Recently my good friend Heather mentioned that she was filing some of her books on a social website called Librarything.com. This site catalogues your books, allows tags, and shows book-covers where available as a kind of bookshelf. It also allows you to browse the libraries of others, to compare reviews and popular books, and it even suggests related books that others have liked.
To me this was a potentially dangerous. I have been buying an average of at least one book per week since I was eight years old. I have also been reading about 2-3 books per book bought (libraries are one the greatest institutions in the world). I read many things, but collect primarily science fiction and fantasy (and a little history and current events and fantasy art and celtic books and megalith books and science and mathematics and geography and knot-making and sailing and hiking and cycling photography and electronics and mathematical puzzle books and …). It is my favourite hobby, and despite a relative accidentally destroying about half my collection, I still have a few thousand books to my name.
I had some worries. How much do I enter, and how much work is it? What is the use of it if I don't put all the books in? What do I do about different copies (for example, I have at least three editions of Lord of the Rings)?
So I decided to start it on March 31. I punched in a number of books (using ISBNs or titles and authors). In general it was easy and surprisingly enjoyable. Looking through my shelves (I still have to check out the boxes downstairs) reminded me of many enjoyable reads, of books that were so bad they were funny, and of books that have been important to me for most of my life. At first I skimmed through the books to put the most obvious on the web. Then I wanted to be more complete, and to make this my reference catalogue. On my first night I entered about 400 books. The next night I added a bit more, and as of tonight I am at 1126 books, to the detriment of any photography, flickring, etc.
Here are some of the interesting things I have found out about the books entered so far.
- I have 48 books that no one else on the site has! Many are obvious, like A History and Ethnography of the Beothuk, but some surprised me. One is my 1970's Lord of the Rings boxed set, another is a popular children's book in Newfoundland called Ann and Seamus, and a third is a recent edition (1998) of Machiavelli's The Prince!
- I share 67 books with my best friend Heather, most of which we have suggested to each other.
- There were some books that I had thought lost in the flood, and one book that I had totally forgotten (surprisingly, I remembered almost all of my books).
The forgotten book is an omnibus that includes one of my famous fantasy stories, Bridge of Birds by Barry Hughart. While not well known, it has never gone out of print, and it is almost universally loved by those who have read it. However, he only wrote two other books, which were very good but not quite up to the level of the first one. I have been trying to acquire good copies of the other two books for years. The omnibus edition that I just unearthed has all three books in a good hardcover edition with some pleasant art.
I found it Sunday morning, and by Sunday night I had finished the two missing books, and I am re-reading Bridge of Birds yet again (I have at least four copies of that one)!
Oh, I almost forgot. I bought a lifetime membership after the first session of entering books. 😉