Tuesday, March 17th, 2020

Work From Home Like LibraryThing Does

Kate's "Standing Desk"

Kate’s Microwave Standing Desk

Millions of workers are suddenly working from home (WFH) with the social distancing required to slow the COVID-19 pandemic. Well, LibraryThing staff have been 90% remote for more than a decade! So thought we’d pass on some advice on how to do it effectively—and stay sane. We don’t always agree, however.

(Come talk about your WFH experiences on Talk).

Where to Work

KJDON’T work from bed. It’s there, it’s warm and you have a laptop—ah, the siren call.

Tim: Or from your couch. Or a comfy chair. Zzzzz.

(KJ, who has successfully worked for years from many couches, contests this point.)

Abby: For years, people have thought when I say “I work from home” that it means I’m on my couch, watching TV, with my laptop just incidentally next to me. Spoiler: I am not. I have a desk, set up an external monitor and my post-it notes and all my stuff. And, now that my wife and son are also WFH, they have work spaces set up as well, albeit at the kitchen table.

Kate: Although I have a desk, if I need a break from sitting I sometimes work standing up with my laptop on top of my microwave. (See image). Luckily, it’s the perfect height. Get creative.

What to Wear

KJ: First, wear pants. Or leggings. Or a dress. Wear something. Trust us. You don’t want to be the one wearing a towel who accidentally turns your camera on when you don’t expect it. Also, change into something different from your pajamas, even if it’s “daytime pajamas.”

Kate: I’ve worked from home for nine years now and I maintain that if you wear one when leaving the house, you need to wear a bra when you work. Your brain will thank you with productivity.

Abby: Shower.

Tim: You’re at home. Wear what you want.

Set up Your Desk

Biking at the desk
Abby: Get thee a chair you can sit in for a long time. I used to have a ball chair, which yes, I fell off of many times, sometimes while on video calls. Now I have an ErgoErgo wobble stool, which is both comfortable, and I manage to stay seated on it. But I can’t imagine sitting on one of my dining room chairs for hours on end.

Kristi: Lighting is key: if your office space feels more like a dungeon in the basement or away from natural daylight, make sure you’re working for at least a few hours where you can get some natural daylight. Your future mood, and anyone sharing a living space with you, will thank you for it.

Abby: Get an external keyboard and mouse, so you’re not stuck using your laptop’s tiny mouse pad. It really does make a difference.

Chris C: I use Apple’s trackpad instead of a mouse—too many hours mousing is no fun. I find the trackpad ergonomic in the sense of not having to contort my hand into one position to make the mouse go.

Tim: External mouse, keyboard and a huge monitor. A lot of programmers use multiple monitors, but I find they fragment my concentration.

Although we all work on computers, a number of us keep paper to-do lists on the desk. There’s magic in that separation.

Liquids and Laptops!

Tim: The risk of laptop accidents goes way up when you work from home every hour of every day for weeks. LibraryThing employees have ruined several. We even had coffee go into a laptop during an employee all-call. (Abby exclaimed “No!” Then it sounded like she was tumbling down a hill. Then the line went dead.)

The key is to anticipate failure. You WILL bump your drink, and the table too. Your system needs to survive these eventualities. I have a “drink zone”—back and to the left of the laptop, where even a full tip won’t end up on the keyboard. The cup doesn’t rest anywhere else.

If you get your laptop wet, TURN IT OFF as fast as possible, before the liquid shorts everything out. You have seconds, so find out how, and practice doing it. Once it’s off and unplugged, you can Google around for advice on how to dry it out, and how long to wait.

How to Communicate

Here at LibraryThing we use Slack for text conversations, calls, screen-sharing, sending one-off files, sharing funny cat memes, etc. We used to use Skype, but it kept getting worse (and didn’t allow for GIFs).

The Office It's Happening GifKate: I think the secret to LT’s success is that we all enjoy our work and get it done, but we also have fun. For instance, I employ the Steve Carrell “IT’S HAPPENING” GIF at least once a week. Schitt’s Creek gifs also abound.

Chris C: Stay in constant contact and be prompt with replies. Be present—not incommunicado.

Abby: We have a separate channel set up for “off topic” which tries to keep the cat memes and “how is the world exploding today?” chatter contained in one place.

Tim: LibraryThing does most of its group calls without video. One of the perks of working from home should be not having to prepare visually for a call. There are all sorts of articles online about prepping the camera zone to look professional, suggest sophistication, etc. Yuck!

Also, video adds technical complexity and bandwidth. As anyone who’s done a lot of video calls knows, the moment things get choppy, turn off the video. Skip that nonsense and start without video.

