What Is On My Bookshelf

My profile in Next Magazine contains a photograph of my bedroom.  There is a bookshelf.  I am asked, "What kind of books are there?"  Now I don't have any inventory list and so there is no easy answer.  Chinese blogger Michael Anti is offering free software with which anyone can buy a barcode reader and promptly produce a database.  Each book takes only three seconds to scan, and so thousands of books can be recorded in a day.

Unfortunately, that software is useless for my purposes, because many of the books were published before the concept of barcodes existed (or computers even existed).  Is it time to dump all these books?  Many of them are canonical works of literature, so there are new editions available.  But I can't just do it like that because those books have handwriting in them.  In the following, I have scanned the book covers and the pages with the handwriting in them.

Eileen Chang's translations of Selected Poems of Ralph Waldo Emerson. 
The message is directed to Mae (my mother), signed Ai Ling (
愛玲) on December 5, 1954

Eileen Chang's Eighteen Springs (半生緣
inscribed to Mr. Xin Nong (
莘農) in May 1979.
Who Xin Nong?  Most likely, it is Yao Ke (
and this inscribed book never reached him.

Eileen Chang's 惘然記

Eileen Chang's 張看

Eileen Chang's 紅樓夢魘

Eileen Chang's The Rice-Sprout Song (秧歌
also inscribed to Mr. Xin Nong (
莘農) in May 1979.

Eileen Chang's The Rice-Sprout Song (in English)

Eileen Chang's The Rouge of the North (in English)

Louis Cha (Jin Rong
金庸 )'s Legend of the Condor Heroes (射雕英雄傳).

Bian Zhilin (之琳)'s 雕虫紀歷
inscribed on December 3, 1980 in Shatin

Xixi (
西西)'s A Woman Like Me (像我這樣的一個女子)

Si Guo (思果)'s Essay Collections

Dong Qiao (
董橋)'s Race with China's Dream (跟中國的夢賽跑)

Wang Wen-hsing (王文興)'s Family Catastrophe (家變)

Lin Wenyue (
林文月)'s People Who Major in Chinese Language (讀中文系的人)

Laurence Wong Kwok-pun (黃國彬)'s As Though On Mid-River (宛在水中央)

Pai Hsien-yung (
白先勇 )'s Ashes (骨灰)

Wong Wai-leung (黃維樑)'s A Survey of Chinese Poetics (中國詩學縱橫論)

Xin Di (辛笛)'s book of poems

Timothy Yu Yelu (余也魯)'s The Gate: The Inside and the Outside (門內門外)

Honoré de Balzac's Eugénie Grandet as translated by Fu Lei (

The Family Letters of Fu Lei (
傅雷家書) with the inscription by Fou T'song (傅聰)

Qian Zhongshu (錢鐘書)'s 七綴集

Qian Zhongshu (錢鐘書)'s 談藝錄

Qian Zhongshu (
錢鐘書)'s Limited Views (管錐編)

Qian Zhongshu (
錢鐘書)'s Besieged Fortress (圍城)

Qian Zhongshu (錢鐘書)'s 也是集

Yang Jiang (
楊絳)'s Two Types of Comedy (喜劇二種)

Wang Yucen (汪玉岑)'s Ode To Yan Garden (燕園頌)

Lo Ching (羅青)'s Anecdotes of Chinese Knight-errant (神州豪俠傳)

 A-Wu (Zhang Tong) (阿五 (張同))'s Learning English Easily (輕輕鬆鬆學英語)

And finally, there is one book with a barcode and an ISBN number.

Yu Kwang-chung (
余光中)'s The Night Watchman (守夜人)

There may be some confusion here about my father's name.  His name is usually 宋淇.  His English name is Stephen, which becomes to the intimates 悌芬 (a shortened transcription).  His literary pen name is 林以亮.  This explains why those incriptions were written to completely different names, but it is the same person.

In my Hong Kong residence, most of the books belonged to my parents.  Every tome looks like a treasure.  What about my own books?  There are several thousand of them back in New York City.  I used pictures of them in this article Buying Books in Mexico (even though the pictures were not taken in Mexico).


In the photo on the left, the shelf on the left contains all my media research books.  The other three shelves to the right are my statistics books.  The book shelves are double-layered (that is, you are seeing the books in front and there is another row of books right behind them).  This is a richer collection than in most university libraries.  Basically, I will buy just about any statistics book that is published.  If you publish it, I'll buy it.

In the photo on the right, these are my books on Chinese martial arts novels, deconstruction/structuralism, Eastern European literature, C.P. Snow (note: the books on the top of the shelf that are placed sideways are the Strangers and Brothers series) and my favorite writers (Susan Sontag, Marguerite Duras, Marguerite Yourcenar, Natalia Ginsburg, Christa Wolfe, etc).  The books have no inscriptions except for three Susan Sontag books (note: I went to a signing session once).  Compared to my parents, I am much more ordinary in that sense ...

However, there are other sections on Latin America (again, if you print anything about Latin America, I'll buy it), physics, chaos theory, solitons, algebraic topology, knot theory, sociobiology, cellular automata, swarm intelligence, ant colonies, and so on not seen in the two photographs.  Also, you see only one computer in the photos.  My friends all think that it is hilarious to ask me, "How many computers are there in your apartment?" and get "Eight" as the answer.  That is always good for a giggle.

Addendum: You Are What Your Read (a partial inventory of my New York City bookshelves)