Archive for the ‘recommendations’ Category

Tuesday, December 20th, 2016

Top Five Books of 2016

Every December, LT staff members compile a list of our top five favorite books we’ve read this year. You can see past years’ lists here.

We also like seeing members’ favorite reads, so we compiled a list that all of LibraryThing can add to. We’re interested in not just the most read books of 2016, but the best of the best. What were your top five for 2016? Note: books on this list weren’t necessarily published in 2016—these are the best we’ve read this year, regardless of publication date.

»List: Top Five Books of 2016—Add your own!

Without further ado, here are our staff favorites!


Kate

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Hands down, the most devastating, beautiful book I’ve ever read. This is now the benchmark by which I judge all other “sad” books. Should come with a button which reads “I survived A Little Life.”

Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff
Since finishing this book I’ve been waiting for something, anything to live up to it. No dice yet.

Shrill: Notes from a Loud Woman by Lindy West
I attended Lindy’s reading in St. Louis at Left Bank Books and, y’all, she is a force with which to be reckoned. Inspiring, thoughtful, and funny.

The Girls by Emma Cline
I read this on a trip to California and it was the perfect choice. Cline did an amazing job capturing the insecurity and loneliness of being a young teenaged girl, and the resulting motivations for action.

The Trespasser by Tana French
Not my favorite installment of the Dublin Murder Squad, but it’s still Tana French, y’all. Her writing is best.


Loranne

March: Book One by John Lewis
Representative John Lewis’s personal account of his life as part of the Civil Rights Movement should be read by everyone. It’s intense, and Nate Powell’s black and white art is used to great effect to build on Lewis’s story.

Ancillary Mercy by Ann Leckie
This wrapped up Leckie’s Imperial Raadch trilogy, and it hit all the right notes. Continuing to probe at what is left in the wake of an imperial steamroller, and pushing all my “robots are people, too” buttons, it was heart-tugging and funny, and left me wanting more of this universe.

Monstress, Vol. 1 by Marjorie Liu
Sana Takeda’s work on Monstress is hands-down some of the most beautiful art in current comics out there, and the world the co-creators have built is rich and intriguing.

Lagoon by Nnedi Okorafor

The Memory Garden by Mary Rickert

Loranne’s honorable mentions:

  • The Trespasser by Tana French
  • Stories of Your Life and Others by Ted Chiang: The only reason this one isn’t in my Top Five proper is because I’m not done with it yet! Chiang’s stories are intimate and thought-provoking, and, if you like reading books movies are based on, the title piece—”Story of Your Life”—can’t be beat, as the inspiration for the movie Arrival.

KJ

Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi
This narrative, which follows 5 generations of a family separated in the 18th century by the Atlantic slave trade, is a book I have physically shoved into multiple people’s hands. Alternating perspectives between American and Ghanaian descendents of two sisters, it touches on the histories of those countries through the eyes of ordinary people.

The Argonauts by Maggie Nelson
This memoir/academic research/musings/fragment collection explores how to make a queer romance, and a family, in a world where there are no solid models for either of those endeavors. This stuck with me for weeks.

Prelude to Bruise by Saeed Jones
In 2014, I had the pleasure of hearing Mr. Jones read aloud a few of the poems in this collection about a black gay man coming of age in the American South, but only got around to reading the whole thing this summer. My two favorites are: “Sleeping Arrangement” and “Pretending to Drown.”

Glorify by Emily C. Heath
This came to me at exactly a time when I needed a breath of fresh air into my faith. Rev. Heath suggests a refocusing for the progressive church centered in discipleship, and offers compelling reasons why. My mom, my church’s Lenten reading series, and many others also enjoyed reading and discussing it.

The City Watch Series by Terry Pratchett
I had dabbled in Sir Terry before, but had the opportunity to plow my way through Loranne’s copy of the City Watch books early this year, and enjoyed it mightily. I laughed; I cried; I developed a fondness for parenthetical footnotes. For a series of fantasy books, they really nail down issues that are perpetually present in the real world, pointing out political hypocrisies and themes. My favorite was probably Feet of Clay. Will re-read again, definitely.

KJ’s honorable mentions:
Gender Failure by Rae Spoon and Ivan Coyote A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, and Pocket, which helped me read >30k words a day of election coverage for 10 months on my phone without killing my eyesight. My soul, yes, but my eyes are fine.


Tim

The Great Poets by Gerard Manley Hopkins
I encountered Hopkins in my 20s and dismissed him as cramped—how wrong I was! I listened to him again between Boston and Portland, and almost drove off the road in unexpected pleasure. I haven’t discovered a poet I love this much in a decade.

Astrobiology: A Very Short Introduction by David C. Catling
A nice break from my usual interests; utterly fascinating, and surprisingly handy for understanding this year’s glut of astrobiology stories.

