08 December 2007


Even though I posted about it a few weeks ago, I only started using LibraryThing this weekend, which is a bad thing. Not bad as in 'a poor product', more bad as in 'addictive as crack'. I'm slowly getting my books up on my profile, and what struck me as I uploaded the contents of my ever-so-slightly leaning-heavily-to-the-left under-the-weight-of-it's-own-moral-superiority shelves was the fact that on one hand I am the first to scream at US governments attempts to legally obtain people's borrowing history from public libraries and yet I gleefully post the contents of my own reading online for the world to see.

What I appear to have spent the year reading is mostly non-fiction with heavy emphasis on political skulduggery and misadventure in Iraq (lots of Greg Palast, Naomi Klein, Blackwater, Green Zone etc), with a small bit of anthropology and theology. Last year was taken up mainly with environmental issues (climate change, peak oil, cultural collapse) and life in the 'Stans (Turkmenistan, Azerbaijan etc) and if you go back to 2003 I seemed focused on linguistics and machine intelligence (Esther Dyson, Kevin Kelly and Richard Dawkins).

At various stages in my life I have hit 'reset' on my reading habits. In college I was forced to sell my library to pay for minor things like food, so lost a massive collection of 60's and 70's sci-fi paperbacks amassed over seven years. When the Very Understanding Girlfriend and I moved to the US we travelled light, so books were carefully packed away and put into storage at my family home, only to succumb to damp and be rendered unreadable. While in the US we had the joy of living in a college town with a number of great second-hand book shops perpetually stocked with all the books I thought i should have read when in college, but never did, and thus my library grew once more, particularly in more academic areas.

Since returning to Ireland, I have generally set my self a maximum budget each month that I can spend on books, generous enough to allow me to buy more than can read in any given month, frugal enough to still allow me to eat. LibraryThing is dangerous because it provides suggestions on a wide range of topics that I never would have thought of, based on the libraries of people who share my tastes. Though I work in the online media, I have never been a big fan of social networks, preferring the words and ideas of real friends over strangers; LibraryThing might be the platform that changes that.


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