Avoid Distraction

Tim: Distraction is the mind killer. I’ve found some solace in Freedom, which allows you to disable specific websites for a period of time.

Abby: You might be able to avoid checking Twitter every two minutes, but if you’ve suddenly got an “office” that also happens to contain your kids and your spouse, then distraction isn’t going to come from the laptop. Build in more breaks, be more forgiving, accept that it’s going to keep happening.

Caring for Yourself

Winnie the Pooh working out at homeYou probably had a whole routine worked out to help you maintain sanity and also so you got up and moved every so often in your office job. Now you get to rebuild that routine inside your house!

Kristi: Break for snacks and meals, walks. Just like in the office, you get a lunch break. Take breaks for yourself, walk away from your desk, couch and screen. Get outside. Pro-tip: use your breaks to prep dinner and get ahead of the game for the evening!

Abby: I always do this! Use your lunch break to chop a butternut squash and get it roasting, make pizza dough so it has time to rise, etc. You work from home now! You get to be one step ahead of yourself for dinner!

Kate: Taking a break once an hour to do a few jumping jacks (in addition to grabbing water, visiting the restroom, putting clothes in the dryer, etc.) helps me wake up a bit and have renewed energy when I return to my computer. Oh, and TAKE SHOWERS. Daily.

Abby: I also recommend doing squats while waiting for the coffee to finish brewing your 30th cup of the day. Squats are the perfect “while you wait” activity. All the squats.

Tim: I do my best programming away from the keyboard, taking a walk. But I do not attempt squats.

KJ: I’m not great at remembering to get up and move, so setting an alarm helps me get going. Also, for the duration of this period of social distancing, I’ve also set up virtual “lunch dates” with friends now working from home. Tomorrow I’ll “have lunch” with a friend from Boston, later one in Rome, next week a friend from just across town.

Working with Children

whatcha doin bbc journalistTim: Not only does it seem everyone is joining LibraryThing in going remote, they’re doing something far more difficult—remote with children! And we’re expected to homeschool too.

Having worked remote for a number of semesters while homeschooling our kid, I can offer some advice:

1. You will not get as much work done.

2. Actual homeschooling is best done in the morning. In Turkey I could homeschool in the morning and start work at 2pm. Here, we’re doing a before-work shift.

3. You can’t wall your kids off all day long. They’re going to be around. So everyone needs to chill out about children interrupting office calls.

4. My family gets a lot of mileage out of audiobooks and drawing—two activities that are great for kids, and also cut down on extraneous, concentration-killing chatter. Check your library for online audiobooks, and Librivox.

5. Properly homeschooling your kid is a big topic. But there are shortcuts. First: Reading is the best homeschooling! If your kid reads for several hours a day, the rest is cream. I also recommend daily journaling, and Khan Academy math.

Abby: My 11 year-old thrives on structure, so we made up a schedule for him, but it’s day two and he’s standing behind me while I work, chanting “I’m bored, I’m bored, I’m bored.” Here’s how we’re filling his time: Duolingo (learn a new language, any language), Ari Shaprio’s new current events school, a million different baking projects—until we run out of flour—and then reading, reading, reading. My wife is also (luckily?) home, so we can take turns being the kid-point person.

Tim: When Liam says he’s bored I reply that boredom is important for kids, and good for creativity. Go draw something. He doesn’t like it at all, but it makes me feel good to annoy him that way.

Kate: There are a lot of online resources for kids stuck at home right now. Some I’m using with my three year old and five year old (who can’t quite read or write independently yet):

Exercise: Noodle, Cosmic Kids Yoga, and take them outside for fresh air at least twice a day (if possible).

Learning: Storyline Online, Scholastic Learn at Home, Mystery Doug’s YouTube channel.

Kristi: Being a new parent myself, I can only offer some tips for surviving working quarantine with an infant. Work when they’re sleeping or (if they’re old enough) playing independently. If they’re little enough—or if you want to get a little workout in at the same time—try babywearing* at a standing desk! I ran a meeting once with my 9-week old strapped to my chest. It’s challenging, but also you can enjoy the extra time you are getting with them.

*I love my Ergobaby 360: it’s got great lumbar support and a mesh screen so you can use it for quite a while without fatiguing or overheating.

That’s it! Good luck and work hard (albeit in your pajamas). We hope these tips help. Best wishes of health, hope, and home-productivity from all the LibraryThing staff.

Labels: employees, LibraryThing

Monday, March 2nd, 2020

March Early Reviewers batch is up!