Ancient Near East: A Very Short Introduction by Amanda H. Podany
This was the year I got addicted to Oxford’s “A Very Short Introduction” series—can you tell? Despite all the classics and archaeology, by ANE knowledge was pretty scattered. This tied it all together for me, and led to further exploration. Other titles, such as the Ancient Egypt one, weren’t as satisfying.

Silence by Shusaku Endo
Can I add something I’m still reading? I can tell it’s going to be a favorite.

The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey
I’m not exactly unbiased here—my wife is the author and the book is dedicated to me and Liam. So read what Abby wrote.


Abby

A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara
Utterly devastating and literally heartbreaking. And beautiful. This book made me sob uncontrollably while on a plane (the stranger sitting next to me never commented, at least), and then proceeded to give me a book hangover where I was unable to read anything else for a month after.

The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey
Magical and creepy and lovely. I love Lisa and I’m (probably) going to love anything she writes, but this was particularly amazing.

The Last Painting of Sara de Vos by Dominic Smith
I love books with multiple timelines that piece together at the end, and this did it perfectly.

Station Eleven by Emily St. John Mandel
Speaking of twisting narratives that weave into a complex awesome puzzle… I should have read this two years ago when KJ first told me to and I refused to believe all the hype. I was wrong.

The Green Road by Anne Enright

Abby’s honorable mentions:
Fates and Furies by Lauren Groff, and the fantastical wonderful world of Maggie Stiefvater’s The Raven Cycle books (but in particular The Raven King).


Kristi

Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone by J.K. Rowling
I am one of those awful people who has seen the movies but not read the books, until now. I decided I shouldn’t postpone any longer. Not that Rowling’s writing needs it, but Jim Dale made this book even easier to read. Looking forward to Book three! I didn’t skip Book two, don’t worry!

Love in the Asylum by Lisa Carey
Loved this book! Lisa’s provocative—in a good way—story-telling made this an interesting & easy read. The characters’ thoughts, gestures, and interactions are real, relatable, and I quickly settled into the story. Great read. Bonus: historical (fiction) story within the story.

The Last Unicorn by Peter S. Beagle
Another must-read for fantasy lovers. It was a cute, easy read that, though I think I would have appreciated it more when I was 10, is still an automatic classic.

The One-Straw Revolution by Masanobu Fukuoka
This book is the argument for authentically natural farming—farming that follows most closely the behavior of nature. A short, good read that I’ll likely reference while planning my own garden!

No Death, No Fear by Thich Nhat Hanh
Like just about every other human being, death is sometimes a challenging concept for me. This piece is a great meditation on how to define death, and how to remove fear from the inevitable. Worth the reflection.

Chris C.

The Master Algorithm by Pedro Domingos
I can’t recommend this book enough. I found it absolutely fascinating and revealing.

The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell

The Design of Everyday Things by Donald A. Norman

Quiet: The Power of Introverts by Susan Cain

Moonwalking with Einstein by Joshua Foer


Mike

The Trespasser by Tana French
Latest book in Tana French’s “Dublin murder squad” series. Not my favorite of the series, but definitely not my least favorite either.

The Blood Mirror by Brent Weeks
Book 4 of the “lightbringer” series. I was disappointed by book three, so wasn’t expecting very much, but really enjoyed this book. Looking forward to the fifth and final book!

The Fabric of the Cosmos: Space, Time, and the Texture of Reality by Brian Greene
I was taking a physics course this year, so this book was a great supplement to some of the stuff we starting to learn in class, but with more detail/focus on cosmological physics concepts.

The Whispering City by Sara Moliner
Murder mystery/thriller set in 1950s Barcelona!

Storm Front by Jim Butcher
I always wanted to start this series, but never got around to it. Figured I might as well dig in while on vacation in Puerto Rico. Didn’t disappoint! A bit cheesy, but you kind of expect that from a noir private investigator/wizard series.

Kirsten

The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller
Achingly beautiful, and a wonderful narration by Frazer Douglas. This has been my before bed soundtrack pretty much since I first listened to it: I must have listened to the whole thing 5+ times through by now.

The Stolen Child by Lisa Carey
Even if I didn’t know and adore the author, this would have been one of my picks. You really feel like you’re a part of the world she builds, and the touch of magical realism plus these turns of phrase that made me stop reading and just think—gorgeous.

Tomboy Survival Guide by Ivan E. Coyote
In case I didn’t already have a massive crush on Ivan Coyote.

A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
This was a total surprise. I’d seen the book featured in the window of a local shop for a while, and was looking for a new audiobook when this title popped up. By turns funny and bemusing and sweet, it’s just a damned good book.

Freedom Is a Constant Struggle by Angela Y. Davis
A really difficult but hugely illuminating book. Listening to Angela Davis narrate it made it that much more powerful. Very timely and a quick read, highly recommend to everyone.

