Thursday, August 30th, 2012

LibraryThing is Seven: Summon the AllThing!

LibraryThing’s employees (from left): Chris Catalfo, Abby, Jeremy, Kate, Brian, Tim, Mike, Chris Holland

LibraryThing turned seven today.(1) Seven years! It’s been a blink of time in my life, but it’s a long time, and positively an eternity online. Where so many of our 2005 web 2.0 cohort died, sold out or burned out, LibraryThing somehow survived. We’re stable, profitable and growing, with over 1.5 million members using and the other language sites, and over 400 library systems around the world using our library services.

Chris and Abby win.

Jeremy and Tim lose.

Chief praise goes to our members, the best book people I’ve met online. When LibraryThing went up I wasn’t sure that more than a few hundred people would ever want it. I’m happy I was wrong! After the members, LibraryThing was created by its employees. We’ve had many fine employees before, but I feel (and Abby and Chris H. agree) that we’ve got the best team we’ve ever had right now—a harmonious and balanced mix of talented people. Our most recent project, BookPsychic, solidified my feeling that we had it right. We know we’ve got a lot to do. I look forward to working with them. (You can see the team above.)

To talk about the future, the LibraryThing staff (minus one) came to Portland last week for what we’ve been calling AllThing12—a week of strategic discussions, user-interface arguing, employee scheduling, and lots of eating and drinking.(2) Families and friends came at the end, so we branched off into barbecue and sandcastles.

Some of our pictures can be seen here, at the AllThing12 gallery.

A few main points emerged, especially about development:

  • LibraryThing will live and prosper. It’s been rough at times, but we’re bullish on the future.
  • Taking the time for BookPsychic and another near-complete feature for libraries was worth it. They are models for future development, and potentially explosive products.
  • needs significant work, especially in fixing bugs and making good features better. Our design needs small but significant updates.
  • Our plans for mobile did not work out—the path we were going down is dead. Finding a new path must be a priority.
  • We crafted a new schedule whereby development is ramped up, with Tim recommitting his time and at least one of the other three programmers working with him at all times. Tim’s happy about this (so is Jeremy).
  • We have the development schedule through February plotted out. The two stand-out projects for will be in revising how members search for and add books, and getting it together on mobile.

All told, it was a great meeting. We made some strategic decisions, hammered out parts of the interfaces and planned for the future. And we reconnected socially—a vital task for a company that’s almost entirely virtual. We drank and made off-color jokes. We heedlessly mixed business and family. And when our director of HR fell off her chair, we laughed our heads off and took pictures—and we still have our jobs!

1. Or maybe yesterday. It’s not entirely clear.
2. Our sysadmin, Brian, in Kansas, had classes and wasn’t able to join us—so we video Skyped him in. Next time!

Labels: allthing, birthday, fun

Thursday, August 23rd, 2012

August Author Interviews: Stott and Thomason

This month’s State of the Thing, LibraryThing’s monthly newsletter of features, author interviews and various forms of bookish delight, should have made its way to your inbox by now. You can also read it online. It includes author interviews with Rebecca Stott and Dustin Thomason.

I talked to Rebecca Stott about her latest book, Darwin’s Ghosts: The Secret History of Evolution, published by Spiegel & Grau. Some excerpts:

Tell us about Darwin’s Ghosts—how did the idea for the book come about, and how did you select which subjects to profile?

When I wrote Darwin and the Barnacle back in 2003 I was struck once again by the dangerousness of the work Darwin was doing. I knew there had been others who had entertained ideas about the evolution of species before him and I became curious about the risks they might have undertaken. I started with Darwin’s own list of his predecessors—there were 38 men on Darwin’s list—and began to assemble as many more names as I could find. My book begins with Aristotle, even though Darwin was mistaken to call him an evolutionist, because the questions he was asking and the empirical methods he used would shape the long history of evolution in important ways. My aim was to try to understand these people as human beings not just as vehicles for ideas. I wanted to know what vexed them, what woke them up at night, what drove them.

What was it that persuaded Darwin to add his “Historical Sketch” to the third edition of Origin (and to expand it in the fourth edition)? Was there any contemporary reaction to the essay itself (distinct from reaction to the book as a whole)?

There was a kind of protocol in Darwin’s time that if you published a groundbreaking book of science you would begin by paying tribute to all the thinkers who had walked that path before you. Darwin failed to do this with Origin partly because he was rushed into print and partly because he was unsure just who his predecessors were. In 1860, when he was chastised for not including such a preface, he resolved to write one. The project took him six years to complete and was a source of enormous anxiety to him; he was never quite sure who had said or written what and when. Because he kept finding new people the historical sketch was always to some degree a work-in-progress.

You write in the preface about growing up in a household where the Darwin entry was literally razored out of the encyclopedia. Do you think that contributed to your interest in Darwin and his ideas?

Undoubtedly—as far as one can know about these things. I was a curious child, and I remember the intense frisson of curiosity I felt about Darwin and his ideas, because they were regarded with such derision and horror by all the important men in the religious community I lived in. Prohibition acts in mysterious ways.

Which of Darwin’s predecessors were you most surprised to learn about as you researched for this book?

