AMA – the Personal Library edition

The reading room in one of UC Berkeley’s libraries.

Libraries are one of the best inventions by humanity. They go back a long way but the modern libraries found in all the advanced industrialized nations are incredibly large. For example, the University of California has 100 libraries.[1]

Now of course, thanks to the digital revolution, we can not only have a very large personal library, we can in fact carry thousands of books in our pocket. My personal collection is not as large as the Library of Congress (established in 1800 and which has 171 million items) but it is still impressive by pre-digital age standards. My grandfather owned perhaps 20 books; my digital collection has around 20,000 books.

I have been thinking of listing a few books that I find especially useful and valuable. Inherently lazy and a committed procrastinator that I am, I did not get around to that. Recently, however, a reader prompted me. Thus today I began a list of books that I treasure. It’s a work in progress. Check out the page “My Library” if you are curious. I will update it every few days till I have about 200 books listed.

Finally, it’s been a while since the last “ask me anything.” It’s time. What’s on your mind?

Be well, do good work, and keep in touch.


[1] The UC Libraries at a Glance – 2019

  • 100 Libraries in the UC system
  • More than 2,000 library staff serving a University-wide student and faculty population of 303,000
  • $295,000,000 total budget for 2018-19


  • 40.8 million print volumes in the combined UC collection; 4.3 million digitized volumes in HathiTrust
  • 1.2 million licensed e-books, on average, per campus
  • 120,000 electronic serial titles licensed centrally (more available on individual campuses)
  • 48.9 million items digitized

Use (2018-19)

  • 1.6 million items checked out
  • 40.4 million article downloads
  • 135,000 items exchanged between UC campuses via interlibrary loan
  • 140,000 reference inquiries (45,000 virtual)
  • 153,000 participants in library instructional programs

Author: Atanu Dey


9 thoughts on “AMA – the Personal Library edition”

    1. Mango:

      Sure, there are no externally imposed barriers to my reading up on cryptoeconomics. But there are internal, subjective barriers. First, I have a very limited time to devote to reading. That’s the time allocation barrier. Then, second, I don’t have the desire to read about cryptocurrencies. I don’t think it’s worth my time. I am sure that people who like bitcoin (I don’t) may find it rewarding. I am in favor of alternatives to fiat currency but I don’t think bitcoin is the answer. Thanks for your recommendation.


      1. “I am in favor of alternatives to fiat currency but I don’t think bitcoin is the answer.”

        Sir, This is a naive position to hold. Any alternative to fiat needs to stand the test of market/time. An “alternative” could do this, ONLY if it’s system is nation state resistant. Without this property (resist state), every alternative is no better than fiat by definition.


  1. {I have removed this comment because it was incoherent, irrelevant and abusive. I will not allow any comments from the person. — Atanu.}


  2. Thanks for sharing this, Atanu. On a perhaps slightly related note, I wanted to request if you can share a list of films, documentaries, TV series that you find educational or otherwise and worth spending time on. I request this because so many of us tend to spend time watching/ listening to mediocre stuff and personally I would much rather watch/ listen to something that’s actually good and not as per any popular vote alone. Call it the Library of Leisure perhaps; but I think it would be good to have this list too.


  3. I have been reading Robert Nozick’s theory of property rights –

    “The justice of a given individual’s possession of and discretionary control over certain economic goods cannot be a function of that possession and control contributing to the general welfare or to any other overall social end-state or pattern. All such consequentialist assessments of holdings are ruled out of court. So, if there is any acceptable account of the justice of individual holdings, it must be a backward-looking account. The justification must depend upon how the holdings in question have arisen.”

    In the context of the temple reclamation movement in India – even if the courts do recognize the mosques as built over land that was unjustly seized and acquired, and they try to pursue “just rectification of an unjust taking,” whom should the land be returned to? The original land and temple on it was probably built with royal patronage, so in that sense, should the land be returned to a Hindu organization or to the government?

    If the same logic were to be extended to the Americas, then a whole lot of land would have to be returned to the Native Americans – Would such a petition for redressal of past injustices hold in the US courts?


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