Monday, 26 September 2005


LibraryThing is a strangely addictive tool for cataloguing your books online. I'm halfway through entering my books.

The best thing about it, so far, is the tagging facility, which works in a very similar way to the tag systems at Flickr and, and the fact that the entire database's tags are viewable. Here is the tag cloud for the whole site: interesting, no?

Or look here at the top 25 books and top 25 authors: unsurprisingly, J.K. Rowling is out in front, with the top 6 books (followed by Dan Brown, UGH)....but what comes after those obvious ones *is* a little surprising, to me at least. I foresee much playing, and eventually some really interesting data emerging from this.
Cataloguing my own books has been an interesting experience. I'm not at all surprised by the preponderance of novels, but that aside there is more variety than I ever would have imagined. My habit of buying books from op-shops is reflected in the number of semi-obscure novels published in the 60s and 70s. Heh heh. There are many books on or by Austen. From another point of view, I found three or four books on the weekend that I was sure I'd lost, but all along there they were sitting on the shelves. You know how you develop blind spots for book spines, particularly ones you're really looking hard to find?


Fyodor said...

Why was the Top 25 surprising, Ms. Peel? I have all but six of the 25, and my book collection isn't huge.

Phantom Scribbler said...

Laughing at the size of "Literary Criticism" in that tag cloud. Not quite representative of the general population's bookshelves, is it?

Lucy Tartan said...

No, I guess not...the thing only has a few thousand users at present, so it's all terribly book-geek. That tag will get smaller, and other will grow.

User tagging is fascinating. It's just so interesting to see what categories people mentally file books under. Here are the tags people have attached to the Da Vinci Code:

5 stars, american, arcana, art, art history, bestseller, book club, catholicism, conspiracy, contemporary fiction, crap, crime, dan brown, danbrown, davinci, europe, fiction, fiction-us, finished, gnosticism, graal, historical fiction, history, holy grail, literature, modern, murder, mystery, novel, paris, popular fiction, pre-9/15/05, pretentious, pulp, r, read, religion, renaissance, school, shawna, skip it, speculative, suspense, thriller, trash, unread *********

I love it.

Fr. Fyodor, I'm surprised mostly that Neil Gaiman's novel American Gods rates so highly. I guess I hadn't realised it was such a bestseller. I didn't like it much myself. Of the top 25 today, I have 14.

Ampersand Duck said...

This is helping the thesis, non? :)
I'm too scared to look, because I know I'll get sucked into cataloguing my books, which is a luxury set aside for 2006. I should do it, though because I keep buying books I already own.

ONKPU! That's a good one!

Lucy Tartan said...

no, it's very bad for the thesis. But it worked as therapy: and it's out of my system now. And it's provided me with some data that will be useful (though I could have just worked it out more efficiently, I guess) - like that there are eighty-five books discussed (some very briefly) in the thesis.

It's also helped me figure out what kinds of things I can feel honest and legitimate about claiming as specialisations on my CV, that's a real bonus.

Ampersand Duck said...

I just had a peek at your collection (since you're up there on the 'most books' list). Wow. That was a sterling effort. I hope you gave them all a dust at the same time! :)

I was a bit intimidated by the first few pages of your collection but then leapt to the last page [61!] and discovered some more esoteric little numbers -- like the Doug Anthony Allstars book! I used to watch them busk in Canberra (back in the good old days).

Did you do this by bookshelf? I'm so tempted to drop everything and do our books, just for the chance to give them a headcount and a clean... [slaps hand] no, I must resist!

TOBDNYMI (a Welsh form of haiku)

Lucy Tartan said...

Yes, I sure did do it by bookshelf...starting with the high rotation shelf over my work desk, and getting as far as the spare room, where all the oddities are stored. And omigod, my hands got dirter than they've ever been I think...with a really nasty fine greasy dust....also a lot of the books from the upper shelves of the office had bird shit along the top edges, and lots of the ones in the last room had cockroach cocoons behind them. Enough already.

