Wednesday, December 17th, 2014

Top Five Books of 2014

It’s become a LibraryThing tradition: as the year draws to a close, LT staff members list of their top five reads (you can see 2013′s list here)—this is our fourth year running!

We also want all members to get in on the fun, so we compiled a list that all of LibraryThing can add to. We’d like to see not just the most read books of 2014, but the best of the best. What were your five favorite reads of 2014? Note: books on this list weren’t necessarily released in 2014. These are just the best we’ve read this year, regardless of publication date.

» List: Top Five Books of 2014 — Add your own.


Without further ado, here’s the wordier breakdown of the staff’s favorites, including some honorable (and dishonorable) mentions:

Abby

The Quick by Lauren Owen

Tell the Wolves I’m Home by Carol Rifka Brunt

Outlander by Diana Gabaldon

Astonish Me by Maggie Shipstead

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Abby’s honorable mentions:


Loranne

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
This space opera won lots of awards in the last year, and with good reason. It’s not only good sci-fi, but it poses interesting questions about AI, the self, and identity. Well worth a read.

Saga, Vol. 1 by Brian K. Vaughan
A sci-fi/fantasy mish-mosh that revolves around an interplanetary civil war, this one finally convinced me to start reading comics regularly.

Hard-Boiled Wonderland and the End of the World by Haruki Murakami
I first picked this up a couple years ago, but couldn’t get into it until this year. It’s a bit slow to start, and is as obtuse as any Murakami novel, but I really enjoyed it. If the intersection of “melancholy” and “bizarre” sounds appealing, you should check it out.

Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg
Imagined text conversations between characters and authors of the classics. I still find myself quoting Ortberg’s version of Achilles sometimes.

Yes Please by Amy Poehler
It was an interesting look into the mind of a woman whose career I greatly admire, and that made it worthwhile for me. I laughed, I cried.

Loranne’s dishonorable mentions:

  • The Shambling Guide to New York City by Mur Lafferty: This skewed a little more YA than my tastes typically lean, so perhaps I should have known better. But, I picked it up for book club and was just kind of disappointed. It left a bad taste in my mouth.
  • The Dog Stars by Peter Heller: Another selection for book club. If I have to read one more book by a male author in which the curves of an inanimate object are likened to those of a woman’s body (either specific or general), I will light something on fire. Aside from that, it wasn’t a bad book, per se, just very much not my thing.

Kirsten

The Paying Guests by Sarah Waters

Where’d You Go Bernadette by Maria Semple

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

The Night Circus by Erin Morgenstern

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin


Tim

The books that really stand out, however, read to or with my eight year-old son, Liam. Reading is always a big part of our life, but it was especially so during the two periods when my wife was away at a writing colony. We had a lot of lengthy drives listening to audiobooks, and sometimes even listened to audiobooks during dinner. We’re running out of stuff to read!

Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson
Read it with my son. I had never read it before. It’s a ripping yarn, and it’s main character, Long John Silver, remains a cultural touchstone.

Pollyanna by Eleanor H. Porter
Audiobooked with my son. It’s a classic that appears to have slipped off the classics shelf. That’s too bad. Despite having virtually no action, my son adored it.

Tunnel in the Sky by Robert A. Heinlein
Audiobooked with my son. I have a soft spot for this imperfect juvenile, and we were on a Robinsonade kick. The “let down” (with strong messages about adolescence) were his first exposure to such an ending—and not well received. Tor.com has a good post about it, “Beware of stobor!”.

A Wizard of Earthsea by Ursula K. Le Guin
Hadn’t read it since I was a teenager. It’s better than I remember.

The Martian by Andy Weir
Hugely enjoyable account of an astronaut stranded on Mars. (I’ve audiobooked it three times.) I interviewed the author for our newsletter.