Probably the eighteenth-century French intellectual Diderot. I lingered longer over that chapter than any of the others. I think I fell in love with him a little. Diderot was intellectually restless, a rule-breaker, a risk-taker, clearly also fascinating and charismatic in conversation. I think he might well be the most original thinker I have encountered. Because he was forced to hide his ideas—he was under surveillance from the Paris police—he developed a series of rhetorical strategies for evading responsibility often by using devices from the theatre. The results are often surreal and highly inventive.

Read the rest of our interview with Rebecca Stott.

I had the chance to talk with Dustin Thomason about his new thriller 12.21, published by The Dial Press.

Do you recall what first made you think about combining prions and Mayan prophecies for the plot of 12.21?

That was actually what brought the entire book together for me and is one of the key secrets of the book! The connection is deeply rooted in the culture of the ancient Maya, and closely connected to the original way that prions were discovered. But to really find out, you’ll have to read on …

Your book features a fictional Mayan codex, but there are a few of these that actually exist. Tell us about the codices and their importance in our understanding of Mayan civilization and culture.

Four ancient Maya books still exist of the thousands of screen-folded codices that probably once filled the royal libraries. You can find images of several of them online and see the wondrous work of the ancient scribes that served as the jumping off point for the codex in 12.21. The scribes were meticulous bookkeepers, and in these codices they kept close records of rituals and astronomical matters, all dated according to the all-important cyclical calendars responsible for the 2012 phenomenon. Amazing naked-eye astronomers, many Maya books were almanacs that tracked the movement of Mars and Venus, solstices and equinox, as well constellations eerily similar to our own zodiac. Over the last century, Mayanists have been able to use these four remaining books—named the Dresden, Madrid, Paris and Grolier codices—to bring the most advanced civilization in the pre-Columbian new world back to life.

What’s your library like today? What sorts of books would we find on your shelves?

A very eclectic mix. On the fiction side, you’d see Stephen King and Michael Crichton and Richard Russo, plus Dan Brown and Dickens and Philip Roth and Delillo and Lehane and Michael Cunningham, to name a few. Many shelves I’m looking at now are taken up by books about the ancient Maya, some of them out of print. In order to write in the voice of a ninth century scribe, I had to immerse myself in most everything that’s been written about them. You’d also find dozens of medical textbooks, and a weird assortment of other things on random topics that most people would find absurd. As I glance higher, I see And the Band Played On sandwiched between The Professional Handbook of the Donkey and The White Album. Plus, for Christmas every year, my father used to give us The World Almanac, so there’s almost two entire shelves taken up by those alone.

Which books have you read recently that you enjoyed?

Michael Olson’s Strange Flesh recently enchanted me with its weird and wonderful mix of hacker noir and depraved hearts, and I just finished William Landay’s Defending Jacob, which sucks you in with its compelling voice from page one and takes you on a ride of twists and turns as good as any since Presumed Innocent. I also just went to the Middle East for the first time, and while I was there I read Exodus, which seemed as fresh now as it must have to readers fifty years ago.

Read the rest of our interview with Dustin Thomason.

Catch up on previous State of the Thing newsletters.

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Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Tuesday, August 7th, 2012

Book Spine Poetry Contest!

August feels like a good time for a contest, right? We’ve decided to try a new twist on our usual bookpiles contest: book spine poetry (here’s a previous example, from our 2007 “downpile” contest).

We’ve thrilled to announce that we’ve arranged for a special guest judge to help us pick the winners of this contest: Nina Katchadourian, who’s been working in this field since 1993 with her Sorted Books project (credited with inspiring many subsequent projects of this type). In 2013 Chronicle Books will be publishing a book of Nina’s works, so look forward to that!

How to participate:

1. Create a poem using book spines. The poem can incorporate any element of the spine you like (color, text, whatever). Theme/length/format is entirely up to you (bonus points if it’s about books, reading, or LibraryThing, though!). If you need some inspiration, there are some great examples here, or here (the latter are the works of our guest judge).

2. Take some photos of your poem.

3. Upload the photo to your LT member gallery. Sign in, then go here and click the “Add another picture” link to add the image.*

4. When adding the image, tag it “SpinePoetry2012″. This will add your image to the contest gallery, and counts as your entry into the contest. If your photo doesn’t have the tag, we won’t know that you’ve entered. You’ll be able to see all the entries here.

5. Tell us about it in the “Title/description” box. You can include a list of the books you used, a transcription of the poem if you want, any explanation, &c.

Deadline: Add your photos by 4 p.m. EDT on Friday, September 7.

What we’ll do:

Based on all the images in the “SpinePoetry2012″ photo gallery, guest judge Nina Katchadourian and LibraryThing staff will choose the following winners:

Grand Prize (1)

  • An LT t-shirt (size/color of your choice)
  • An LT library stamp
  • A CueCat
  • An LT sticker
  • Three lifetime gift memberships
  • Great honor

Runners Up (2)

  • Your choice of one LT t-shirt, stamp, or CueCat
  • Two lifetime gift memberships

We may also pick a few Honorable Mentions—final number will depend on the number of entries received—and they’ll receive a lifetime gift membership.

Have fun!

Fine Print: You can enter as many times as you like, but you can only win one prize. By entering the contest you certify your images and the poems are your own creations. All decisions as to winners will be made by LibraryThing staff and our guest judge, and our decisions are final. LibraryThing staff and family can enter, but can only be honored as prize-less runners-up. Any images you load stay yours, or you can release them under a copyleft license, but we get a standard “non-exclusive, perpetual” right to use them.