Win free books from the March 2020 batch of Early Reviewer titles! We’ve got 70 books this month, and a grand total of 2,115 copies to give out. Which books are you hoping to snag this month? Come tell us on Talk.

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

» Request books here!

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, March 30th at 6PM Eastern.

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

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Unsolicited Press Petra Books Akashic Books
Tundra Books Black Rose Writing Revell
Candlewick Press Walker Books US Hot Tree Publishing
New Harbinger Publications William Morrow Ballantine Books
Red Adept Publishing Pulp Literature Press Lingo Mastery
Mirror World Publishing HighBridge Audio Prufrock Press
Tantor Media Odyssey Books Month9Books
Alaska Northwest Books ScareStreet NewCon Press
Entrada Publishing The Ardent Writer Press BHC Press
Chipper Press Temptation Press ClydeBank Media
BookViewCafe Open Books

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Friday, February 28th, 2020

TinyCat’s February Library of the Month: the Asia Art Archive in America

To read more about TinyCat’s Library of the Month feature, visit the TinyCat Post archive here.

TinyCat’s February Library of the Month, the Asia Art Archive in America (AAA-A), is doing great work supporting contemporary art from and of Asia.

AAA-A’s Manager and Program Coordinator Hilary Chassé discussed more with my questions this month:

First, what is your library, and what is your mission—your “raison d’être”?

Asia Art Archive in America (AAA in A) is an independently established and operated nonprofit program space and reading room based in Brooklyn, NY and is the first overseas mini hub of Asia Art Archive (AAA) in Hong Kong. AAA’s mission is to collect, preserve, and make information on contemporary art from and of Asia easily accessible in order to facilitate understanding, research and writing in the field. AAA in A strives to be proactive in instigating dialogue and critical thinking by both making our research collection more accessible to a U.S.-based audience and also through a series of regular educational programs. By doing so we hope to raise awareness of and support for the activities of Asia Art Archive in Hong Kong.

Tell us some interesting things about how you support your community.

Besides making our reading room and digital archive collection available freely and open to the public five days a week, we also host a twice-monthly public program series, which includes artist talks, screenings, seminars, and workshops. So far in 2020 we’ve hosted a local artist book maker to lead a book-binding workshop, presented a performance-lecture by two Vietnamese-American artists on diaspora, refugees, and identity, and had one of our recent research grantees present her project examining the impact of photography and other images from the Cultural Revolution in China. Coming up, we’ll be hosting a Wikipedia edit-a-thon on women in art in Asia on International Women’s Day and will be hosting a zine-making workshop later this spring with the Australian zine publisher Red Pocket Press. We hope that by offering these programs we not only engage and educate our community in New York, but also help activate the materials in our collection and provide a platform for the artists, curators, and scholars whose work we admire and informs our own collection priorities.

What are some of your favorite items in your collection?

It’s very tough to choose but here are three books that I love and that I also think are a good illustration of the range of materials in our collection:

  • The Speech Writer by Pakistani video artist Bani Abidi: This artist book was published by the Sri Lankan press Raking Leaves in 2012. It tells the story of a fictional “documentary” presented in the form of ten photo flip books, which are then neatly housed in order in a slipcase. I think this book used a very clever method of taking the artist’s usual medium of film and rendering it into book form, and the publisher behind Raking Leaves, Sharmini Pereira, is extremely thoughtful and meticulous in her designs and execution of the books she collaborates with artists on.
  • South Vietnam: Land and People, Part I-III (pictured right): This 1967 book series, which features sketches and watercolors of everyday life and political propaganda scenes produced by North Vietnamese artists, is one of the oldest books in our collection. It came to us as part of a larger donation of rare catalogs and monographs from Vietnam in the mid-to late 20th century, donated by an American art historian and curator who spent many years in Southeast Asia. Socialist Realist Art was quite prominent in the last century in Asia, but has been consistently understudied and misunderstood in the West and we hope that by collecting materials such as these we can help spark more scholarly interest in the subject.
  • The Way of Chopsticks III by Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen: This exhibition catalog is the culmination of three joint exhibitions by the Chinese performance and video artists (and married couple) Song Dong and Yin Xiuzhen, who, although they have very distinguished independent careers, have collaborated frequently on works inspired by chopsticks, exploring the fact that two are required to function properly as symbols of their personal and professional relationship. The dual ring binders of the catalog, one devoted to Song Dong and the other to Yin Xiuzhen, allow the reader to simultaneously study the development of this theme in their work from 2001 to 2011. I love this catalog not only because these are two of my favorite artists, but also because it’s form so neatly mirrors it’s content, and shows that even if a book isn’t conceived as an “artist book”, it can still be experimental with the form to create a unique object.

