Thursday, April 3, 2008


I don't really understand social networking websites. Myspace, Facebook, Pulse--the allure evades me. I'm not interested in viewing photos of someone else's drunken revels, or vacations, or children, and I certainly wouldn't want pictures of me--compromising or otherwise--posted on the world wide web for all to see. For, although the world does, of course, revolve around me, I'm from a generation that believes we're supposed to keep that knowledge to ourselves.

Yes, I'm middle aged.

But a number of weeks ago while driving in the car I heard the tail end of a piece on All Things Considered about social networking sites for book people. Book lovers cataloging their books, putting their libraries out there for everyone to see. Book lovers checking out other people's libraries. Talking about books. Reviewing them and rating them. Wow. I had a little geekgasm right there in the car while listening.

So I went home, used my modest computer skills to find the story on the NPR website, then visited each of the book networking sites talked about in the article. I decided that I liked LibraryThing the best, and opened an account (catalog 200 books for free). I wasn't sure where to start, so I just began pulling books out of my head and entering what I could remember about their editions as fast as I could. I soon realized, however, that I was going to have to pull the actual books off the shelves, bring them to the computer, and enter them in a methodical way. Just over a month, $25.00 (for a lifetime, enter-all-the-books-you-want membership), 600 plus titles and counting later I've learned some things.

Not only are there a lot of books in my library that I haven't read, but I've read a fair number of books that truly warrant a reread. I'm now jazzed to read many of them, and I'll never again bemoan not having anything to read. 

You have to look carefully at your books as you catalog them, to ensure that you're entering the correct information for the edition in your hand. While perusing them thusly you come to appreciate your books more deeply, for the place they hold in your heart and in your life, as well as in your mind. Inscriptions, from friends still around, from friends long ago lost, from your dad who always made each gift of a book even more special with his inscriptions. How many books that are signed by the author, how many that were gifts--or castoffs--from friends and teachers. Even the place where a book was first read has been evoked for me, with the strength of Proust's madeleine remembrances.

And on LibraryThing you can peek--with an invitation, of course--at some very interesting stuff.

Here's an example. LibraryThing allows you to click on a title in your library and access the libraries of others who share that book. I have two books by Marco Vassi--sexual revolutionary, lecturer, and writer of erotica--in my collection. As far as I can remember, with the exception of Susie Bright's Sexual State of the Union which I got an advance reader of a few years ago, these are pretty much the only sex-related books I own. I clicked on them to see who shared them, then clicked on the link of the person with the most interesting user name. Boymeat and I share three titles: A Driving Passion, by Marco Vassi, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, and Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, both by J.K. Rowling (factoid: no matter what title you share with another LTer, you're very likely also to share one or more of the seven Harry Potters).
Sheesh, do our libraries diverge wildly from this jumping off point. Boymeat's library includes such titles as Leatherfolk: Radical Sex, People, Politics, and Practice; Bloodkiss: Vampire Erotica; Doing it for Daddy: Short, Sexy Fiction About a Very Forbidden Fantasy; Bob Flanagan: Super Masochist; Juice: Electricity for Pleasure and Pain; and not one, not two, but five distinct titles on the use and history of handcuffs and other restraints. My library includes books like The Wizard of Oz, Pride and Prejudice, and I, Robot.  

I'm kind of in awe of Boymeat. 

What I'm reading right now: Grave Peril, by Jim Butcher

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