Questions? Feel free to post questions/discussion/etc. here.

Labels: book pile, contest, contests

Monday, August 6th, 2012

August LTER batch is up!

The August 2012 batch of Early Reviewer books is up, and it’s a whopper! We’ve got 134 books this month, and a grand total of 3,334 copies to give out.

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, August 27th at 6PM EDT.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, and 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!

Taylor Trade Publishing Tundra Books Knockabout Comics
Monarch Books Pintail Riverhead Books
Mulholland Books Kensington Publishing Dafina
Zest Books Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Penguin
Quirk Books Orca Book Publishers Soaring Penguin Press
Crown Publishing Plume Algonquin Books
William Morrow McFarland Signet
Quid Pro Books White Wave Penguin Young Readers Group
Spirit Scope Publishing WaterBrook Press Maupin House Publishing
Charlesbridge Information Today, Inc. Greyhart Press
Gray & Company, Publishers Pale Fire Press Random House Trade Paperbacks
Human Kinetics Doubleday Books Random House
Prufrock Press Oxford University Press Frances Lincoln Children’s Books
Fantastic Books Gray Rabbit Publications Leafwood Publishers
Palgrave Macmillan Prospect Park Media Humanist Press
OR Books Kane Miller Books JournalStone
Exterminating Angel Press Gotham Books White Whisker Books
Top Five Books Ashland Creek Press Pineapple Press
Glagoslav Publications Ltd. The Permanent Press Spiegel & Grau
B&H Publishing Group Sakura Publishing Henry Holt and Company

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Thursday, July 26th, 2012

July Author Interviews!

This month’s State of the Thing, LibraryThing’s monthly newsletter of features, author interviews and various forms of bookish delight, should have made its way to your inbox by now. You can also read it online. It includes author interviews with Francine Mathews and Russell A. Potter.

I talked to Francine Mathews about her latest book, Jack 1939, just published by Riverhead. Some excerpts:

You’ve previously written, as Stephanie Barron, a series of books featuring Jane Austen as a private detective. In Jack 1939, you turn instead to a young John Kennedy. Do you recall what first gave you the idea of using Kennedy as your protagonist?

Oddly enough, it was a glimpse of a photograph from the summer of 1937, when Jack was twenty years old and traveling with his best friend through Europe. He was standing on a street in Germany—possibly Nuremberg, possibly Cologne—wearing mismatched clothes he clearly hadn’t changed in days: baggy flannels, a T-shirt, a crumpled check jacket with sagging pockets. His hair was a mess, and he was thin as a rail, all cheekbones and chin, but his mouth was wide open in raucous laughter, and he was juggling for the camera. He looked like some crazed street busker—carefree, joyous, young. And I thought, My God, he was just a kid once. I wanted to know who that kid was.

When I realized he’d taken off half his junior year to travel alone through Europe just as Hitler was about to invade Poland, I had to use it.

What benefits do you see in deploying historical characters as fictional detectives/secret agents? On the flip side, are there disadvantages to this?

Most of my books are about people who actually lived—not just Jane Austen, but Allen Dulles and Virginia Woolf and Queen Victoria. As a writer, I’m caught by the “what if” moments in the known record. The gaps. The blank weeks in a well-documented life. For me, they’re tantalizing opportunities. I can fill those gaps with fiction and create an alternative reality. As a guide, I’ve got a famous person who’s already intriguing—readers are willing to follow Jane Austen or Queen Victoria or Jack Kennedy anywhere they choose to go.

The drawback as a writer, of course, is that the historical record has its limits. Virginia Woolf went for a walk on March 28, 1941, and her body was found twenty days later. I suggest in The White Garden that she was alive for most of that time. But her body was pulled from the river in the end, and the fictional story was forced to address that.

Read the rest of our interview with Francine Mathews.

I had the chance to talk with Russell Potter about PYG: The Memoirs of Toby, a Learned Pig, published in the UK by Canongate and the US/Canada by Penguin.

Where did you get the idea for PYG? Can you tell us a bit about the historical precedents for Toby?

I first read about the “Learned pig”—an act in which the animal spelled out answers to audience questions using pasteboard cards—many years ago in the pages of Richard Altick’s magisterial volume The Shows of London. Some time later, perusing Ricky Jay’s delightful compendium of curiosities, Learned Pigs and Fireproof Women, I was surprised to discover how many such pigs there had been in the 1780s, with several living claimants vying for attention with automaton versions of the same act. Jay also mentioned that the proprietor of one of these pigs had gone so far as to issue an “autobiography” of Toby—for so all pigs seemed to be named—which gave a punning account of his “life and opinions.” It occurred to me then that, should there be a pig who had learned not only his letters, but gained through them the ability to express his own feelings, how much richer and more varied a tale might be told from his viewpoint as an animal exhibited as a “Freak of Nature,” and so PYG was born.

The book is beautifully designed; what was the process like for choosing the images, font and other elements of the text?

I love the design as well, though in part it was simply the result of a series of fortuitous accidents. I’d always conceived of it as a book which would emulate in its form the conventions of a late-18th century novel, and when the designer at Canongate suggested Caslon Antique I was delighted. Originally, I’d wanted to use the same woodcut of a learned pig that appeared in Ricky Jay’s book, but since that volume was about to be republished, Jay asked us to not to copy that design. I set out to locate an image from the period, and in the wonderful Osborn collection of early children’s books at the Toronto Public Library, I found the Darton volume with the image of a learned pig. I’d already given all the chapters three-letter names, so it seemed natural to use this image and have the titles spelled out with the cards—I made a rough mockup in Photoshop and sent it to the designer, who did the rest.