Yes, the Doug Anthony Allstars book! Apparently it's a kind of collector's item now. That was one i had to enter manually, it seems the Library of Congress missed out on receiving a copy, poor loves.

R H said...

R H is an oddity seeking a spare room. Store him there, but don't cook for him. He'll be dining with Miss Ruby. And oh my goodness gracious golly me, but can she cook! I tell you, that dolly will never have trouble finding a husband. Or a boyfriend. Romance assured.

MT 128.
(My old cell number)

Fyodor said...

OK, it's sucking me in now. I've just been trawling (as opposed to trolling) through your library and discovering all manner of stuff about its owner. A sample: you are the only person to have used the tags "Picaresque", "Whit Stillman" and "Kunstleroman".

Another: you refer to Gogol as Victorian, but not Dostoyevsky. The Brothers Karamazov is religious, but Crime & Punishment isn't.

Perhaps it's my deviously stelfy and mischievous mind working over-time, but have you considered the ramifications of what you're doing here? I'm precisely the kind of bibliogeek who will judge a person by their library, and will spend more time looking at a friend's bookcases than their furnishings, or them, for that matter. I consequently find this whole project to be more than a little revealing.

Lucy Tartan said...

I think the kind of thing you're talking about is part of the interest of the project. (Although I misspelled kunstlerroman, will fix all the weirdo tags en masse when the whole job is finished.)

But since each book gets only a few seconds, the tags attached to it are the ones that come to mind first up. No pretence to consistency or logicality - if that was the goal, I guess I'd just use Library of Congress subject headings. On the other hand, I wish now that I'd given a bit of thought in advance to genre-related tags for fiction. That's the kind of thing that would actually be really useful down the line.

As for the ramifications, naaah. It's not like my book colleciton is that peculiar.

Lucy Tartan said...

On gogol and other russian c19 I added those books I was conscious of the weirdness of the tags I was using. But my gut feeling about Gogol and Tolstoy and Pushkin is that they have significant things (significant to me) in common with contemporary English novelists like Dickens, (and Austen) whereas Dostoyevsky didn't seem to me to be quite in the same basket.

No books about xtfor, regrettably.

Fyodor said...

Strange that you should say that, as Dostoyevsky was a great fan of Dickens. I see numerous parallels in their respective work, particularly in their sentimentality and focus on the petit bourgeoisie. Little Dorrit could have walked straight out of Poor Folk, and Prince Myshkin likewise is very Dickensian.

In many ways, I see Dostoyevsky as much more in tune with the Victorian era than Gogol or Tolstoy. IMO, Pushkin was decidedly not Victorian, having died in 1837. I'd place him in the Georgian/Romantic pigeon-hole. For the Russians he's a whole category on his own.

R H said...

I remember the humour, the funny characters. Lebyatkin, in his "Frock-coat of love".
Those 19th century Russians were religious. Mystic. But they needed to be funny. For sentiment. Human truth.

R H said...

Here's a poser I remember from Crime and Punishment: In all of teeming humanity, if the death of one useless and anonymous stranger there could bring you a great fortune would you agree to it?

One morning in the early hours Raskolnikov rushes off to kneel in a church square. And that's it, it's all over.

Crime and Punishment is religious. My word. So is Dead Man Walking. The same thing.

Fr. Spodo Komodo said...


Fyodor said...


Fyodor said...

Quite right, RH.

Raskolnikov's name is derived from "raskolnik", the Russian word for schismatic or dissenter. The raskolniki were Old Believers who rejected the Nikonate reforms of the Russian Orthodox Church in the 17th Century.

Roddy's very name is a not too subtle hint that, try as he might to emulate Napoleon's Nietzschean √úbermensch, he cannot escape his true nature as a Russian, Christian soul. The central theme of C&P is thus Christian redemption, which recurs in much of Dostoyevsky's work.

R H said...

Well thanks fyodor, I feared I was sounding a bit prissy there. It's nice to feel vindicated; reassured about one's other self.
Christian redemption is always alive, always possible, even for a one-time atheist like me.