Tim’s dishonorable mentions:

  • The Time Warp Trio series by Jon Scieszka: Not three but sixteen books about three travelleing friends. They’re fine—many steps up from that execrable Magic Tree House series—and I’m glad my son got what amounts to a tour of history. But I hope to never read another sentence by Jon Scieszka.
  • The Engines of God by Jack McDevitt: Why do I bother reading science fiction?
  • The Kraken Wakes by John Wyndham*: See above. Boringly sexist too.
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky: It’s pure gold, and doing it by audiobook left me swimming in Dostoyevsky-prose for weeks. But I left off reading in the middle and have to start again; I can’t read something unless I’m fully “up” on it—unless I feel like I’m holding the whole thing in my mind. Maybe next year…

*Perhaps a better question is “Why do I bother reading John Wyndham?” considering The Midwich Cuckoos made Tim’s “dishonorable mentions” last year…


Kate

The Secret Place by Tana French
Tana French is always worth the wait. This book did not disappoint.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith
More Cormoran Strike, please. Vying with French’s Dublin Murder Squad as my favorite series.

We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
I love an unreliable narrator and already regret giving my copy of this book away.

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham
Biggest surprise of the year for me, especially considering how much I was looking forward to Amy Poehler’s debut, which I’m finally brave enough to say I straight-up hated.

The Quick by Lauren Owen
Thanks to Abby Blachly for the recommendation.


Chris H.

The Last Lion, Vol. 1: Winston Churchill, Visions of Glory by William Manchester

Project Azorian: The CIA and the Raising of K-129 by Norman Polmar

The Bully Pulpit: Theodore Roosevelt, William Howard Taft, and the Golden Age of Journalism by Doris Kearns Goodwin

How Not to Be Wrong: The Power of Mathematical Thinking by Jordan Ellenberg

Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie


KJ

We Are Not Ourselves by Matthew Thomas
This is both really long and really sad. I loved it, but it’s hard to recommend to people.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
NOT over-hyped. In a sea of post-apocalyptic throwaway books, this literary novel brought art back to humanity, even after the “end of the world.”

The Lobster Kings by Alexi Zentner
As a Mainer who loves Shakespeare, I was the perfect audience for this take on King Lear. I shoved it on anyone in my tiny fishing town who would stand still long enough.

Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
Everyone loves lady pirates, blowing up the unethical opium trade, and lavish descriptions of food preparation. Everyone.

The Lunatic, the Lover, and the Poet by Myrlin A. Hermes
Always here for queering Shakespeare texts.

KJ’s honorable mentions:


Mike

Faithful Place by Tana French

Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson

While You’re Here, Doc by Bradford B. Brown

The Birth Partner by Penny Simkin

Organic Chemistry I As a Second Language by David R. Klein


Seth

What If? Serious Scientific Answers to Absurd Hypothetical Questions by Randall Munroe

The Way of Kings by Brandon Sanderson

The Slow Regard of Silent Things by Patrick Rothfuss

The Walking Dead: Compendium One by Robert Kirkman

The Life of Corgnelius and Stumphrey by Susie Brooks


Chris C.

Chaos: Making a New Science by James Gleick

Doing Data Science by Rachel Schutt

Statistical Inference for Everyone by Brian S. Blais

Machine Learning with R by Brett Lantz

Unity 4.x Game Development by Example by Ryan Henson Creighton


Kristi

No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh
Thich Nhat Hanh is such a great writer for those who practice the philosophies of Buddhism. His writing is simple, reflective, and he repeats a lot of the same lessons over so you can internalize those lessons much easier.

Reading the Forested Landscape: A Natural History of New England by Tom Wessels
This one was a re-read; the illustrations are beautiful! You’ll never look at a New England landscape the same again after reading this book.

Edible Perennial Gardening: Growing Successful Polycultures in Small Spaces by Anni Kelsey
I read this book after buying my first home and taking a permaculture course online. This is a great guide for designing your perennial/permaculture garden! I can’t wait to build my garden at home!

The Elements of Style (Illustrated) by William Strunk
I was recommended this book from a colleague when I asked for good books to improve my writing skills! A great book for the foundations of the English language and writing.

The pH Miracle: Balance Your Diet, Reclaim Your Health by Robert O. Young
I have continued to read this book over the last year or two, as a way to improve my health and reduce/eliminate my digestive issues. Following the pH diet principles has saved my health!