What’s your own library like today? What sorts of books would we find on your shelves?

Most of my collection is online at LibraryThing (here), so interested parties can have a virtual “browse” of my shelves any time they like. I have a few books from each century—including a little duodecimo edition of Johnson’s Rasselas just that the one Toby has in the novel—and collect mainly literary fiction by my favorite authors, particularly Ursula K. LeGuin and Steven Millhauser. In my non-fiction incarnation, I’ve worked extensively on the history of Arctic exploration, and so that makes up the biggest single section of my collection. Among my most prized volumes is an 1820 edition of Sir William Edward Parry’s account of his first Arctic expedition, printed in Philadelphia by Abraham Small, one of the earliest US editions of a work of polar exploration.

Read the rest of our interview with Russell Potter.

Catch up on previous State of the Thing newsletters.

If you don’t get State of the Thing, you can add it in your email preferences. You also have to have an email address listed.

Labels: author interview, state of the thing

Tuesday, July 17th, 2012

ReadaThing Coming up!

Mark your calendars! Coming up soon is a weeklong July/August ReadaThing. All are welcome, and you don’t have to read for the full week: the goal is to have a few people from around the world reading at any given time during the ReadaThing.

The official start time will be at noon on Thursday, July 26 UTC/GMT: that’s 8 a.m. Thursday in the Eastern US/Canada/LT time zone. This ReadaThing will run for a full week. See the time chart here.

For more information, see the announcement thread; to sign up, head right to the ReadaThing wiki. As we get closer to the date, consider posting your reading selection in the “What will you be reading?” thread, and during the ReadaThing you can use the “Log Book” thread to document your ReadaThing experience.

For more on ReadaThings, and to participate in planning future events, join the ReadaThing group.

Labels: readathon, reading

Friday, July 13th, 2012

July LTER Batch is up!

In case you missed it, the July 2012 batch of Early Reviewer books is up! We’ve got 90 books this month, and a grand total of 2,248 copies to give out.

First, make sure to sign up for Early Reviewers. If you’ve already signed up, please check your mailing address and make sure it’s correct.

Then request away! The list of available books is here:

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, July 30th at 6 p.m. EDT.

Eligiblity: Publishers do things country-by-country. This month we have publishers who can send books to the US, Canada, the UK, and 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!

Taylor Trade Publishing Penguin Young Readers Group Mulholland Books
Archipelago Books Ashland Creek Press Orbit Books
Candlewick Press Monarch Books Bethany House
Humanist Press Prufrock Press Pintail
Del Rey Tundra Books Henry Holt and Company
The Permanent Press Eerdmans Books for Young Readers Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co.
Crown Publishing William Morrow Demos Health
Random House Riverhead Books Putnam Books
Ballantine Books Bell Bridge Books Random House Trade Paperbacks
February Partners Doubleday Books Gotham Books
St. Martin’s Griffin JournalStone Human Kinetics
Branwell Books Crossed Genres Publications Tell-Tale Publishing Group, LLC
ArbeitenZeit Media Wilderness House Press BookViewCafe
Five Rivers Chapmanry Palgrave Macmillan MSI Press
Glagoslav Publications Ltd. Tupelo Press South Dakota State Historical Society Press
Chronicle Books Spiegel & Grau Point Dume Press

Labels: early reviewers

Wednesday, July 4th, 2012

Signers’ Libraries on LibraryThing

Did you know that in addition to the libraries of more than 1.5 million members from around the world, LibraryThing is also home to the libraries of (so far) 19 Signers of the Declaration of Independence? The Legacy Libraries project started with a Signer (Thomas Jefferson), and we’ve continued to add to our “collection” over the past few years. You can see the status and source notes we’ve found so far for all 56 Signers here. Of the 19 that have been entirely or substantially added to LibraryThing already are four of the five members of the committee responsible for drafting the Declaration:

  • Thomas Jefferson (Virginia), 5,597 cataloged
  • John Adams (Massachusetts), 1,741 cataloged
  • Benjamin Franklin (Pennsylvania), 3,747 cataloged
  • Roger Sherman (Connecticut), 105 cataloged*
  • The other Signers represented on LibraryThing so far:

  • John Hancock (Massachusetts), 91 cataloged
  • George Clymer (Pennsylvania), 41 cataloged
  • Elbridge Gerry (Massachusetts), 326 cataloged
  • Button Gwinnett (Georgia), 12 cataloged
  • Stephen Hopkins (Rhode Island), 91 cataloged
  • Richard Henry Lee (Virginia), 503 cataloged
  • Thomas Lynch, Jr. (South Carolina), 38 cataloged
  • Thomas McKean (Delaware), 49 cataloged
  • Lewis Morris (New York), 113 cataloged
  • Robert Treat Paine (Massachusetts), 550 cataloged
  • George Read (Maryland), 13 cataloged
  • Caesar Rodney (Delaware), 13 cataloged
  • George Taylor (Pennsylvania), 35 cataloged
  • John Witherspoon (New Jersey), 988 cataloged
  • George Wythe (Virginia), 369 cataloged
  • All told, the Signers’ libraries added so far include 14,421 titles. You can check out the top books shared among the Signers’ libraries here. Top five:

  • Commentaries on the Laws of England by Sir William Blackstone
  • A Defence of the Constitutions of Government of the United States of America by John Adams
  • The Spectator by Joseph Addison et al.
  • Euclid’s Elements
  • Virgil’s Poems
  • If you’re signed into LibraryThing, see what books you have in common with Signers of the Declaration of Independence on your Legacy Libraries stats page (just choose Advanced options and compare the Signers to you). Here’s my list, or see Tim’s.