Kirsten’s honorable mentions:

Chris H.

Turing’s Cathedral by George Dyson
A great (albeit extremely detailed) history of the computer. Featuring Einstein, von Neumann, WWII, Turing, the Manhattan Project, Eckert, Mauchly, Princeton Institute for Advanced Research, etc.

The Matthew Shardlake Series by C.J. Sansom
I’m a sucker for medieval mysteries and these are a lot of fun.

Grunt by Mary Roach
Because I tend to love anything that Mary Roach writes about. She goes in-depth into each subject she investigates and comes out with fun, interesting stories that are great for creating conversations around. See also: Packing for Mars or Bonk.

A Walk in the Woods by Bill Bryson
Do yourself a favor and read the book and skip the rather boring movie. The book has a great sense of humor (humour?), although it gets a little strung out towards the end. I enjoy hiking and would love to do the App Trail at some point, but reading this book will have to do for now.


Pedro

Um Estranho em Goa by Jose Eduardo Agualusa

Site Reliability Engineering by Betsy Beyer

Maus by Art Spiegelman

More?

Tell us about your favorites for 2016 on Talk, or add your own Top Five to our list!

Labels: holiday, lists, reading, recommendations, top five

Wednesday, December 23rd, 2015

Top Five Books of 2015

Every December, LT staff members compile a list of our top five favorite books we’ve read this year. You can see past years’ lists here.

We also like seeing members’ favorite reads, so we compiled a list that all of LibraryThing can add to. We’re interested in not just the most read books of 2015, but the best of the best. What were your top five for 2015? Note: books on this list weren’t necessarily published in 2015—these are the best we’ve read this year, regardless of publication date.

»List: Top Five Books of 2015—Add your own!

Without further ado, here are our staff favorites!


Abby

Euphoria by Lily King

Crooked Heart by Lissa Evans
This is one of the most unusal and unexpectedly lovely WWII stories I’ve read.

Lafayette in the Somewhat United States by Sarah Vowell
Only Sarah Vowell can write a history of Lafayette (Everyone give it up for America’s favorite fighting Frenchman!) that mentions the recasting of Darrin on Bewitched.

The Impossible Lives of Greta Wells by Andrew Sean Greer

What Was Lost by Catherine O’Flynn


Loranne

Among Others by Jo Walton
My only regret is that I didn’t discover this one sooner. An amazingly well-written book about loss and how the narrator deals when her identity is ripped away from her at a young age. That somehow manages to not be too depressing. It also helps that the narrator is an avid reader, and the book is full of references to (real) books she’s read.

In Real Life by Cory Doctorow
Short (for me), simple (in terms of plot), and moving. Plus, Jen Wang’s illustrations are lovely.

Nemesis Games by James S.A. Corey
I read all of The Expanse series (so far) in about two months. Each book was better than the last, and this one was no exception.

Bitch Planet, Vol. 1 by Kelly Sue DeConnick

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell

Loranne’s honorable mentions:

  • The Song of Achilles by Madeline Miller: So well-written. I laughed; I cried; I mostly cried. Because we all know how this one’s going to end.
  • The Hundred Thousand Kingdoms by N.K. Jemisin: This was a SantaThing gift I received last year, and it was such an amazing pick that I probably would have missed on my own. I have a sneaking suspicion that Jemisin’s latest, The Fifth Season, will make my 2016 list.

Kirsten

As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride by Cary Elwes

One of my favorite movies (and books), this memoir specifically about the making of The Princess Bride was an excellent listen. Cary Elwes narrates the majority, but
Robin Wright, Wallace Shawn, Billy Crystal, Christopher Guest, Mandy Patinkin, Bill Goldman, and Rob Reiner all read from their interviews from the book.

Seeker by Arwen Dayton

Combining archaic, steampunk, and modern technologies, while deftly bringing the main characters’ stories together through dedicated chapters, this truly is the best new fantasy I’ve read in some time.

Dorothy Must Die by Danielle Paige

I enjoyed this one more the further I got into it. By the last page, I was ready for the next book in the series. While I was wary of another retelling of Oz, it was well done and didn’t feel tired.

Assassin’s Apprentice by Robin Hobb

Son by Lois Lowry


Tim

A bad year for fiction, except for all the books I read or reread with my son (e.g., Holes, Hobit, Heinlein).

Blue Guide Istanbul by John Freely
This and Freely’s others got my family though Isanbul.

The Fall of Constantinople by Steven Runciman
Great book, but especially so since it formed the structure of an hour-long retelling of the Fall that I did with my son, over dinner in the Galata tower, overlooking the action.

What Philosophy Can Do by Gary Gutting
Should be required reading for everyone who argues onlne.

The Man in the High Castle by Philip K. Dick
I cast around for good science fiction, and rarely find it. So I was expecting to drop this after a few chapters. It’s a much better book than that.