Ammar

JavaScript: The Good Parts by Douglas Crockford

Code Complete by Steve McConnell

Practical Vim: Edit Text at the Speed of Thought by Drew Neil

Rework by Jason Fried

The Pragmatic Programmer by Andrew Hunt

More?

Tell us about your favorites for 2014 on Talk, or add your own Top Five to our list!

Labels: holiday, lists, reading, recommendations

Thursday, December 11th, 2014

LibraryThing Holiday Card Exchange

cardexchange-fullWe’ve just opened the first annual LibraryThing Holiday Card Exchange. Inspired by the “ALA Think Tank,” which was inspired by Reddit, we thought we’d try it out here.

The idea is simple:

  • Mail a Holiday card to a random LibraryThing member.
  • You’ll get one from another member. Only that member will see your address.
  • You can mail a hand-made or store card. Add a note to personalize it.

Sign-up closes Monday, December 15 at 1:00 PM Eastern. We’ll inform you of your matches in an hour or so. Send your cards out soon after.

» LibrayThing Holiday Card Exchange

See also the Talk post about it.

Labels: card exchange, holiday

Wednesday, December 10th, 2014

Holiday Store: Everything off! New shirts! Totes!

store-screen-600

We’ve just debuted a fresh new “store” and new LibraryThing swag. New items include attractive v-neck t-shirts for women and men, and tote bags. We’ve also lowered our prices dramatically until January 6.*

Rather than having me blather on about it, why don’t you just go visit our new store?

After that, come tell us what swag we’re missing on Talk.


*Epiphany, Little Christmas, the night before Orthodox Christmas or the day after the Twelfth day of Christmas—and doesn’t your loved one deserve twelve LibraryThing t-shirts?

Labels: gifts, holiday, sale, stickers, teeshirts, tshirts, Uncategorized

Friday, December 5th, 2014

December Early Reviewers batch is live!

The October 2014 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 111 titles this month, with a grand total of 2,375 copies to give out.

If you haven’t already, sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing/email address and make sure they’re correct.

» Then request away!

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, December 29th at 6pm Eastern.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, Israel, Australia, France, and many more. Make sure to check the flags by each book to see if it can be sent to your country.

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Tundra Books Palgrave Macmillan Prufrock Press
Bethany House Henry Holt and Company Hollingale Books
Information Today, Inc. Taylor Trade Publishing MSI Press
Candlewick Press Gotham Books McFarland
Mythos Press Five Rivers Publishing Random House
Spiegel & Grau Black Threads Press Orca Book Publishers
Grey Sun Press Coffeetown Press Sfuzzi Publishing
Jupiter Gardens Press Medallion Press Del Rey
Kaylie Jones Books Eerdmans Books for Young Readers Raincloud Press
Crown Publishing Bantam Dell JournalStone
Human Kinetics Whitepoint Press Raven Reads
ForeEdge Booktrope Books to Go Now
Recorded Books HighBridge Audio BookViewCafe
Open Books Ballantine Books

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Tuesday, November 25th, 2014

Welcome Ammar

We’re pleased to introduce Ammar Abu-Yasein (member LT_Ammar) to the LibraryThing gang!

Ammar will be working as a developer from across the pond (in Jordan), mostly on LibraryThing.com, developing new features and improving old ones. His first feature was improved export. Say hello to Ammar on his profile, or join us in the “Welcome Ammar!” Talk topic.

About Ammar

Born and raised in Toledo, Ohio, Ammar has loved computers and video games from an early age. He graduated with a degree in Computer Science from the University of Toledo in 2011, and a year later he joined a strong and vibrant IT community in Amman, Jordan. Ammar has spent countless hours building all types of software, from mobile to web apps. He’s excited to join the LibraryThing team and develop further skills.

When he’s not in a staring contest with his monitor, Ammar enjoys picnics with his family, swimming, making money, and of course, reading! His favorite authors include Stephen King, Steve McConnel, and J.K. Rowling, respectively. Ammar dreams of one day owning a helicopter (who doesn’t?)!

Labels: employees

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Cataloging improvement III: Better “Sort character” support

Short version: We’ve added more tools for specifying how titles should sort.