    Browse the information we’ve collected so far about the other Signers’ libraries here; updates and new information is always appreciated; drop me an email anytime or post a message in the group! We’re always collecting new sources and adding new books for these libraries, so every little piece is welcome.

    Another key Founding-era library on LibraryThing is that of George Washington, who was otherwise engaged in July 1776. You might have seen one of his books in the news recently.

    Beyond the Signers are the broader Libraries of Early America; we’ve found data on more than 1,250 pre-1825 libraries so far, with more added regularly. Or there are the libraries of Mayflower passengers (one of my favorite groups to work with at the moment).

    We’ll be continuing to catalog additional libraries, and to enhance the tools we use to analyze, display and share this material with the world, so stay tuned!

    * The fifth member of the committee, Robert R. Livingston of New York, left Congress before the Declaration was signed. His library on LibraryThing is in progress. Also still to be added is the library of Charles Thomson, the secretary of the Continental Congress when the Declaration was signed.

    Labels: jefferson, john adams, legacies, legacy libraries

    Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

    June Author Interviews!

    This month’s State of the Thing, LibraryThing’s monthly newsletter of features, author interviews and various forms of bookish delight, should have made its way to your inbox by now. You can also read it online. It includes author interviews with Dan Rather, Alex Grecian, Catherine Fletcher, Kathy Hepinstall, and Joy Kiser.

    I talked to Dan Rather about his new memoir, Rather Outspoken: My Life in the News, recently published by Grand Central. Some excerpts:

    If you could interview (or re-interview) one person today, and you only got to ask one question, who would you interview and what would you ask?

    I would love to know what the Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. would think of the fact that the United States elected an African American president. I would also want to know what parts of his vision for our country remain yet to be fulfilled.

    What are your thoughts on the 2012 presidential campaign? Have you been surprised by any of the twists and turns so far, and do you have any predictions about how things will progress over the next few months?

    I often say that those who live by the crystal ball learn to eat broken glass. I don’t really know where this election will end up, other than it will almost certainly be close. As for twists and turns, I think that the only people really focusing on that now are an insular press corps and political activists. We’re still in the early innings, but the game has definitely begun. The real question is what will all this money pouring into the process mean for whoever is elected.

    Where do you get your news these days? What are the sources you feel most comfortable trusting?

    I get my news from many sources. I go online, but I also still love the feel of an old-fashioned newspaper in my hand. I find myself less distracted, and I process what I read more. I have also heard this from many people I talk to, even those raised in the digital age.

    Read the rest of our interview with Dan Rather.

    I had the chance to talk with Alex Grecian about The Yard, published by Putnam and a very popular March Early Reviewers selection.

    For those who might not have yet had the chance to read The Yard, give us just a short introduction to the book, if you would.

    Jack the Ripper has done his nasty work and disappeared. The citizens of London are terrified and they don’t trust their police anymore. The homicide rate is at an all-time high and police morale is at an all-time low, when Walter Day, the newest detective at Scotland Yard, is assigned to catch a cop-killer. Overwhelmed, Day turns for help to an eccentric doctor named Kingsley who is well on his way to becoming the first forensics scientist in England.

    What first interested you about the post-Jack the Ripper period in London police

    The actual Ripper murders have been talked about to death (so to speak). Jack the Ripper’s fascinating, of course, but I don’t feel like there’s much left to say on the subject. At least, not by me. But the impact he left on the people around him had to have been enormous. Something that devastating and that frightening doesn’t happen in a vacuum. He didn’t kill those five women, and then disappear and life went back to normal for everyone. He permanently changed London—and the world—and that is fertile ground for an entire series of stories.

    This is your first prose novel. What was your favorite part of the writing process?
    And which part did you like the least?

    I had originally intended to write this as a graphic novel and already had some interest from comic book publishers. I’m more comfortable writing prose than I am writing comic books, but it was still a huge gamble to write it as a novel. In the end, I’m very glad I did, but I didn’t know what would happen as I was working my way through the book. It was a little scary.

    Read the rest of our interview with Alex Grecian.

    I also talked with Catherine Fletcher about her first book, The Divorce of Henry VIII (published in the UK as Our Man in Rome), released last month by Palgrave Macmillan

    Tell us about “our man in Rome.” In a nutshell, who was Gregorio Casali, and what did he do?

    Gregorio Casali was Henry VIII’s resident ambassador at the papal court in Rome throughout the six years of negotiations over Henry’s divorce from Catherine of Aragon. He came from an upwardly-mobile Italian family whose sons made their way in life through military and diplomatic service to foreign princes. He was the man who did the ‘fixing’ for Henry in Rome: from entertaining cardinals to bribing secretaries, from intercepting letters to kidnapping enemy agents.

