LibraryThing … you don’t know me.

I post about LibraryThing every once in a while, because well, I love the place. It’s not just a way to keep track of my books (3,000+), it’s a place to think about books and research about books and talk about them.

One of the most delightful things is this: every time I get over there (which is not as often as I’d like) there’s some new feature. This is one of those rare cases where the early adopters (of which I was one) provide feedback — and the people running the show actually listen. All the early quibbles have been addressed, and they keep adding on new features.

Once in a while a feature doesn’t work so well. In my case, they’ve got a new thing going where you look up a book — say you’ve heard about Edward Sawtelle — and click on a “will you like it”? button. This only works if you are registered and keep an account there, of course. At any case, it seemed like a good idea to me.

And then I tried it out.

I looked up Lake in the Clouds and here’s what I was told:

Lake in the Clouds:

willyoulikeitThen I looked up The Story of Edward Sawtelle, and here’s the prediction:

Edward Sawtelle:


So you can see that this particular feature is not working for me, as it got both guesses wrong — and in a huge way. I happen to like the novel I wrote, and to really, really dislike Edward Sawtelle.

If you don’t have a LibraryThing account — and they are free — you might want to think about getting one. Even failing that, it’s a huge source of information. If you look at the detail page for any book you get scads. Here is the (partial) page for Dennis Lehane’s The Given Day.

The Given Day
The Given Day

Clicking on the small image will take you to the actual page at LT, where you’ll find links to book details, alternate covers, member reviews, discussions that mention this book, members who own it, and all the different editions (this has been tremendously helpful to me). The author’s name is a link to his author profile page, which includes links to all his published work detail pages.  There is also a tag cloud — contributed by those who have added the book to their libraries — a list of books that are similar, the “will you like it” feature (use with caution), member reviews,  links to bookstores, swap sites and libraries where you’ll find the book, and the most unusual (and very useful) feature: the ‘common knowledge’ section.  This is information contributed by readers that may include a list of the characters, places, the book’s awards, its epigraph, any honors received, the first paragraph, the last paragraph, blurbs, important events in the course of the story, formatted citation for the book (MLA, Chicago, etc)… and the list goes on.

Another really useful feature is this: any series of books can have a ‘series’ page in which the books are listed — in order. If you’ve been scratching your head on where to start with Lynn Viehl’s Star Doc series, this is the place to look.

So there you are. A place not only to find out about books you own or want to read, but to contribute to the pool of knowledge. Because everybody’s a librarian over at Library Thing.

9 Replies to “LibraryThing … you don’t know me.”

  1. I signed up a while ago but then got Delicious Library to manage our books and other media. I hadn’t really checked out the social aspect of it. Time to go back and play around some more. Thanks for the reminder.

  2. I signed up with the free version shortly after you started talking about it. Then I quickly had too many books to stay free, so I made the infinitesimally small $25 investment for a lifetime membership and added more books. I have maybe a third of my collection cataloged there and continue to work with it. I love LibraryThing. You’re right, they do keep adding features, and it gets better every day.

    I haven’t tried the “will you like it” feature yet, but your results are amusing. I’ve only dabbled in the social aspect of the site, but there is vibrant activity on the discussion groups.

  3. I do use LibraryThing to keep track of the books I read, but I’ve also been using GoodReads, and I like the social features there a lot better. It sends me emails with lists of what my friends have been reading, and I’ve discovered a lot of great new books there.

  4. I have been cataloging my books in an MS Access database since the 1990s. The system is not entirely perfect, but it works. The thought of typing everything into LibraryThing again has kept me from signing up so far.

    Besides, my eclectic tastes have already messed up Amazon’s recommendation system, so I suspect they would utterly break LibraryThing’s “will you like it” feature.

  5. I had never really thought about a site like this before, but I love it! I have fallen down the rabit hole and I don’t want a rescue…

    I have a hard time finding a series that realy interests me.. I fall in love with the characters of one series and just starve for more untill the author decides to bless us.. Now I can find other series that interest me as they interest others!

    Thank you!

  6. Cora: I believe LT has some sort of method for extracting the information you already have on that list without you adding each book manually. I’m not sure on this, maybe Rosina knows more.

    I love LT as well especially the tag clouds so that you can see what you mostly like and what other members mostly like. I always go here for my next book idea! For those of you who like historical fiction, the Historical Fiction Society has a great section where new novels are reviewed: This is the other place I go to check out new titles, but unfortunately my local library takes awhile to get the new titles.

  7. I must revisit my LibraryThing situation. Honestly since returning to work a couple years ago, the library cataloguing has suffered a drought. But, the good thing about a paycheque is the library itself has grown. Thanks for the reminder Rosina. Now if there were a scanner to log all those books, that would be useful, if, perhaps, awful lazy and even just a bit self-indulgent.

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