LibraryThing on a Saturday Afternoon
It’s raw and grey outside, but inside it’s warm and snuggly with the molasses-tinged scent of baking beans wafting through the apartment. I’ve just finished cataloguing my books on LibraryThing. I clock in at 620 books. It’s hard to believe I once had all these books stuffed onto three six-shelf bookcases in a studio apartment. No wonder I could barely move in there; I had books stacked two deep on the shelves and situated in small piles all over the rest of the apartment. Now I have a one-bedroom apartment with the three bookcases, one big built-in bookcase, and one smaller bookcase that doubles as a telephone stand. All are, unfortunately, full or near full. Bad news if I continue to acquire books at the rate I’m accustomed to! I’ve reset the blog widget to randomly display three books from my library instead of recently added books. As I was writing this, the widget was displaying The Golden Compass, The Slave Power, and one of my editions of Utopia.
I’ve always been fascinated by other people’s books. Examining someone’s bookcase can give a great deal of insight into his life and interests. I’m known for scouting friends’ bookshelves when I’m at their houses, checking out what they’ve got. Of course, most of my friends have history books—fine collections of Renaissance Italian materials or medieval European history for example. One friend even has a stellar collection of romance novels (which she lends out to interested parties, with tea and cookies). What intrigues me most about LibraryThing is the ability to check out other people’s bookshelves virtually. If you look at mine, you’ll see that about a third of my books are early American history. If you add in my other history books, modern America, European history, and Latin American history, and a view stray Asian and African history books, you’ll see that over half my books are history books. Pretty geeky, I guess. I have some fiction here, but most of my fiction and other history (mostly Latin American history, European history, and biography) are still at my parents’ house.
I like the community of LibraryThing too. How else would I know that a librarian in Dublin, Ireland owns 48 of the same books I own? Or how else would I know that the three users who own Phyllis Richman’s The Butter Did It also all own Willa Cather’s Death Comes for the Archbishop? I like the Zeitgeist feature too...it bears little resemblance to the New York Times bestseller list. Among the most frequently owned: the Harry Potter books and The DaVinci Code, but also Pride and Prejudice, The Great Gatsby, and Guns, Germs, and Steel. Among the most reviewed: The DaVinci Code, recent Harry Potter, but also Freakonomics, Umberto Eco’s The Name of the Rose, Eats, Shoots and Leaves, and Memoirs of a Geisha. It seems America’s reading tastes go beyond cheesy novels Renaissance artists and secret societies...who knew?