Fascinating! I love the concept and execution of Dong’s and Xiuzhen’s art. I’ll have to check them out.

You mentioned the Socialist Realist Art movement not being properly understood in the West, with your hopes to shed further light on the subject. What’s a challenge you experience, particularly, as a small library?

Our reading room collection is not only small (containing around ~3,800 books, periodicals, and A/V materials) but we also have a fairly small space to house it in, so balancing growing our collection with the constraints of shelving/storing what we already have safely and accessibly is a constant challenge. In addition to responding to researcher’s needs in our decisions for what to accession, we do our best to be rigorous about only accepting donations that meet our specific subject criteria. It’s often hard to turn away some amazing material that we might personally find interesting and worthy of being preserved, but we have to be responsible and realistic about what we can handle. When we can’t accept a donation though we always do our best to use our network to find homes at other libraries/institutions so it still is made available to as wide a public as possible.

That’s a valuable service you provide. When using TinyCat to manage such a library, what’s your favorite thing about it? What’s something you’d love to see implemented?

We love the streamlined design and very user-friendly search function on TinyCat, it’s made sharing our catalog with our researchers much simpler and has also empowered them to search our collection on their own before they arrive in the reading room so they can request specific materials they’re interested and then get started with working right away! Making our materials as accessible as possible is one of our main priorities and TinyCat has helped us achieve that enormously since we adopted it a little over three years ago.

In terms of improvements, the actual platform itself is pretty perfect and isn’t lacking anything major that we’re looking for in terms of cataloging or searching functionality, so the only thing on our wishlist is if there would be a simple way of embedding the TinyCat catalog homepage, or at least the search function, directly into our website through a plug-in instead of only through iframe coding, which is a bit beyond our small team’s capacity at the moment.

We have a basic Search widget you can add to your website! Find the coding on our Help page here.


Want to learn more about the Asia Art Archive in America? Follow them on social media (Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, Vimeo, and YouTube), visit their website here, and check out their collection on TinyCat.

To read up on TinyCat’s previous Libraries of the Month, visit the TinyCat Post archive here.

Calling all TinyCat libraries: become TinyCat’s next Library of the Month—just send us a Tweet @TinyCat_lib or email Kristi at kristi@librarything.com.

Labels: libraries, Library of the Month, TinyCat

Monday, February 3rd, 2020

February Early Reviewers batch is live!

Win free books from the February 2020 batch of Early Reviewer titles! We’ve got 105 books this month, and a grand total of 3,487 copies to give out. Which books are you hoping to snag this month? Come tell us on Talk.

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

» Request books here!

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, February 24th at 6PM Eastern.

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

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Zimbell House Publishing Unsolicited Press Black Rose Writing
William Morrow Flyaway Books Petra Books
Consortium Book Sales and Distribution Candlewick Press John Ott
Book Publicity Services Akashic Books Tundra Books
Puffin Books Canada Plough Publishing House Books by Elle, Inc
Red Adept Publishing City Owl Press Tantor Media
HighBridge Audio Literary Wanderlust LLC Aspen Press
Science, Naturally! Orca Book Publishers Shadow Dragon Press
Poolbeg Press Westminster John Knox Press Three Rooms Press
Meerkat Press CarTech Books Best Day Books For Young Readers
Lingo Mastery Circling Rivers Chicago Review Press
BHC Press Month9Books Revell
Entrada Publishing TarcherPerigree Odyssey Books
ClydeBank Media Metaphorosis Magazine Prodigy Gold Books
NewCon Press

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Thursday, January 30th, 2020

TinyCat’s January Library of the Month: Glasgow Botanics Library

To read more about TinyCat’s Library of the Month feature, visit the TinyCat Post archive here.

For our readers in the Northern Hemisphere, it is deep winter right now. We’re excited to be bringing in a little bit of green for January’s Library of the Month! Congrats to the Glasgow Botanic Gardens Library.

Project Librarian Rob Westwood was kind enough to answer my questions:

First, what is your library, and what is your mission—your “raison d’être”?

We’re a small library inside the Glasgow Botanic Gardens. We’re mainly a reference resource for those working directly with the Gardens, but we also serve botanical or horticultural students from Scottish Rural College and researchers from many different institutions. Those that have membership of the Friends of Glasgow Botanic Gardens also have access.

Tell us some interesting ways you support your community.