Background: LibraryThing has been sorting “The Road” under “R” not “T”, and allowing members to change where the sorting “starts” since 2007. Mostly, the system gets it right in the first place, especially if you use library data, whose records contain information on “non-filing characters” (within the 245 field, second indicator, of course). If it doesn’t, super-knowledeable members use the “pipe trick,” changing a title like Die Fleledermaus to Die ||Fledermaus, to mark the start of sorting explicitly.

Bringing Sort Characters into the Open. To improve understanding and use of the feature, and to help troubleshoot when LibraryThing choses poorly, we’ve decided to expose the “sort character” (a.k.a. “non-filing characters,” “sort offset,” etc.).*

You can now add the field to one of your “Your Books” views:

cataloglist

Edit and manual entry now get a tiny drop-down menu (on the right), so you can see and change the sort character number. (We aimed for inconspicuous enough not to frighten newbies, but not entirely hidden.)

bookedit

We’ve also improved the “pipe trick” by making the pipes invisible under normal circumstances. For example, here’s a book in “Your Books.”

pipe1

And here it is, with pipes, when you double-click to edit.

pipe2

In practice, pipes always disable and/or override the sort-chracter number.

Come talk about this feature on talk.


* I asked for help naming the feature. The geeky-cutest was definitely Chris Holland’s “alphabit.”

Labels: new feature, new features, Uncategorized

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Cataloging improvement II: Date selectors

Yesterday I added calendar “date selectors” to many of the places you can enter dates into LibraryThing. The selectors are optional—you can always just type instead. But they may come in handy.

Click here.
calendar_1

And get a date selector.
calendar_2

Along with this, and along with the recent export improvements, a number of important long-running date bugs have been closed. We look forward to help identifying and squashing what remains.

Come discuss on Talk.

Technical note: We used jQuery UI’s datepicker.

Labels: new feature, new features

Thursday, November 20th, 2014

Cataloging improvement I: Better export

filtering options

The New Export Filtering Options

We’ve just released a new and improved export feature. Check it out here.

Major improvements include:

  • Export filtering. So you can export only books added since a certain date, books with a certain tag. You can also use the new search syntax to control your export even more precisely.
  • More fields. The new tab-delimited and JSON fields now include 41 exported fields, up from 16 or 29 in the old export formats. Essentially all book data should now be included in the export.
  • Richer fields. Flat files, such as tab-delimited text, have a problem with “multidimensional data,” such as secondary authors and their roles. The new format attempts to represent this data more completely, separating sub-values with pipe (|) characters.
  • JSON format. Export is now available in JSON format, a lightweight data format much used by programmers.
  • Better MARC options. We’ve improve the MARC options, for members interested in exporting to a library-industry system.
  • Not being partially broken. Always a good feature!

Try it out. Go ahead and try out the new export.

Discuss. Come discuss the new export features on Talk.

Thanks. Export was re-engineered by Chris, Ammar* and me (Tim). It is based on the improvements Mike made to “Your Books” searching, and indeed the JSON format is effectively the format that the search system now indexes. (This will prove useful for troubleshooting problems with members.)

Screen shots

main options
marc options

UPDATE: We’ve added an explicit Excel format.


* Who is Ammar? Stick around, we’ll tell you soon.

Labels: new feature, new features

Tuesday, November 18th, 2014

SantaThing 2014: Play Secret Santa with us!

We’re pleased to announce that the eighth annual SantaThing is here at last!

What’s SantaThing? SantaThing is Secret Santa for LibraryThing members.

Done this before? SantaThing sign up is now open!

How it works

You pay into the SantaThing system (choose from $15–$50). You play Santa to a LibraryThing member we pick for you, by selecting books for them. Another Santa does the same for you, in secret. LibraryThing does the ordering, and you get the joy of giving AND receiving books!

Sign up once or thrice, for yourself or someone else. If you sign up for someone without a LibraryThing account, make sure to mention what kinds of books they like, so their Santa can choose wisely.

Even if you don’t want to be a Santa, you can help by suggesting books for others.