The Classical Tradition by Anthony Grafton
A huge, new encyclopedia of the reception of Antiquity—hugely enjoyable, but perhaps not for all.


Kate

Find Me by Laura van den Berg

A Reunion of Ghosts by Judith Claire Mitchell
Delightfully strange story I picked up as an ARC at ALAMW14. It stayed with me long after I finished it.

The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell
TBC is the last book I read before giving birth to my son and I’m SO GLAD it was good enough to hold me over until I had the brain capactiy to once again read.

Sweet Tooth by Ian McEwan

Why Not Me? by Mindy Kaling
Kaling’s second effort outshines her first. While her first book focused on what guys should wear to look hot, her second is a collection of opinions on being a successful woman and not apologizing for it. And also gossip. It was delightful.

Kate’s honorable mentions:
Blackout: The Things I Drank to Forget by Sarah Hepola


Chris H.

The Martian by Andy Weir

At Home: A Short History of Private Life by Bill Bryson
I live on random knowledge and this book was chock full of the stuff. Loved it.

H is for Hawk by Helen Macdonald
One of the more beautifully written books that I’ve read in a while.

Empires of the Sea by Roger Crowley

Leviathan Wakes by James S.A. Corey


KJ

Wind, Sand and Stars by Antoine de Saint-Exupéry

Skyfaring by Mark Vanhoenacker
The author puts my heart into words, when it comes to planes and the heart-longing-lonliness of why we travel. Reminded me how much I once wanted to be a pilot.

Are You My Mother? by Alison Bechdel
Much like a perennial favorite of mine, The Manticore by Roberston Davies, his person’s trip through therapy was therapeutic in itself to read. I also highly recommend the related (Tony winning) book/musical Fun Home, if you like using theater to feel big feelings.

1914 by Jean Echenoz

The Green Road by Anne Enright
I’m always a sucker for dysfunctional Irish families and also “enduring holidays with people you don’t like” narratives, so this was perfect.

KJ’s honorable mentions:


Mike

The Secret Place by Tana French
Everything in the Dublin Murder Mysteries series is good, and this is no exception. Great read, great character development.

The Silkworm by Robert Galbraith

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
I read all 3 of the Cormoran Strike novels this year. All of them were great detective stories, but the first was my favorite.

Career of Evil by Robert Galbraith

The Broken Eye by Brent Weeks
The third book in Brent Week’s Lightbringer saga. Not as great as the other two, but keeps the story going with enough cliffhangers to want to read the next installment.


Seth

The Martian by Andy Weir

Abomination by Gary Whitta

Egghead: Or, You Can’t Survive on Ideas Alone by Bo Burnham

Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank Miller

Movie Title Typos: Making Movies Better by Subtracting One Letter by Austin Light


Chris C.

Peopleware: Productive Projects and Teams by Tom DeMarco
A classic anyone who develops software in an organization should read.

The Musician’s Way by Gerald Klickstein

Data Scientists at Work by Sebastian Gutierrez
Interesting read especially about the mindset of people working in this field.

The Jazz Bass Book by John Goldsby

Becoming a Better Programmer by Pete Goodliffe
How could I get any better? Seriously though, a helpful collection of essays or lessons focusing on various aspects of the software development process.


Kristi

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman
This was a fun YA read, and I probably liked it so much because it was the first fiction book I’ve read in a *long* time. It was also reminiscent of a lot of the fantasy novels I read as a kid. I had a pretty long stint of reading non-fiction, DIY, and self-help books. Happy that my Secret Santa from last year’s SantaThing awarded me this book! Will definitely be reading more from this series.

Slade House by David Mitchell

Eat, Pray, Love by Elizabeth Gilbert

The Night Watch by Sarah Waters
This was my first novel by Waters, and it won’t be my last. Waters’ writing immerses you into the time where the novel is set, her attention to detail draws you into the story in a way that only a skillful writer can. Excellent character development.

Symphony for the City of the Dead by M.T. Anderson
What an interesting aspect of WWII research. This historical novel looked at the war through the lens of music and its influence on entire cultures and nations. Not just any music, but that of the famous Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich, peering into his entire tumultuous, revolutionary life in Leningrad and seeing the common “chord” through it all that never lost Shostakovich’s focus. A passionate story that bolsters music as one of the all-time unifiers in life.


Ammar

You Don’t Know JS: Scope and Closures by Kyle Simpson
Hands down best book(s) on javascript that I have read. Author has the gift of conveying deep and advanced concepts in a concise and compressed manner. A good read for all whether just starting out in javascript or advanced in understanding concepts

The Art of UNIX Programming by Eric S. Raymond
3.5 out of 5 stars. While, no doubt, various precious gems can be derived throught this work of Raymond, the text is too bloated with outdated and irrelevant examples

Introduction to Sociology by Anthony Giddens
This was an academic text book and it did the job. I was interested in certain topics and was able to extract useful information regarding those topics

More?