We hope that the library serves well as a space for study and research, but we use it for interesting science and cultural events too. It’s used as the start- or end-point of Botanic Gardens health walking tours. For a couple of weeks in summer, we let the library to serve as a dressing room for the “Bard in the Botanics” (Shakespeare performance) team. We held an event at this year’s Doors Open festival too, so that the wider community could come and see the library. A lot of people are surprised that the library even exists! It is something of a curiosity.

What are some of your favorite items in your collection?

My personal fave is Treasures of the Deep, a Nineteenth Century collection of pressed seaweeds. When I first opened it, I thought it contained hand-painted plates but quickly realised they weren’t plates at all but beautiful, natural pressings. I also like John Curtis’ Farm Insects, which contains painted plates of minibeasts at various stages of the life cycle (including eggs!) to actual 1:1 scale. Some of them are as small as a poppy seed.

I have a fondness for certain books from 1950-1975, like Science Out of Doors, Pilbeam’s The First Fifty Haworthias, and Mushrooms, Moulds and Miracles; they’re not rare or particularly noteworthy but their design and language speak of a socially-minded post-War optimism that’s hard not to admire.

What’s a particular challenge you experience as a small library?

It’s a Collections Management challenge. Most all of our books are donated, often from the collections of retired academics and botanists, and we have limited space. It can be hard to say no when confronted with long-loved libraries of beautiful, often-unique books. We have to prioritise areas of knowledge that we know will be most useful to our users, or perhaps to fill an unusual gap.

What’s your favorite thing about TinyCat? Anything you’d love to add?

I love that it’s so straightforward, out of the box, and yet doesn’t lack anything important from a user point-of-view. When you’re such a small library, the user experience is really all that matters. The original brief when the Gardens brought me in was to create an inventory so that the Curator and General Manager could see precisely what the library had; but I said “why not catalogue it?” and we ended up with a proper user-facing catalogue and a neat little homepage. We couldn’t have done that with a more complex (and expensive) catalogue system. TinyCat has really delivered.

Improvements? It would be nice to be able to select which books, collections, or tagged groups appear in the image scroller: at the moment we can select either ‘random items’ or ‘recent items,’ but it would be nice to showcase particular treasures or themes.

Heard! We’ve had a couple of requests for more customization to the animated cover display, and we’ll let you know if we change anything on that front.


Want to learn more about the Glasgow Botanic Gardens Library? Follow them on Twitter @GlasgowBotanic, and check out their collection on TinyCat.

To read up on TinyCat’s previous Libraries of the Month, visit the TinyCat Post archive here.

Calling all TinyCat libraries: become TinyCat’s next Library of the Month—just send us a Tweet @TinyCat_lib or email Kristi at kristi@librarything.com.

Labels: libraries, Library of the Month, TinyCat

Monday, January 6th, 2020

January Early Reviewers batch is up!

Win free books from the January 2020 batch of Early Reviewer titles! We’ve got 89 books this month, and a grand total of 2,960 copies to give out. Which books are you hoping to snag this month? Come tell us on Talk.

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

» Request books here!

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, January 27th at 6PM Eastern.

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

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Akashic Books Candlewick Entertainment Candlewick Press
Ballantine Books Unsolicited Press Bantam Dell
William Morrow Westminster John Knox Press Heritage Books
Black Rose Writing Scribe Publications Revell
Odyssey Books Hoopoe EDGE Science Fiction and Fantasy Publishing
Children’s Art Foundation-Stone Soup Inc. Flyaway Books New Harbinger Publications
Avasta Petra Books Gibson House Press
Red Adept Publishing Consortium Book Sales and Distribution HighBridge Audio
Prufrock Press Tantor Media Poolbeg Press
BHC Press Zimbell House Publishing Chipper Press
ScareStreet CarTech Books Apache Creek Publishing
Crystal Peake Publisher Bellevue Literary Press ClydeBank Media
Harper Perennial Entrada Publishing Plough Publishing House
TarcherPerigree

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Thursday, December 5th, 2019

Top Five Books of 2019


Every year we make a list of the top five books every LT staff member read this year. You can see past year’s lists here.

We’re always interested in what you are reading and loving, so we invite you to add your favorite books read in 2019 to our list. Again, not necessarily published in 2019, just ones that you read.

>> List: Top Five Books of 2019

Without much further ado, here’s our staff faves of the year!

 

 


Abby

Gideon the Ninth by Tasmyn Muir. This is the lesbian necromancer space opera you never knew you were waiting for. Gideon the Ninth is one of the sharpest books I’ve read in a long time.

American Spy by Lauren Wilkinson. A smart, political, nicely paced spy story, featuring a young black woman working for the FBI in the 80s.

