A charming essay by Jay Parini discusses a vicarious pleasure known to many bibliophiles:
In restaurants I always want to eat whatever someone else at the table has ordered, even if it’s not something I would normally consume. Along similar lines, I find myself thoroughly intrigued by other people’s books. I want to borrow them and read them. Sometimes I go so far as to mimic other people’s collections, adding my own copies of their titles to my shelves at home.
I still remember going to visit a friend in Scotland, long ago. He lived in a tiny house in a back alley in St. Andrews, where I spent many years as a university student. He had a pristine row of novels by Vladimir Nabokov, one of my favorite writers, then and now. I often used to go to his house for afternoon tea, and the conversation was absorbing. But it was hard to keep my eyes off that uniform edition: the colorful spines, the remarkable titles (Ada, Bend Sinister, Lolita, Pnin, The Real Life of Sebastian Knight). I liked the elegant typeface, and the sense of a complex international life captured in a shelf of books. Decades later, when I got my own house, in Vermont, I went to some trouble to acquire from British booksellers that exact row of Nabokov, recreated volume by volume at considerable expense…
Thanks for the link, Paul!