Tell us about your favorites for 2015 on Talk, or add your own Top Five to our list!

Labels: holiday, lists, reading, recommendations, top five

Wednesday, February 4th, 2015

Better recommendations: Display

Over the next week or so we’ll be talking a lot about recommendations on LibraryThing and LibraryThing for Libraries. We’ve been doing a lot of work on this part of the site, and will be rolling out a number of improvements.

Today we’re debuting a new system for showing recommendations on works.

Check it out:

  1. Recommendations page for The Fault in Our Stars
  2. Recommendations page for Archaeology and Language
  3. Work page for Code Name Verity

And come talk about it on Talk.

Details. The first change is to the “brief” display on work pages. We have a new way of showing a “shelf,” with both cover and title. We think this is more appealing—to more users—than the previous text-only system.

Screenshot 2015-02-04 13.51.09

You can expand to “see more,” to get two more rows, then “see all” to get ten or more. The deeper you go the less confident we are that the recommendation is a good one. But our recommendations are often quite good deep.

If it’s not more appealing to you, you can see the recommendations as text, with series “tucked under.”

Screenshot 2015-02-04 13.51.48

If you want to keep it that way, click the “edit” pencil. To keep the number of icons down, you’ll only get this if you click to change views. (Not everyone will like this. I do.)

Screenshot 2015-02-04 13.54.27

Besides “covers” and “text” you can also choose to vote on recommendations, as before.

Screenshot 2015-02-04 13.55.46

The new way of seeing recommendations has transformed the “All recommendations” subpage. (Here’s the ugly, list-y thing it looked like before.) To the various recommendation types we’ve added “More by this author,” which sorts the authors books by their algorithmic similarity to the book in quesiton, and “‘Old’ Combined Recommendations” for members seeking to compare the old algorithms with the new.

As before, this page shows all the different elements that make up LibraryThing’s “main” (or “combined”) recommendations.

Screenshot 2015-02-04 13.58.44

And come talk about it on Talk.

A note on authors and repetition. Algorithmic recommendations are something between a science and an art. There’s a lot of math involved, some of it very complex indeed. But the mathematically “right” answer isn’t much good if it’s boring. So, mathematically, one James Patterson book is statistically most similar to two dozen other James Patterson books before and other author can contribute a book. But who wants to see row after row of that?

Turning math into something stimulating and diverse, yet credible, is complex process. In this case, the same-author problem is addressed not in the initial data, but “at display,” by limiting how many times an author may appear on a given line. You can see this, for example, in the recommendations for The Fault in Our Stars, which restrains John Green from taking over, or Horns, which restrains Joe Hill, but also Steven King, Justin Cronin and others.

Because of differences in screen size, members will now sometimes be presented with slightly different recommendations lists, as books get pushed between rows. We think the drawbacks there are outweighed by the visual benefits of not overloading members wih repetitive recommendations.

Labels: design, new feature, new features, recommendations, Uncategorized

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, top five

Monday, July 28th, 2014

Summer Reads 2014

Whether lounging on the beach, sipping icy beverages poolside, or retreating into the blissfully air-conditioned depths of the indoors, there’s something truly excellent about reading in the summertime. You have to do something with the extended daylight, anyway, right? I asked the rest of the LT staff to help me compile a list of our favorite summer reads for 2014. Check them out!

» List: Summer Reads 2014—Add your own here!


Tim

  1. The Martian by Andy Weir
  2. Chocky by John Wyndham
  3. Kindred by Octavia E. Butler
  4. My wife’s novel (drafts)
  5. Terrible science fiction. Why is so much of it so bad?

Abby

  1. The Book of Life by Deborah Harkness
  2. The Quick by Lauren Owen
  3. The Lost Sisterhood by Anne Fortier

Kate

  1. We Were Liars by E. Lockhart
  2. I Am Pilgrim by Terry Hayes
  3. Texts from Jane Eyre by Mallory Ortberg

Mike

  1. Words of Radiance by Brandon Sanderson
  2. Dangerous Women by George R. R. Martin
  3. Wild Mammals of New England by Alfred J. Godin

Chris C.

