milwaukee. A man, who had on several occasions admitted to killing two young boys, passed away in early December, taking his secrets with him. In an investigation of his claims, police thoroughly searched and cataloged the items in his home.

Now, as it currently stands, there is no proof that he murdered anyone and police are hard pressed to even locate potential victims in the area this supposedly happened. But the courtroom of public opinion is rife with conjecture on the issue.

An inventory of the man's basement lists, along with many damning items that I in no way excuse or condone, suspicious books. When pressed further for details on this, the media simply says, 'a book on cannibalism.' I clutch at my chest and place the back of my hand on my forehead in shock.

Is it just me? I don't feel this particular finding that big of a deal. Granted, in the context of the other items, it paints a bit of a scary picture for this particular man's lifestyle, but it got me thinking...

I had a friend over the other night. As we watched another breaking news segment on this story, I asked him to look at my bookshelf and psychologically profile of me.

Turns out, it ain't pretty folks. I am quite the nutter.

I read a lot of true crime. Which I thought was because I am interested in the chronicling of actual events. As a writer, I find it particularly helpful to read how authors portray the deepest thoughts of others. Turns out: I have homicidal tendencies.

There's also a lot of fiction. Again, as a creative writer, I assumed I simply enjoyed the creative works of others. Translation: I live in a false, fantasy world where reality has no place.

I don't own very many self-help books: I don't need help, I have a God complex.

I also use books to decorate my home. They're on shelves, stacked up, supporting other nick knacks. It seems: I am antisocial and surround myself with the thoughts and words of others, rather than partaking in live social action and commentary.

Wow. I have not been living up to my lunatic potential! lol. It was a funny little experiment where my friend got make fun of me, but it still has me wondering.

Under the scrutinization of a stranger, what could your books say about you?


Bluestocking said...

I'm sure someone would think I was a space cadet. I have a lot of Star Trek and Star Wars.

Jenera said...

Oh I'd be locked up for sure. I have a copy of Mein Kampf (yeah that is so not spelled right!). I at one time had the Satanic Bible. I think I have almost every book ever written on serial killers including the serial killer encyclopedia. I have true crime, fiction, everything under the sun. I have old books, new books, and everything in between. My theory is that I'll read something once so that I can have an honest debate with someone (hence the satanic bible-I'm NOT into that sort of thing).

I think that in general books cannot or should not define us.

Lauren said...

What a great piece! I am looking over my bookshelves as I write this with an eye to answering that question. It's tough.

I heavily favor nonfiction. In fact, my categories would include:
American Culture and History
Biography and Memoir
Books About Books
Food Culture and History
Home and Garden
Literary criticism
Photography (fine art)
Science (general)

But I also like audio (mostly but not exclusively nonfiction), foreign literature (in translation) and classical literature.

So what would this say about me? Well, that I love to cook. Not true, at least not any more. I used to be a gourmet cook, but frankly I have lost interest. I like to eat well but cook. My shelves could also say I am an adventurer. I am to some degree to not to the extent you might think. I love hardcore adventure, but I prefer to do it from my bed or sofa with a nice American bathroom nearby.

Someone would guess that I have a large number of interests. That would be true. I am a generalist rather than a specialist. If a book comes out that interests me I buy it. I am preparing now to purchase a large number of books on a particular 20th-century international event for research into a novel. I can only imagine that someone seeing those soon-to-arrive books would imagine I am fascinated with that event. And to a degree I am. But I am more interested in understanding the events so as to write a historical novel.

Thank you for posting this. I am going to have to think on this much more.

Alea said...

That is a great thought! I think just by the sheer number of books I have someone would assume I haven't ventured outside of my home in years (you've see the pictures of people with zillions of books etc). But then again, where would all the books come from (i guess the internet?) I think it's definitely obvious that I'm a female from my books though!

RebekahC said...

Can I just say it? ..... I absolutely LOVE this post! I'd probably be right up there with you. I've always been a true crime reader, so you'd for sure be finding at least one huge box of that to go along with the rest of my crazy selection (horror/mystery/erotica/thriller/romance/Christian/self-help/essay/memoir/fiction/non-fiction/etc). My friends use my collection as their own personal library due to the vastness of it. LOL :P

Vasilly said...

I have no idea what my shelves would say about me. It may say I refuse to live in reality because my shelves are stuffed with fiction. I have a few self-help books and that's it.

Great post!

Michelle said...

