It's not just that I have a thing for libraries and that I'm married to a librarian, but also I've discovered an interesting literary site--ALMOST as good as Red Room--called Library Thing. I first heard of it when one of my book's reviewers mentioned that she put the review also on Library Thing (www.librarything.com). When I Googled the words "Library Thing Christopher Meeks," not only did I find her review and a few others of my book, but as I noodled around, I found that Months and Seasons was a topic of talk under "Talk" and "Forum."
Most recently, the wonderful reviewer Rebecca Schinsky wrote in her Book Lady's Blog, "I've been talking to Christopher Meeks, author of Months and Seasons, and trying to get him to join Library Thing and participate in an author chat because I loved his book and want to spread the word about it, but so far, no luck."
That, of course, made me want to join Library Thing. Before I did, I didn't quite "get" what Library Thing was. Why did people upload the covers of the books they own onto Library Thing, for instance? People have so much time in their lives, they can peek in on what other people have on their shelves? Thus, I e-mailed Rebecca to ask her what it is.
She wrote back that Library Thing is "best described as a cross between a social networking site for bibliophiles and source of book reviews, recommendations, and cataloging. Many of the users are bloggers (there is a Bloggers group), but not all of them are. It was originally created to allow people to catalog and rate the books in their personal libraries, to share those with others, and to receive recommendations from readers with similar habits. Now that blogging has taken off, that plays a role as well.
"The Early Reviewers program is interesting. Publishers offer a limited number of selected titles, and members of the ER group make requests. You just fill out a simple form to become a reviewer (there's no application process, per se), and you can request books. Whether you get a book, and which book you get, are determined by an algorithm that looks at the books in your library, the number of reviews you've written, and several other factors, including random chance. You are expected to review the book in some capacity (for many people, this means just posting a simple review in their LT library), and if you fail to do so, it hurts your chances for receiving books in the future."
In other words, if you're a particularly voracious reviewer, you can get free books in advance on Library Thing if you agree to review them.
While the Library Thing site isn't as elegantly designed as Red Room, some features are particularly easy to use. I wasn't going to show any of my library, as I expected it'd be labor intensive, but when I clicked on "Add Books," I discovered how easy it is--seconds per book. I typed in either the name of an author or a book title, and in a column on the right, book covers appeared of various editions and possibilities. I'd click on the version I had and, voila, the book was added to my library. It's rather fun and addictive. I added 50 titles in no time.
Under each title I inserted, up would come how many Library Thing members also had that same version of the book. Thus, when I added Janet Fitch's White Oleander, a book I've used twice in my English classes to great enthusiasm, I saw that over ten thousand LT members had that book. The same was true of Kurt Vonnegut's books, Alice Walker's, and many well-known writers.
When I added Months and Seasons, I found 14 members had it--not bad considering my obscurity. Six people owned The Middle-Aged Man and the Sea.
I found a few other books I adore that didn't get a large number of owners, so I'll pitch them here. They should have more readers. One is from my former professor and now colleague, David Scott Milton. His The Fat Lady Sings (http://www.amazon.com/Lady-Sings-David-Scott-Milton/dp/0595147488) only received three hits on Library Thing. It's a dark and fascinating mystery about a man, Paul Dogolov, who teaches writing to prisoners in the maximum-security section of the Tehachapi prison in California. One of his students, Travis Wells, makes a good case of why he is innocent of his murder conviction, and as Dogolov, on a whim, starts researching the man's case, he becomes convinced Wells is innocent.
Dogolov becomes a detective and starts interviewing real people, and the instructor unwittingly unleashes a terrible storm of violence by other people. His own life becomes at stake. This book is a rare combination of genres, literary and mystery, not unlike books by Raymond Chandler or Dashiell Hammett.
The Fat Lady Sings has been optioned for a film, and it's supposed to shoot later this year in the South (even though the book's setting is in California).
Zeroville by Steve Erickson (http://www.amazon.com/Zeroville-Steve-Erickson/dp/1933372397) is a fabulously dark and funny book. It's a combination of Being There and The Day of the Locust, a story about a seemingly simple man who finds himself landing in Los Angeles on the day of the Manson murders and being picked up as a suspect. He's let go and over time ends up working in the film industry, noting all its oddities and humor. While Erickson teaches at CalArts, I don't know him. He's a talent to be sure. Zeroville received 88 hits on Library Thing, and I hope it goes into the thousands.
When I added Ransom Seaborn by Bill Deasy (http://www.amazon.com/Ransom-Seaborn-Bill-Deasy/dp/1905605080), Library Thing showed no one else had it. This is a crime. I first heard of Ransom Seaborn when the POD-dy Mouth website gave it a Needle Award for the book's high quality. I used it in one of my English classes, where it was popular. It's about a college freshman named Dan Finbar who is struggling to find his proper place in Harrison College. He befriends Ransom Seaborn, an odd young man consumed with reading J.D. Salinger books, especially Catcher in the Rye. Perhaps because I like Salinger so much--in fact, I'm rereading Catcher in the Rye now when I found it for sale at a Minneapolis airport newsstand--I fell for this book. Nonetheless, Deasy captures the lives of college-age people brilliantly.
As you can see, there are good reasons to add your library on Library Thing. You'll find other people passionate about the books you love. You can stay anonymous and/or make it easy for people to e-mail you. To join Library Thing is simple. Type in your name and a name you'd like to use on the website, and you're in.
And maybe I'll have an author chat there soon.
Causes Christopher Meeks Supports
Associated Writing Programs