  1. A Room with a View by E. M. Forster
  2. Machine Learning with R by Brett Lantz
  3. Head First Statistics by Dawn Griffiths

KJ

  1. Cinnamon and Gunpowder by Eli Brown
  2. The United States vs Pvt. Chelsea Manning by Clark Stoeckly
  3. The Odyssey by Homer

Loranne

  1. Ancillary Justice by Ann Leckie
  2. Soon I Will Be Invincible by Austin Grossman
  3. Robogenesis by Daniel H. Wilson

Jon

  1. Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
  2. The Autobiography of Mark Twain, Vol. 2 by Mark Twain
  3. Transit by Anna Seghers

Kirsten

  1. The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin
  2. Mr. Penumbra’s 24-Hour Bookstore by Robin Sloan
  3. Where’d You Go, Bernadette by Maria Semple

Matt

  1. The Lion by Nelson Demille
  2. Transfer of Power by Vince Flynn
  3. 11/22/63 by Stephen King

Eddy

  1. Scorpia Rising by Anthony Horowitz
  2. To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  3. Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe

More?

What are your favorite summer reads? Add yours to our list, and join us on Talk!

Labels: lists, reading, recommendations

Thursday, June 19th, 2014

Rate Recommendations

I’ve added a new feature for members to help improve the quality of LibraryThing’s automatic recommendations. It mirrors something we did for author recommendations. This time it’s for works, addressing those times when you see a bum recommendation, or spot a book that’s too low on the list.

You can find the new “Rate Recommendations” feature in the “LibraryThing Recommendations” section of work pages. Click on “Rate Recommendations” and you get the expanded “rating” view.

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 11.04.23 PM

Rating is divided into ten boxes.(1) All things being equal, giving something six or more sends the recommendation up, and giving something five or less sends it down. We’re going to see how it develops before finalizing the algorithm, which will remain intentionally obscure.(2)

In addition to appearing on work pages, I’ve also made a page for members to rapidly peruse their works’ recommendations, and chime in on them, without going work page by work page. It keeps track of how many works’ recommendations you rated, among other statistics.

You can find your page here: https://www.librarything.com/profile_raterecommendations.php

Screen Shot 2014-06-18 at 11.08.59 PM

Here’s the Talk post about it. Come tell us what you think!


(1) It’s the same system as five stars, with half stars. Indeed, that was the original system for the author recommendation rating. But we decided it was too much like rating the book.
(2) At present, we’ve giving it a lot of power. This will probably be reduced. Either way, there’ll be factors other than the mere presence of a rating at work.

Labels: new feature, new features, recommendations

Friday, February 14th, 2014

Staff Favorites: Literary Love Stories

In honor of this most love-ly of holidays, I asked the rest of the staff to help me with a roundup of our favorite love stories in literature.

» Go add your favorites to our list here!

And whatever you’re doing for Valentine’s Day, take some advice from Powell’s and Treat Your Shelf(1) to something nice.

Our Favorites

Benedick & Beatrice from Much Ado About Nothing
KJ says: It’s the Ur-Romantic Comedy for a reason. Two grumps who detest the concept of Romance are manipulated into showing their feelings by their conspiring friends over a weekend wedding.

Bendrix & Sarah from The End of the Affair
Kate says: Is it in bad taste to pinpoint an affair as a prime example of love? Sorry not sorry.

Jamie & Claire from The Outlander Series
Abby says: It’s the story of an English woman in the 1940s who travels through time to 1740s Scotland—the books are historical fiction mixed with time travel, and of course, a great love story.

Daphnis & Chloe, the eponymous duo from the novel by Longus
Tim says: Sweet and unexpected. If you haven’t read an ancient novel, this is the one to start with.

Everyone from A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Matt says: Well, they all end up together at one point or another, really.

Marco & Celia from The Night Circus
Loranne says: A bit of a fairy tale, but very much an affair of the mind between the two characters. The addition of magic (no joke) makes the settings spectacular, too.

Jim & Doyle from At Swim, Two Boys
KJ says: The story of a romance between two boys living in Ireland in 1916, against the background of increasing political strife and the Easter Rebellion. The book is written in a stream-of-consciouness style, and interweaves a beautiful romance with grand tragedy.

Elizabeth Bennet & Fitzwilliam Darcy from Pride and Prejudice
Abby says: You just can’t make this kind of list and leave off Elizabeth Bennet and Mr Darcy.

Florentino & Fermina from Love in the Time of Cholera
Loranne says: This one is right up there with Elizabeth and Darcy for me. The story spans decades, and every time I read it, I feel like I’ve spent that much time with them. In a good way.

Eleanor & Park from Eleanor and Park
Kate says: Duh.

Florizel & Perdita from The Winter’s Tale
Matt says: Such a funny and lovely exchange:
P: O, these I lack,
To make you garlands of, and my sweet friend,
To strew him o’er and o’er!
F: What, like a corpse?
P: No, like a bank for love to lie and play on;
Not like a corpse; or if, not to be buried,
But quick and in mine arms.

Polyphemus & Galatea from Metamorphoses
Tim says: Funny and poignant, and, since it’s Ovid, cleverer than you think.

Gen & Irene from The Queen’s Thief Series
KJ says: The romance in this series triumphs over a lot of politics and personal history which would have otherwise meant they shouldn’t be together. Also, the two of them banter sarcastically for most of the series with moments of simple companionship amid the political chaos around them.