Gosh, I hope I am never suspect to a crime, then. I don't think I have books on cannibalism, but I was very interested in torture methods for a while, so I have tons of books about that! I definitely have this going on though:

I also use books to decorate my home. They're on shelves, stacked up, supporting other nick knacks. It seems: I am antisocial and surround myself with the thoughts and words of others, rather than partaking in live social action and commentary.

Wouldn't doubt if that came up in my psychological profile... :P So many books, so little time!

Chris said...

Most of mine is fiction as well. I'm not sure what that says about me.

I don't think owning a book on cannibalism means a person is a cannibal though!

Susan Wenger said...

Funny that you should post this now. I'm short on storage space and recently gave thought (again) to paring down my book collection. It's something I really need to do. The collection's growth is not sustainable. But whenever I think of getting rid of a book I care about even a little bit, I think, NOOOO! This book says something about my IDENTITY. People can tell things about me by looking at my shelves! Or they could, if there were any more room on my shelves and I weren't stacking the books up on my end table ...

Yeah, I really need to pare down the collection.

Ms. Bookish said...

Great topic! I don't even want to think about what a psychological profile of me based on the books I own would indicate! I have very eclectic tastes when it comes to reading, and have tons of fiction and nonfiction (my husband thinks I have almost as many books as the library but he's exaggerating just a little!). I have a particular interest in the unexplained so there's a healthy smattering of books on UFOs, Bermuda triangle, crytozoology etc lying around :)

OnlinePublicist said...

These are great! I'm thinking of adding coloring books to my shelf. And for confusion: DVDs. :-D

Nicola O. said...

Heh. I'm squarely in that fantasy world as I own 99% genre and escapist fiction.

Well, they might conclude that I can't hold a job because of my reading habit, as the early part of the decade resulted in a well-stocked shelf of job-hunting and career management books.

GABixler said...

Dear Lisa, surely you must be my long-lost fated sister, because your post reminds me! I don't think I need to comment further, because my books, though there are none specifically about cannibals...would include a variety of fiction novels where surely that type of murder was chosen!

Thanks for twittering me and allowing me to follow you!

Robert Noonan said...

I own a copy of Mein Kamph and Thoughts of Mao. To some, that would appear I have tendicies to be a brutal dictator and/or willing to walk over others.

On the other hand, if someone read my Orphan Train Trilogy, Wildflowers, Bridie's Daughter and Secrets, they would think me a compasionate person. Besides, people don't read only one aspect of a catagory. My vote is, you can't judge a reader by the cover of their books.

Andi said...

Oh I'm a nutcase, too. All the readers should get together and start a commune o'craziness. I have books about the history of cremation, forensics, true crime, some erotica thrown in, among the fiction about vampires, fairy tales, and other assorted nuttiness.

Joanne said...

Things like this drive me crazy! It's the same as when they said Heavy Metal music turned kids into killers - bah I say.

Plus, if anyone profiled me based on my house I'd be locked up for sure - I have almost every serial killer book there is, along with books on cannibalism, cults, history books on violence, war crimes, death camps etc. But beside those books are contemporary fiction, romance, sci-fi, classics etc.

My hubs is paranoid about the rumors of government outfits that track certain books/movies through credit cards and member cards - lol :)

Bonnie Jacobs said...

When I owned a bookstore, I would occasionally order a book from for a customer, so I could get a single copy in a hurry. (Doing that didn't help the profit margin much, but kept my customers happy.) The bookstore went the way of the dinosaur, but Amazon still suggests books I would "like" based on my previous purchases. NOT! If any "real person" analyzed my Amazon orders (ones I got for myself as well as for my customers), I would appear a very odd fish indeed!

Ms. Bookish said, "My husband thinks I have almost as many books as the library but he's exaggerating just a little!"

Speaking of libraries, Ms. Bookish, my son came home from a bike ride one day and announced that he had checked out the new library in our small town adjoining a city. He said, "You have more books than they do, Mom." The next time I went in that direction, I took a look inside the library to see for myself ... and discovered my son was right! That little library has since grown big, but at the time I did truly have more books than the town's library.

Chris said...

I thought of something:

I have a lot of historical fiction. People would think that I want to live in a different time and place.

I'd miss my creature comforts too much. Hot running water is too tempting.

Susan Whelan said...

My husband already think my extensive book collection proves that I am crazy - that article might give him just the ammunition he needs to prove it.

My tastes are so eclectic I have a little bit of everything - classics, history (historical fiction and history texts), self-help/improvement, science and technology texts, mysteries, classic sci-fi, fantasy, romance, Christian reference, a few favourite books in German and all the Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy and Terry Pratchett's Discworld books.

Guess I am just pathologically indecisive!