Shades of Magic series by V. E. Schwab. Feisty pirates, brooding royals, magic, multiple Londons, strong women, queer characters–this series literally has it all.

This Is How You Lose The Time War by Amal El-Mohtar and Max Gladstone. This short, queer epistolary story of two time traveling spies who fall in love across time and space has prose so deliciously lyrical that I just want to eat it.

Magic for Liars by Sarah Gailey. Magic for Liars is a queer noir detective story set in boarding school for mages. It’s smart literary fantasy, and I absolutely loved it..

Honorable mentions: Both Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston (featuring love notes with attached bibliographies, because what could be better?) and Fleishman Is In Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner would have made my top 5 if they weren’t already included in a coworker’s list (thanks Kate and KJ). And I just read too many good books this year, so also let me also note The Dutch House (give me a messed up family saga any day, but written by Ann Patchett, and I will devour it), and Mostly Dead Things by Kirsten Arnett which has the most fantastic sense of place (taxidermy in swampy hot Florida!).


Tim

Tangata Whenua: an Illustrated History by Atholl Anderson, Judith Binney, Aroha Harris. I’m currently in New Zealand, taking in as much history and culture as I can. As far as I can tell, this is the best general overview of Maori history. It’s a wonderful text—scholarly in tone, but general enough to cover a lot of ground. It has one serious drawback as a touring text—it’s HEAVY!

Rebooting AI: Building Artificial Intelligence We Can Trust by Gary MarcusExcellent review of what’s wrong with AI. Less convincing on the future.

Mac Bundle! Insanely Great: The Life and Times of Macintosh, the Computer that Changed Everything by Steven Levy and Creative Selection: Inside Apple’s Design Process by Ken Kocienda. Inspiring comfort reads.

V(ery) S(hort) I(ntroduction) Bundle! The French Revolution: A Very Short Introduction by William Doyle and World War II: A Very Short Introduction by Gerhard L. Weinberg  I’m a huge fan of the Oxford UP series “A Very Short Introduction“. Lately I’ve taken to getting into a topic, such as World War II or the French Revolution starting with the VSI, and then taking up a longer text. This year, for example, I read the French Revolution VSI alongside Simon Schama’s Citizens: A Chronicle of the French Revolution.

Aliens: The World’s Leading Scientists on the Search for Extraterrestrial Life by Jim Al-Khalili I’ll never be a scientist, but this is one emerging and creative subfield I’m eager to peek into whenever I can.

Dishonorable mention: Chaos Monkeys: Obscene Fortune and Random Failure in Silicon Valley by Antonio García Martínez. The topic is very much at the center of my interests, but the personality of the author was so odious, I had to stop reading.


Kate

Fleishman is in Trouble by Taffy Brodesser-Akner. I would read a detailed ingredient list of any product were Taffy the writer. I’m fully and unhealthily obsessed with her writing. I had high hopes for her debut and I was NOT disappointed. Taffy’s character development is up there with the greats—and I’m a harsh judge.

Normal People by Sally Rooney.Speaking of character development, WHEW. Everyone has been talking about Rooney this year and this is the one to read. I devoured it, I want more.

Nothing Good Can Come from This: Essays by Kristi Coulter. This book knocked my socks off. As someone who identifies as sober curious, I read A LOT of sober memoirs, and Nothing Good Can Come from This is on a whole different level. Coulter has managed to pick apart her relationship with alcohol from the standpoint of being an ambitious woman, a young woman, a naive woman, a married woman, etc. This is so much more than a book about quitting the drink — it’s a book about becoming a person. I recommend this one to folks who aren’t sober curious — that’s how good it is.

Emergency Contact by Mary H.K. Choi. A YA love/coming of age story set in my hometown of Austin, TX? I never stood a chance. Mary H.K. Choi seems like the raddest of people and I’m here to say I’m a fan of her writing.

Three Women by Lisa Taddeo. This book made me equal parts angry and uncomfortable and sad. Three Women was not what I expected it to be, and I find myself reluctant to recommend it, but I think there’s something so important about this deep dive into women and their desires.

Honorable Mention: Red, White & Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. Everything you’ve heard is true! This book was a damned delight!


KJ

Red, White and Royal Blue by Casey McQuiston. I have bullied at least seven people into reading this charming romance between a First Son of the USA and a Prince of England and now it’s your turn. Lovable characters, social media written the way it’s actually used, a dash of Star Wars, and two disastrous boys falling in love against a high-stakes presidential election.