    Do you recall what first interested you in Tudor diplomacy generally, and in Gregorio Casali specifically?

    I had been on holiday to Florence and had got interested in Renaissance Italy. Shortly afterwards I was reading the classic biography of Henry VIII by J. J. Scarisbrick. He mentioned the role of the Casali family in Henry’s divorce negotiations, and I was intrigued by how an Italian family could have got involved in something we in England often think of as a very English bit of history.

    I also asked Catherine what books she’s read and enjoyed recently.

    I’m reading Thomas Penn’s Winter King at the moment—it’s a marvelous take on Henry VII, a Tudor monarch we often don’t hear much about. And I recently finished Iain Pears’ historical novel Stone’s Fall—an absolutely brilliant murder mystery.

    Read the rest of our interview with Catherine Fletcher.

    I chatted with Kathy Hepinstall about her fourth novel, Blue Asylum, just out from Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. I asked about some of her fairly unorthodox outreach efforts:

    I read through your author blog to prepare for this interview (and I have to say it’s one of the funniest things I’ve read in a long time). Did you really bury a copy of your novel for Oprah and then provide directions to the buried novel in the local paper? … also, has Oprah retrieved her book yet?

    Ah, thank you. And, yes I actually did bury a copy of my novel for her and then took out an ad with a map in her local paper, The Montecito Journal. Oprah did not retrieve the book, although someone did steal her shovel. So I took out another ad, this time hiding the book in a safe by the side of the road with a sign pointing to it that said “Oprah’s Book.” Non-Oprahs of Montecito were instructed, on their honor, not the memorize the combination to the safe included in the ad. Someone heisted the book, the safe and the sign. What can I say? Montecito apparently is swarming with thieves.

    You’ve done some other, shall we say, unconventional things to promote Blue Asylum. Describe a few of those, if you would, and tell us about any responses you’ve gotten.

    Let’s see, some ad students in Eugene came up with the great idea themselves to write letters from the characters and include them with the galleys that Houghton Mifflin Harcourt sent to the independent bookstores.

    I commissioned someone to bake a box of delectables and send it to Books-a-Million with the idea that this was a bribe from the inmates of Sanibel Island to get them out of the asylum. They are getting that soon. Also, we have a web site called You can put any celebrity you want in there, virtually, and hear an audiotape in their own voice that demonstrates why they should be in an insane asylum. And, of course, the Oprah ads. Houghton Mifflin Harcourt has been very open to my ideas, and have some very imaginative ones of their own. Who knows what will work in what way, but I inscribed the latest book (in the safe) to Oprah with the words: “If you never get this book, I still believe in magic.”

    Read the rest of our interview with Kathy Hepinstall.

    Finally, I the chance to interview Joy Kiser about America’s Other Audubon, published by Princeton Architectural Press. The book is an an introduction and partial reprint of a rare book of ornithological artwork. A few snippets:

    What first got you interested in Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio? What attracted you to the book, and what surprised you the most as you researched its history?

    When I walked into the Cleveland Museum of Natural History in Ohio to begin my new position as assistant librarian, volume one of Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of Birds of Ohio was exhibited in a Plexiglas display case at the foot of the stairway that led to the library on the second floor. A label, about three inches high by five inches wide, succinctly explained that the book was the accomplishment of the Jones family of Ohio: the daughter, Genevieve, had conceived of the idea and had begun drawing and painting the illustrations with the assistance of a childhood friend; the son, Howard, had collected the nests and eggs; the father, Nelson, had paid the publishing costs; and after Genevieve died, the mother, Virginia, and the rest of the family spent eight years completing the work as a memorial to Genevieve.

    Do you have a couple favorite plates that you’d like to mention?

    Plate 2, the Wood Thrush; and Plate 17, the Catbird. I am partial to the American Robin and its stunning blue eggs. That was one of the first birds I learned to identify and interact with in my father’s orchard. It was much more exciting to find blue eggs (like a piece of the summer sky) in a nest than the white eggs with brown spots that the House Sparrows laid.

    The first image I saw from Gennie’s book was the Wood Thrush nest with blue eggs reminiscent to the Robin’s but from a bird I have never seen or heard in person. And I am especially fond of Virginia’s composition for the Catbird nest.

    America’s Other Audubon is a beautiful book itself: can you tell us a bit about the design and editing process?

    Several years ago (2004), The Smithsonian Institution Libraries created a web exhibit that featured an essay about Gennie’s book and included scans of 30 of the color plates and for the very first time people searching the internet from any place in the world had access to some of the book’s illustrations. It was on that website that Acquisitions Editor, Sara Bader, from Princeton Architectural Press discovered Gennie’s art work and realized what a wonderful book it would make. Fortunately, her publisher had faith in her vision and agreed to publish the Jones family’s story and all of the art work from the original book. And the Smithsonian Institution contributed high resolution scans from one of their copies of Illustrations of the Nests and Eggs of the Birds of Ohio.

    The difficult part for me was to have to see the field notes reduced to so few words.

    Read the rest of our interview with Joy Kiser.

    Catch up on previous State of the Thing newsletters.

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    Labels: author interview, state of the thing

    Saturday, June 16th, 2012

    The Top Books on Wikipedia

    We just re-analyzed all of English Wikipedia, looking for citations to LibraryThing works (using ISBNs, OCLC numbers, title and authors, etc.) We found over 1.1 million citations to 412,000 LibraryThing works(1).