Cecilia & Robbie from Atonement
Abby says: Oh, I weep.

Venus & Adonis from all over the place (but especially this one)
Matt says: In its many variations, particularly Shakespeare’s, and some lesser known Italian poets.

Laurie & Jo from Little Women
Kate says: THAT’S RIGHT. I SAID IT.



Honorable Mentions

Including, but not limited to, Holden Caulfield’s infatuation with himself.


1. For the uninitiated: Treat Yo’ Self from Parks & Recreation

Labels: holiday, lists, love, reading, recommendations

Tuesday, December 17th, 2013

Top Five Books of 2013

For the last two years running (2012 and 2011), LT staff members have each compiled a list of their top five reads for the year.

For 2013, we wanted everyone 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 2013, but the best of the best. What were your five favorite reads of 2013?

» List: Top Five Books of 2013 — Add your own.


Continuing this grand tradition, here’s the wordier breakdown of the staff’s favorites, including some honorable (and dishonorable) mentions:

Tim

Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler Mike’s suggestion. Wonderful atmosphere.

Eifelheim by Michael Flynn Unexpected story of aliens landing in 14c. Germany, and of misunderstanding and understanding.

Benjamin Bear in Fuzzy Thinking by Philippe Coudray First book my son read cover-to-cover.

The Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis I don’t believe I had read it before. Told it was a dud, but I loved it.

The Circle by Dave Eggers Not the greatest novel qua novel, but it’ll stick with me. And it was enormously validating to have some of my fears put out there.

Tim’s dishonorable mentions for 2013:
Wool by Hugh Howey: I love good science fiction, but most of it is crap. Hot or not, it’s crap…
The Black Cloud by Fred Hoyle: Bad “classic” science fiction. Didn’t finish.
Children of God by Mary Doria Russell: I adored The Sparrow. The sequel is a big disappointment. It’s a “negative sequel.” Like the Matrix sequels, it makes the original worse.
The Midwich Cuckoos by John Wyndham: Bad “classic” science fiction.


Abby

Life After Life by Kate Atkinson

Lavinia by Ursula K. Le Guin

Code Name Verity by Elizabeth Wein

Wonderstruck by Brian Selznick

Where’d You Go, Bernadette* by Maria Semple

*Abby would like it noted that she blames The Circle by Dave Eggers for making her put other books on hold, which might have actually been the best this year.


Kate

The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt

Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl

Eleanor & Park by Rainbow Rowell

The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith

Everything Is Perfect When You’re a Liar by Kelly Oxford

Kate’s dishonorable mentions for 2013:
There Was an Old Woman by Hallie Ephron
The Never List by Koethi Zan
Three Graves Full by Jamie Mason
You Are One of Them by Elliott Holt: A 1980s Cold War bildungsroman, complete with spies and mistaken identities?! I was supposed to love this book. I did not love this book.


Chris H.

Rough Passage to London: A Sea Captain’s Tale by Robin Lloyd

The Unincorporated Man by Dani Kollin

The Road to Ubar: Finding the Atlantis of the Sands by Nicholas Capp

Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures by Robert K. Wittman

The Inventor and the Tycoon: A Gilded Age Murder and the Birth of Moving Pictures by Edward Ball


Mike

The Golem and the Jinni by Helene Wecker

The Republic of Thieves by Scott Lynch

The Crown Tower by Michael J. Sullivan

The Daylight War by Peter V. Brett

Low Town by Daniel Polansky


Seth

Ender’s Game by Orson Scott Card

The Name of the Wind by Patrick Rothfuss

Little Brother by Cory Doctorow

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh

The Masters of Doom: How Two Guys Created an Empire and Transformed Pop Culture by David Kushner


Chris C.

Building Machine Learning Systems with Python by Willi Richert

A Wizard, a True Star: Todd Rundgren in the Studio by Paul Myers

Machine Learning for Hackers by Drew Conway

Frank: The Voice by James Caplan

Make: Electronics: Learning Through Discovery by Charles Platt


KJ

The Rathbones by Janice Clark

Will in the World: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare by Stephen Greenblatt

Cypherpunks by Julian Assange

The Penelopiad: The Myth of Penelope and Odysseus by Margaret Atwood

Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann

KJ’s honorable mentions for 2013:
The Cuckoo’s Calling by Robert Galbraith
Fangirl by Rainbow Rowell
Open City by Teju Cole


Loranne

The Lathe of Heaven by Ursula K. Le Guin
This one’s a re-read for me (for sci-fi book club), but it’s also one of my all-time favorites, so it’s going on the list.

Hyperbole and a Half by Allie Brosh
Definitely my most anticipated book of the year, and it did not disappoint. Allie Brosh is a hilarious, insightful genius.

