Friday, April 14, 2006

WEB: What a Tool

I don't know if it's the effect of spring, or just this ultra-long weekend, but I'm having a killer time trying to fight the urge to acquire more books. To quote Bill Murray in What About Bob, I WANT! I NEED!

So while I'm not saying I WILL be getting my mitts on more books, I'm just saying I've been poking around looking for recommendations. Might I just add that you people added fuel to the fire with all your in-flight reading recommendations. I hope you're happy.

Say you're hunting for new books. Sure, you can always go to
Amazon and use their "People who liked this book also liked..." feature. It's solid. It works. No complaints here. But why not mix it up a little bit from time to time? Get a fresh perspective. Keep it real. Which is why I made a little "Whee!" noise (try it! Whee! It's fun!) when I stumbled across the Literature Map. In a nutshell, you enter the name of an author you like, and you're presented with a, well, a map with the author's name in the middle, surrounded by the names of other authors, all of which float and cavort in a rather fetching manner. The names closest to the name of the author you entered (er, you know what I mean when I say "the author you entered," right?) are recommended.

Hm. That description was a bit laboured, wasn't it? Perhaps you should just go and try it for yourself. I tested the system with one of my favourite contemporary writers,
Alice Munro, and the map told me I need to read books by Elizabeth Hay, Ali Smith, Jane Urquhart, and Eudora Welty. I haven't read ANY of these authors, so goody for me. Now they're on the list. Which is roughly the size of a phone book these days.

A similar-but-different tool is LibraryThing, which lets you feed into the system rather than just using it. It allows you to catalogue some or all of your own library, and then search for people (and their books) who have the same books as you. It's sort of like
Friendster for your books, except that it's not riddled with bugs. (Ooh, snap! I hope that stung, Friendster!) Because books need buddies, too.

Of course, if you're just ass-lazy and can't be bothered with all the tools and the typing and the hitting the "submit" button and the whatnot, I guess you could just go read a bunch of lists of books to read. Warning: There are a LOT of different lists here, from the American Library Association's lists of notable books for children and adults to the Banned Books Online directory of books banned in the US.

Prepare to be overwhelmed. But you've got three days to recover, so I think you can do it. My money's on you, kid.


Anonymous said...

That literature map is sure to make my reading list as fat as a phone book, too. I (peevishly) just wish they'd spelled all the authors' names properly!

This seems as good a time as any to thank you for posting that last-ten-years-of-literature-prize-winners list; I'm slowly but surely making my way through it. I just finished Clara Callan and am on to A Song for Nettie Johnson. I know I COULD have found the lists myself, but I am lazy and like to read what other people tell me to read, so: thanks.

Gwen said...

"Ass-lazy" describes me to a T.

I hope you read and enjoy Eudora Welty. Some of her short stories blow me away.

Anonymous said...

I was going to sing praise for Eudora Welty, but I see you all have beat me to it. Put The Optimist's Daughter on your list!

Anonymous said...

Literature map! No words! Too excited! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

I've just been going to our local Good Cents store (the Goodwill outlet, as though Goodwill NEEDED to be any cheaper) and picking up paperbacks for 25 cents a piece. It's a fabulous way to find new things.

landismom said...

Well, on a somewhat related note, my most recent literary web addiction is You list books that you're willing to trade, and then you earn points and can request other books that people are willing to trade. When someone requests one of your books, the site emails you electronic postage, you print it and ship your book. You pay $3.99 for shipping for a book that you get, nothing to ship the books you're trading.

I find there are a whole lot of books I'm willing to acquire if the cost is only $4. Not sure if it is international or only US-based, but with those boxes of books taking up space in your hall, you might want to check it out.

Tammy said...

The literature map ROCKS, doesn't it? I'm finding it somewhat addictive.

I'm glad to hear all the Eudora Welty love. I'm all excited now! I should probably be too ashamed to admit this, but pretty much my only Eudora Welty reference point is that episode of The Simpsons where the main character of The Critic guest stars, and you keep hearing loud belching coming from off-screen, and the critic guy keeps saying, "Coming, Eudora!"

I know.

landismom, a few weeks back I signed up for Bookins, only to discover AFTER the fact that it's confined to the US only, and I can't seem to find a Canadian equivalent. I'm mentally writing an upcoming post about the job of getting rid of books. It's work!

Oh, and Luscious Lumpkin (heh, love the handle), I wish I were a better library patron, because I do love libraries, but I tend to buy most of my books. I've made a recent vow, though, to only buy books I think I'm going to love enough to re-read, and so far it's been keeping me judicious. Sam loves the library, though, so we usually borrow five books a week for him.

Anonymous said...


I totally just discovered Gnod (home of the Literature Map) about a month ago.

Have you checked out the rest of Gnod? Awesome. I wrote a post about it in all it's Orwellian glory.

Anonymous said...

Seconding (thirding?) the mad Eudora Welty love. I'm an inveterate short-story reader, so I recommend her complete short stories. Natch.

I was a little troubled, though, when I entered Katherine Mansfield into the Literature Map. All the other writers quickly fled to the outside edges of the screen, leaving only Anthony Trollope to lurk by poor Ms. Mansfield like an unhappy cloud. Voltaire practically cleared the screen, with all the other writers hovering at a respectful distance. I can't wait to try out Douglas Adams. Now I see how it can become quickly addictive . . .

Anonymous said...

I'm not sure if you've ever read Demian by Hermann Hess.

I found it to be quite interesting and somewhat warped.

Mind you the warped parts made it interesting...


Em said...

Damn. I need to steal a shopping cart and go to the library.
*plays with map*