Saga Series by Brian K Vaughn and Fiona Staples. Takes the tropes of space opera—bounty hunters, animal/robot companions, star-crossed romance, glitchy ships, weird drugs—and spins them in a big blender. You probably don’t want to read this comic series in public because, uh, nsfw. I adored every issue.

Zealot: The Life and Times of Jesus of Nazareth by Raza Aslan. This helped me contextualize all the biblical places I was able to visit earlier this year on a trip. A look at the historical man: Jesus of Nazareth, and his surrounding land and century. Not St. Paul friendly. Fascinating, illuminating, ultimately deepened my faith.

When Brooklyn Was Queer: A History by Hugh Ryan. Written to fill in a lacuna in the historical record, Ryan investigates queer history in the borough of Brooklyn. Loosely bookended by Walt Whitman and the Stonewall Riots, this book chronicles everything from early drag on Coney Island to the infamous Sands Street. Come for a grounding in the borough’s history, stay for Whitman’s extensive little black book.

Severance by Ling Ma. The world ends in a flu, but first it’s an uncomfortably accurate meditation on (book industry) office work in the 2010s. Also a nuanced story of a first-generation Chinese-American woman and an ode to NYC. For fans of The Stand and Station Eleven.

Honorable mentions: The Testaments by Margaret Atwood because it is a good sequel to The Handmaid’s Tale and I devoured it in one sitting. How We Fight For Our Lives by Saeed Jones, because we should just let poets write all the memoirs, if this is what they do with them.


Chris C.

The Book of Why by Judea Pearl.

The Art of Statistics by David Speigelhalter.

Rebooting AI by Gary Marcus.

Strings Attached: The Life and Music of John Williams by William Starling.

The Grapes of Math by Alex Bellos.


Kristi

My List this year is the “I Had A Baby!” edition!

Little Blue Truck by Alice Schertle.My absolute favorite book in my son’s collection! Pretty illustrations, great lessons on kindness within the story, fun to read and a sweet, sing-song rhythm for my son to follow along. Reminiscent of The Little Engine That Could.

The Monster At The End of This Book by John Stone. It’s a Little Golden Book featuring a Sesame Street character (Grover), so how could it not be lovely? This book is so fun to read with my son.

Planting a Rainbow by Lois Ehlert. Perfect for exploring colors, shapes, and a good book to grow into with advanced plant words like “rhizome” and “Delphinium”.

Ocean Meets Sky by Terry and Eric Fan. Gorgeous illustrations, and a sweet story. The lead character shares my son’s name, too, so of course I love it that much more. It’s a little more advanced for my son, but will be a great book for him as he grows!

The Baby Book by William Sears. Recommended to me by fellow staffer Kate (to whom Abby recommended), this book has it all. The entire team of Sears doctors worked to put together this in-depth reference for virtually any questions you might have about your child’s development for the first couple of years. Something I return to quite often! A worthy resource.


Pedro

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne.
Team Topologies: Organizing Business and Technology Teams for Fast Flow by Matthew Skelton.
Dune by Frank Herbert.

More?

Tell us about your favorites for 2019 on Talk, or add your own Top Five to our list!

Labels: top five, Uncategorized

Wednesday, December 4th, 2019

6th Annual LibraryThing Holiday Card Exchange

cardexchange-fullOur 6th annual LibraryThing Holiday Card Exchange is here! Inspired by ALA Think Tank and Reddit, we’re so excited to continue the tradition that spreads joy throughout the holiday season!

How it works is simple:

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

Sign-ups for the Card Exchange closes Tuesday, December 10th at 5:00 PM EST. We’ll inform you of your matches within an hour or so. Send your cards out soon after.

» Sign up for the LibrayThing Holiday Card Exchange

Questions? Join the discussion on Talk.


* In order for the cards you receive to be addressed to your real name, you must include your name in the address box.

Labels: card exchange, events, fun, holiday

Monday, December 2nd, 2019

December Early Reviewers batch is up!

Win free books from the December 2019 batch of Early Reviewer titles! We’ve got 65 books this month, and a grand total of 3,620 copies to give out. Which books are you hoping to snag this month? Come tell us on Talk.

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

» Request books here!

The deadline to request a copy is Monday, December 30th at 6PM Eastern.

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

Thanks to all the publishers participating this month!