Angelmaker by Nick Harkaway
This one didn’t change my reading life the way his first novel, The Gone-Away World did, but it’s also excellent.

Oryx & Crake by Margaret Atwood
I binged on the whole trilogy in about a month, but this was my favorite by far.

The Prisoner of Heaven by Carlos Ruiz Zafón
I absolutely loved The Shadow of the Wind and The Angel’s Game, but didn’t think this one quite measured up. Still very good, though.

Loranne’s dishonorable mentions for 2013:
The Circle by Dave Eggers: I really enjoyed doing One LibraryThing, One Book, but when I finally finished this one, I wanted to throw it against a wall. I just did not like it. At all.
Dhalgren by Samuel R. Delany: Another selection for sci-fi book club. I just couldn’t get into this one. I didn’t even make it to the halfway point. Kept waiting for things to get interesting/start making sense, and they never did.


Matt

Tutte le poesie by Eugenio Montale

Goodbye to All That by Robert Graves

The Collected Tales of Nikolai Gogol by Nikolai Gogol

The Flamethrowers by Rachel Kushner

The Origin and Goal of History by Karl Jaspers

Matt’s honorable mentions for 2013:
Locomotrix: Selected Poetry and Prose of Amelia Rosselli by Amelia Rosselli
The Professional Chef’s Book of Charcuterie by Tina G. Mueller
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh

More?

Tell us about your favorites for 2013 on Talk, or add your own Top Five to our list!

Labels: holiday, lists, reading, recommendations, top five

Tuesday, September 20th, 2011

If you like this author, how about?

Short version. A few weeks ago, we introduced an “author read-alikes” feature, in four different flavors, with an invitation to help us pick the best one. We got our answer, and have gone with the winner. But the voting worked so well, we’ve decided to integrate it into the new author recommendations. The recommendations—now called “If you like this author..”—all include a ratings option. Rate a recommendation high and it will rise. Rate it low and it will sink. This is fortunate, as our author recommendations—we admit—need work. They’re nowhere near as good as our work-to-work recommendations.

With luck, your input will help us improve them!

More details. The vote between flavors turned out very well for us. Option 2 was a new and extremely slow algorithm. We thought it would be the best, and it polled a respectable 3.43 stars. It certainly outpolled version 3 and 4, at 2.95 and 2.94 stars respectively. But it did slightly worse than option 1, which polled 3.52. Best of all, option 1 was a much easier, faster algorithm. This was unexpected, but welcome. Option one is so fast we’ve been able to apply recommendations to virtually all major authors in a single night—option 2 would have taken weeks or months!

3.52 stars still isn’t that great. But the success of the vote suggested we might do better if we subjected the recommendations themselves to a vote. So we’ve done that. Basically, anything above 3 stars will conspire to move the recommendation up. Anything below three will move it down. The higher or lower the stars, the greater the movement. The effect will differ between authors and recommendation, as all recommendations have a (hidden) score, not just a ranking.

Some examples: Agatha Christie, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, Umberto Eco, Doris Kearns Goodwin, J. K. Rowling, Malcolm Gladwell.

Come talk about it here.

Labels: recommendations

Tuesday, September 6th, 2011

Recommendations for groups and authors! (but help needed)

I’ve added two new types of “recommendations”—”characteristic works” for member groups and “read-alikes” for author pages. We need your help improving the latter.

Groups recommendations. The group recommendations are on the new and developing “Group Zeitgeist” pages. Each group Zeitgeist includes two lists:

  • Most-held works. Shows the top books held by group members, with no weighting or adjustment–that is, Harry Potter often wins.
  • Characteristic works. Shows the top books, weighted the way recommendations are weighted–that is, it shows works held by group-members in unusual amounts.

“Characteristic works” works quite well. Librarians who LibraryThing lists Taylor’s Introduction to Cataloging and Classification, Library: An Unquiet History and even AACR2. Christianity‘s list starts with Lewis’ Mere Christianity, Cthulhu Mythos with The Cthulhu Mythos Encyclopedia, Medieval Europe with The Civilization of the Middle Ages, etc.

Author read-alikes. The new “author read-alike” uses much the same algorithm, but the results are not always as good. For example, C. S. Lewis recommends George MacDonald, G. K. Chesterton and Madeleine L’Engle–good–but also Laura Ingalls Wilder–read by some of the same people who read Narnia, but not otherwise similar.

To help us improve the algorithm, we’re showing four different versions of the algorithm, and asking members to rate them with stars. Knowing both what authors fail and which version of the algorithm is better will help us develop a better algorithm. Keep in mind that we make recommendations to be interesting and entertaining, so a certain amount of weirdness is acceptable if it also produces something inspired.

So far, only about 2,200 authors have been calculated. You can see a list of the authors here, with your authors shown in bold.

Labels: authors, recommendations