    Work pages have a “References” section, showing all the links. These have been improved. Links now go to a lightbox, showing all the other pages that link to the page, and of course linking to Wikipedia. I’ve also added a Zeitgeist: Wikipedia page, showing the most frequently cited works and entries.

    Here are the top 100 works, by Wikipedia citations, a catalog of pop-songs, decorated German soldiers, politicians, and… fungi!

    25 Top-Cited books on Wikipedia

    1. Guinness World Records: British Hit Singles and Albums by David Roberts (3,889 citations)
    2. Ritterkreuzträger 1939-1945 by Veit Scherzer (2,317 citations)
    3. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Country Hits by Joel Whitburn (1,908 citations)
    4. British parliamentary election results 1832-1885 by Fred W. S. Craig (1,747 citations)
    5. Air Force Combat Units of World War II by Maurer Maurer (1,548 citations)
    6. Dictionary of the Fungi by Paul M Kirk (1,464 citations)
    7. The Text of the New Testament an Introduction to the Critical Editions and to the Theory and Practice of Modern Textual by Kurt Aland (1,276 citations)
    8. Andrews’ Diseases of the Skin: Clinical Dermatology (James, Andrew’s Disease of the Skin) by William D. James MD (1,247 citations)
    9. Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aviation: Revised Edition (Jane’s Encyclopedia of Aviation) by Studio Editions Ltd. (1,186 citations)
    10. Elections in Europe : a data handbook by Dieter Nohlen (1,174 citations)
    11. New Zealand mollusca: Marine, land, and freshwater shells by A. W. B. Powell (1,135 citations)
    12. A Plain Introduction to the Criticism of the New Testament (2 volumes) by Frederick Henry Ambrose Scrivener (1,129 citations)
    13. Joel Whitburn Presents Hot Country Songs 1944 to 2008 by Joel Whitburn (1,114 citations)
    14. Handbook of British Chronology (Royal Historical Society Guides and Handbooks) by E. B. Pryde (1,040 citations)
    15. The Directory of Railway Stations: Details Every Public and Private Passenger Station, Halt, Platform and Stopping Place by R. V. J. Butt (1,020 citations)
    16. Port Vale Personalities: A Biographical Dictionary of Players, Officials and Supporters by Jeff Kent (949 citations)
    17. Wrestling Title Histories by Royal Duncan (944 citations)
    18. Dermatology (2 Volume Set) by Jean L. Bolognia (938 citations)
    19. British Parliamentary Election Results by F. W. S. Craig (911 citations)
    20. Civil War High Commands by John Eicher (879 citations)
    21. The encyclopedia of AFL footballers by Russell Holmesby (877 citations)
    22. The Dinosauria by David B. Weishampel (860 citations)
    23. Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships: 1906-1921 (Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, Vol 2) by Randal Gray (817 citations)
    24. Kurzgefasste Liste der griechischen Handschriften des Neuen Testaments by Kurt Aland (803 citations)
    25. The Ship of the Line: The Development of the Battlefleet, 1650-1850 (The Ship of the line) by Brian Lavery (778 citations)
    26. Australian Chart Book 1970-1992 by David Kent (760 citations)
    27. Football League Players’ Records 1888 to 1939 by Michael A Joyce (747 citations)
    28. Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships, 1860-1905 by Robert Gardiner (738 citations)
    29. Japan Encyclopedia (Harvard University Press Reference Library) by Louis Frédéric (736 citations)
    30. The Profile Method for Classifying and Evaluating Manuscript Evidence by Frederik Wisse (730 citations)
    31. Snake Species of the World: A Taxonomic and Geographic Reference, Volume 1 by Roy W. McDiarmid (711 citations)
    32. British Warships in the Age of Sail 1793-1817: Design, Construction, Careers and Fates by Rif Winfield (647 citations)
    33. The Great Rock Discography by Martin C. Strong (644 citations)
    34. The New Grove Dictionary of Music and Musicians (20 Volume Set) by Stanley Sadie (636 citations)
    35. The Book of Golden Discs by Joseph Murrells (633 citations)
    36. The science-fantasy publishers: A critical and bibliographic history by Jack L. Chalker (571 citations)
    37. Air Force combat wings : lineage and honors histories, 1947-1977 by Charles A. Ravenstein (570 citations)
    38. The Concise Oxford Chronology of English Literature by Michael Cox (559 citations)
    39. Encyclopedia of Minor League Baseball: The Official Record of Minor League Baseball by Lloyd Johnson (548 citations)
    40. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (3-Volume Set) by Alexander P. Kazhdan (541 citations)
    41. The Birth of the Palestinian Refugee Problem by Benny Morris (530 citations)
    42. CRC Handbook: Chemistry & Physics by David R. Lide (525 citations)
    43. Birmingham City by Tony Matthews (519 citations)
    44. All That Remains: The Palestinian Villages Occupied and Depopulated by Israel in 1948 by Walid Khalidi (517 citations)
    45. The PFA Premier & Football League players’ records, 1946-2005 by Barry J. Hugman (512 citations)
    46. The Oxford Companion to Wine by Jancis Robinson (491 citations)