Important dates

UPDATE: SantaThing sign-ups have been extended!

Sign-ups close MONDAY, December 1st at 9pm Eastern. By Tuesday morning, we’ll notify you via profile comment who your Santee is, and you can start picking books.

Picking closes Monday, December 8th at 12pm Eastern. As soon as the picking ends, the ordering begins, and we’ll get all the books out to you as soon as we can.

» Go sign up to become a Secret Santa now!

What’s new this year?

Every year we tweak SantaThing a little. This year we’re happy to have Portland’s own Sherman’s Books & Stationery, Powell’s, Book Depository, and Amazon (including national ones) as our booksellers. You can choose to have your books picked and sent from any of these stores at any and all price points.

We’re also please to extend the Kindle Only option to all members, regardless of location. So long as your Kindle is registered on Amazon.com (not .co.uk, .ca, etc.), you can elect to receive your SantaThing gifts as Kindle ebooks. See more information about Kindle and SantaThing here.

Shipping news

Some of our booksellers are able to offer free shipping, and some are not. Depending on your bookseller of choice, you may receive $5 less in books, to cover shipping costs. You can find details about shipping costs and holiday ordering deadlines for each of our booksellers here on the SantaThing Help page.

Go sign up now!

Questions? Comments?

See the SantaThing Help page further details and FAQ.

Feel free to ask your questions over on this Talk topic. As always, you’re welcome to email us at info@librarything.com.

Labels: santathing

Thursday, November 13th, 2014

AllHallowsThing 2014 Winners!

Thanks to everyone who joined in on our SECOND annual AllHallowsThing contest! Halloween is my favorite holiday, and I love getting to see your creativity shine. If you’d like to take a look at all our submissions this year, you can find them in the AllHallowsThing2014 tag gallery. The LT staff judges have spoken, and, without further ado, I am proud to present our winners:

Costumes

Grand Prize

I love all the detail and effort that went into this Gandalf costume. It’s both adorable and impressive, complete with robes, hat, satchel, staff, and let’s not forget the beard. You can see another snapshot of it here, which shows that orb on the top of his staff glows. Amazing work!

2nd Place

This costume looks both head- and heart-warming—a-squared knitted the hat and elf ears. Those of you with good memories (or deep knowledge of Harry Potter trivia) will appreciate the S.P.E.W. button, sock, and pillow-case dyed with tea, to match Dobby’s tea-towel garb early in the series.

3rd Place

What a great family ensemble! We’ve got Willy Wonka, Charlie taking a ride in the glass elevator, a lollipop girl, and tiny Violet as a tiny blueberry. Wonka’s coat and hat are spot-on, and Charlie certainly seems to be enjoying himself. I don’t know what was used to make the elevator, but it looks great! If there’s a golden ticket in that Wonka bar, can I come tour the factory with you guys?

Pumpkins

Grand Prize

Cinderella‘s carriage by emperatrix

Starting in high school, where I—like many American teenagers—read The Old Man and the Sea, Hemingway’s face has been a familiar one. And it translates well into the pumpkin medium, too! I’m particularly impressed with the way different “shades” of pumpkin were used, by carving not quite all the way through the pumpkin. Great job!

2nd Place

Painted all silver and gold, but retaining it’s pumpkin shape, this is what I always imagined Cinderella’s carriage looked like, as it whisked her off to the ball. I love the gold wreath wheels!

3rd Place

As a lover of both cats and the inspiration Kitten’s First Full Moon, this pumpkin has a special place in my heart. It’s even got a moon hanging out above the kitten!

Honorable Mentions

The Scrolls of Zndaria pumpkin by zndariasj features some truly excellent carving skills. Well done! I’d also like to commend LynnCoulter on her Audrey II piece. Little Shop of Horrors is one of my favorite musicals, and Audrey II looks great!

Thanks, everyone!

To all our contestants, thanks so much for joining in! Every one of you did excellent work (and hopefully had some fun in the process), and I look forward to seeing what bookish hauntings you come up with next year!

To our winners, congratulations! Look for a profile comment from me shortly with instructions for claiming your prizes!

Labels: AllHallowsThing, contests