Akashic Books Candlewick Press Chipper Press
Unsolicited Press Revell William Morrow
Walker Books US Black Rose Writing Artisan Ideas
Westminster John Knox Press Petra Books Red Adept Publishing
Heritage Books Entrada Publishing Horrific Tales Publishing
HighBridge Audio Tantor Media Poolbeg Press
Prufrock Press Raised Voice Press Hoopoe
Platypus Media Seventh Rainbow Publishing BookViewCafe
Zimbell House Publishing CarTech Books Meerkat Press
Architeg City Owl Press Bellevue Literary Press
ScareStreet ClydeBank Media

Labels: early reviewers, LTER

Friday, November 29th, 2019

TinyCat’s November Library of the Month: the Library at Temple Shir Tikvah

To read more about TinyCat’s Library of the Month feature, visit the TinyCat Post archive here.

TinyCat’s November Library of the Month goes to the library at Temple Shir Tikvah, where the entire Library Committee was kind enough to answer my questions:

First, what is your library, and what is your mission—your “raison d’être”?

We are the library for Temple Shir Tikvah, a Reform Jewish congregation in Winchester, MA. Our congregation consists of about 350 families and individual members, and we try to provide materials of interest to all of them. Our collection houses about 2500 books (plus a few DVDs and CDs), which range from storybooks for children to cookbooks, fiction, history, Torah study, “how-to,” spiritual journeys, poetry, and so on.

Tell us some interesting ways you support your community.

Our temple building is quite small, so on Sundays, we hold education for adults and children in a nearby public school. Because we want people to be able to check out applicable books, we bring a portion of the library to the school we use on Sundays, for a monthly “bookmobile” (picture left). The third graders and their parents help pick out the books, which helps them know what’s in our collection. When they pick out the books, they also choose a book for us to read to the class that day.

We’ve also moved some of our books up to the sanctuary—books on poetry, mental health, and aging—so that people can easily find them when attending services.

What are some of your favorite items in your collection?

We have so much fun with our collection! Some of our most popular books are practical things, like tips for bar/bat mitzvahs, or Passover haggadahs. But we’ve also recently expanded our Young Adult/Teen collection with some really great reads (The Inquisitor’s Tale: Or, The Three Magical Children and Their Holy Dog, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda, Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children).

We’ve started carrying some interesting graphic novels, as well (A Bintel Brief: Love and Longing in Old New York, Anne Frank’s Diary: The Graphic Adaptation, The Property, How to Understand Israel in 60 Days or Less, The Arrival). And our women’s studies area has grown dramatically in the past few years (Sisters At Sinai: New Tales Of Biblical Women, Reading Ruth: Contemporary Women Reclaim a Sacred Story, The Women Who Danced by the Sea: Finding Ourselves in the Stories of our Biblical Foremothers, The Torah: A Women’s Commentary, After Abel and Other Stories).

What’s a particular challenge you experience as a small library?

We are a small library not just in collection size, but also in physical space. The room where we house our collection is quite small, so we have to be fairly ruthless in culling our collection. As hard as it is, we feel it’s important to do so, so that we can keep materials current. If people cannot wander in and see something of interest, either because the collection feels too dated or because the shelves are so packed that they can’t actually find things of interest, then we are not doing our job.

In addition, our library is used as a classroom at least once a week, and as a meeting room several times each week. When it is being used for these other purposes, people cannot come in and browse the collections. It’s hard to get people to see what we have (which is a good part of why we run the bookmobile).

What’s your favorite thing about TinyCat? Anything you’d love to add?

The best thing about LibraryThing is being able to find other libraries with similar collections. Often, before we purchase books in a category, we’ll look around to see if those books are popular in other libraries like ours, so we have some assurance that they might be a good fit for our collection as well.

As far as TinyCat goes, before we had TinyCat, people signed out books on a sheet of paper — it was nearly impossible to keep track of what was in or out, plus we had no easy way to track which books were actually being used. TinyCat has totally solved this for us, and we love seeing community members, especially the children, be able to check out books on an iPad, without any help from grown-ups.

The biggest new TinyCat feature that would help us would be for our community members to be able to create their own accounts. It’s a barrier to usage that, unless we create an account for someone, they have no way to check out books (so we have to keep that sheet of paper around). A smaller feature that would help is if TinyCat returned to the home page after people check out a book, rather than remaining on the page containing the book just checked out.

Thanks for your feedback! We’ll be sure to announce if anything gets added for this in the future.


Want to learn more about the Library at Temple Shir Tikvah? You can explore their library on TinyCat.

To read up on TinyCat’s previous Libraries of the Month, visit the TinyCat Post archive here.

Calling all TinyCat libraries: become TinyCat’s next Library of the Month—just send us a Tweet @TinyCat_lib or email Kristi at kristi@librarything.com.

Labels: libraries, Library of the Month, TinyCat