    47. Mammal species of the world : a taxonomic and geographic reference by Don E. Wilson (478 citations)
    48. DC Comics Year by Year: A Visual Chronicle by Daniel Wallace (478 citations)
    49. The DC Comics Encyclopedia, Updated and Expanded Edition by Michael Teitelbaum (477 citations)
    50. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera : A-D by Stanley Sadie (476 citations)
    51. Fields of Praise by David B. Smith (474 citations)
    52. The Great Indie Discography by Martin C. Strong (467 citations)
    53. Irish Kings & High Kings: Irish Kings and High Kings (Four Courts History Classics) by F. J. Byrne (460 citations)
    54. The Canadian directory of Parliament, 1867-1967 by James K. Johnson (449 citations)
    55. Oxfordshire by Jennifer Sherwood (443 citations)
    56. The Empire Ships: A Record of British-Built and Acquired Merchant Ships During the Second World War by W. H. Mitchell (437 citations)
    57. Chronology of British History by Alan Palmer (423 citations)
    58. The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction and Fantasy Through 1968: A Bibliographic Survey of the Fields of Science Fiction, F by Donald Henry Tuck (414 citations)
    59. Enzyklopädie des deutschen Ligafußballs 7. Vereinslexikon by Hardy Grüne (406 citations)
    60. Oregon Geographic Names by Lewis A. McArthur (406 citations)
    61. Michigan Place Names by Walter Romig (402 citations)
    62. Squadrons of the Royal Air Force and Commonwealth, 1918-88 by James J. Halley (395 citations)
    63. Who’s Who 2008: 160th annual edition (Who’s Who) by A&C Black (392 citations)
    64. Dictionary of Minor Planet Names by Lutz D. Schmadel (392 citations)
    65. The Norton/Grove Concise Encyclopedia of Music by Stanley Sadie (385 citations)
    66. World Encyclopaedia of Aero Engines by Bill Gunston (363 citations)
    67. Cheshire: The Buildings of England (Pevsner Architectural Guides) by Clare Hartwell (357 citations)
    68. The Clements Checklist of Birds of the World by James F. Clements (357 citations)
    69. Collins guide to the sea fishes of New Zealand by Tony Ayling (354 citations)
    70. The Illustrated Encyclopedia of Dinosaurs and Prehistoric Animals by Douglas Palmer (353 citations)
    71. Fitzpatrick’s Dermatology in General Medicine (2 Volume Set) by Irwin M. Freedberg (352 citations)
    72. Ohio Atlas & Gazetteer by DeLorme Publishing (349 citations)
    73. The Complete Encyclopedia of World Aircraft by David Donald (346 citations)
    74. NFL 2001 Record and Fact Book by National Football League (338 citations)
    75. The Men Who Made Gillingham Football Club by Roger Triggs (336 citations)
    76. The Greenhill Napoleonic Wars Data Book by Digby Smith (335 citations)
    77. The Billboard Book of Top 40 Hits by Joel Whitburn (334 citations)
    78. Warships of the Imperial Japanese Navy, 1869-1945 by Hansgeorg Jentschura (329 citations)
    79. The Book of Sydney Suburbs by Gerald Healy (327 citations)
    80. The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows 1946 – Present, Eighth Edition by Tim Brooks (327 citations)
    81. The New Rolling Stone Album Guide: Completely Revised and Updated 4th Edition by Nathan Brackett (327 citations)
    82. Chronicle of Gods and Sovereigns by Chikafusa Kitabatake (327 citations)
    83. Total Television: A Comprehensive Guide to Programming from 1948 to the Present by Alex McNeil (322 citations)
    84. Birds of Venezuela (Princeton Paperbacks) by Steven L. Hilty (322 citations)
    85. The Complete Book of Fighters: An Illustrated Encyclopedia of Every Fighter Aircraft Built and Flown by William Green (320 citations)
    86. Heroic Worlds: A History and Guide to Role Playing Games by Lawrence Schick (317 citations)
    87. Cassell’s Chronology of World History: Dates, Events and Ideas That Made History by Hywel Williams (316 citations)
    88. The New Penguin Opera Guide (Penguin Reference Books) by Amanda Holden (314 citations)
    89. The Oxford Companion to Chess by David Hooper (307 citations)
    90. 328 Outstanding Japanese Photographers by Tokyo Metropolitan Museum of Photography (306 citations)
    91. Conway’s All the World’s Fighting Ships 1922-1946 by Roger Chesneau (303 citations)
    92. U.S. Submarines Through 1945: An Illustrated Design History by Norman Friedman (302 citations)
    93. Blackpool: A Complete Record, 1887-1992 by Roy Calley (298 citations)
    94. The Welsh Academy Encyclopaedia of Wales by John Davies (296 citations)
    95. Historic Spots in California by Mildred Brooke Hoover (295 citations)
    96. The Virgin Encyclopedia of Reggae (Virgin Encyclopedias of Popular Music) by Colin Larkin (295 citations)
    97. Indie Hits: The Complete UK Independent Charts 1980-1989 by Barry Lazell (292 citations)
    98. Encyclopedia of Stoke City 1868-1994 by Tony Matthews (291 citations)
    99. Billboard’s Hot Dance/Disco 1974-2003 by Joel Whitburn (290 citations)
    100. The New Grove Dictionary of Opera: 4 volumes by Stanley Sadie (289 citations)

    See the rest on Zeitgeist: Wikipedia page.

    1. This is a 120% more than 2009.

    Labels: citations, wiki, wikipedia