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LibraryThing:
Dear Reader,

Welcome to the November State of the Thing, your guide to all things LibraryThing. This month we have new exciting features to showcase, exclusive author interviews with Gregory Maguire, Charles Cumming and Eugenia Kim, 2,596 free Early Reviewer books, and 299 free Member Giveaway books available.

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Big New Features

Local Book Search. This is a location-based search for books (examples: Alice in Wonderland near London, Steinbeck's The Moon is Down in San Francisco), and we're hoping this feature will change bookselling forever. Read much more in the blog post.

Get this Book. We've totally revamped the "Buy, Borrow and Swap" feature, integrating with free ebook sources, like Project Gutenberg and Librivox, as well as paid ones, like Amazon and Sony. See it in action: Get this Book for Romeo and Juliet, read the blog post about it and check out all the sources you can choose from.

The Books of Wikipedia. We've added a new "References" section to work pages, and within that a list of the Wikipedia articles that cite the work. This feature comes from a complete parse of the English Wikipedia data dump, looking for citations and other references to books. You can read more, and see a list of the top 100 most-frequently cited books on the blog.

Your Ebook Statistics. Now you can compare how your books stack up against all the free and paid ebook and audiobook sources with whom we've integrated. Read the blog post.

SantaThing is coming to town!

SantaThing is Secret Santa for LibraryThing members. You pay $25 to participate, everyone gets a randomly assigned person to choose $20 worth of books for, we buy the books (and pay the shipping) then mail the books out to everyone. Last year, we had a ton of fun suggesting books for others, picking out books for our Secret Santas, and basking in the glow of surprise gifts. This year more countries are able to participate, and we have bookseller options other than Amazon (including local and indie stores.) There's even a thread started for people want to to pay the SantaThing cost for a LibraryThing members who can't afford to participate. You can read more and sign up here.

Free books: Early Reviewers

Read and review free books, before they even hit the shelves! We've given out a whopping 39,273 books so far through Early Reviewers.

The November batch of Early Reviewer books contains 2,596 copies of 102 different titles. The deadline to request a free book to read and review is November 29th at 6pm EST.

The list of books

The most requested books so far this month:

Interview with author Gregory Maguire

Gregory Maguire is the author of the popular Wicked and many other novels for both children and adults. Maguire has three new books out right now: Making Mischief: A Maurice Sendak Appreciation, Matchless (a retelling of The Little Match Girl), and The Next Queen of Heaven. Maguire published The Next Queen of Heaven with the Concord Free Press, a revolutionary "generosity-based" publisher.

How did you get involved with the Concord Free Press?

While for most of this century I have been friends with Ann and Stona Fitch, the inspiring founders of Concord Free Press, I took to the notion of CFP with an enthusiasm entirely independent of my personal regard for the Fitches as writers and renegade publishers. In a larger cultural sense, much of what is distressing to me—the rancid fragmenting of political identities in this country into warring parties and the consequent inability to work together courteously—seems both a result of and perhaps a cause, too, of this mounting apprehension that individuals are largely incapable of bringing any productive change to public policy.

Then along comes the notion of CFP, with its generosity-based model, thumbing the nose at the "me, me, me" concept of battling political ideologies, the Hatfields and the McCoys of the Congress, and the red-blue state divide. CFP is boldly suggesting "us, us, us" instead. To become a part of an "us," you have to sacrifice a bit of the "me." I endorsed the notion as both solid and slightly incendiary, and accepted a role on the Board of CFP with a sense of honor. When I was later asked to contribute a piece of fiction, it made sense to back up my commitment of the ideal of CFP with a donation of real work.

The Next Queen of Heaven seems like a departure from your usual work—how did it come into being?

The roots of the novel go back many years. Like one of the main characters in the novel, I was a choir director in an upstate New York Catholic church (this during my college years). I loved music and I loved and still admire the sense of selflessness that can sometimes fall upon one when one retires ego in favor of a devotional impulse beyond one's self. I set the novel in 1999 because I wanted to take advantage of the millennial anxiety that visited religious and non-religious people alike, and also because I didn't want to have to deal with the revelations in the Catholic Church about the abuse by priests and by the bishops who played cover-up for them.

Read the rest of the interview with Gregory Maguire.

Interview with author Charles Cumming

Charles Cumming is the author of the spy novels A Spy by Nature and The Spanish Game. Cumming's new novel, Typhoon, released in the United States in October and first published in Britain in 2008, is getting a lot of attention (he's touted as a successor of John le Carré). Cumming's intelligent thriller starts with the 1997 British handover of Hong Kong to the Chinese, and moves through to the lead-up to the Beijing Olympic Games. Cumming is a contributing editor of The Week magazine.

What led you to write Typhoon?

I wanted to write a novel about China, because it was such an exotic location and nobody had really tackled it in spy fiction since Le Carré in The Honorable Schoolboy. I wanted to give an insider's view of what life is like in a country which is increasingly dominating the headlines. These days, everybody seems to be talking about the Chinese economic miracle and the rapid growth of China as a global superpower. I was also fascinated by the relationship between China and the West. For Britain, that's a colonial relationship with some very bad blood on both sides; for America, the rise of China poses a serious economic and military threat. More than anything, though, I wanted to write a political thriller which was also a love story, an epic about greed and loyalty and betrayal.

You took three trips to China to research for this book. Do you enjoy the same aspects of China ("...the thrilling anonymity of being at large in Asia") that your character does?

I lived in Madrid for three years and wrote a novel set there, The Spanish Game. I certainly loved the sense of waking up every morning in a city where nobody knew who I was, where I was from or what I did for a living. So I guess I transferred that feeling to Joe Lennox in Typhoon. There is an ‘otherness' to Shanghai which also amplifies the buzz of anonymity, the sense of anything being possible. Anonymity is also a key element in spying. A spy assumes different roles, different personalities. He can be one thing to one person, another to somebody else. And who is he to himself? That's a question that I try to explore in all my books.

Read the rest of the interview with Charles Cumming.

Interview with author Eugenia Kim

Eugenia Kim is the author of The Calligrapher's Daughter, which takes inspiration from Kim's mother's life growing up in early 20th century Korea and eventually moving to the United States. The story encompasses a enthralling personal story, the roles of gender and class, and Korea's fight for independence and struggle with modernity. This is Kim's first novel.

How did it first occur to you to write a book about your mother's life?

Like many mothers and daughters, my mother and I had our difficulties. Primary among them was the fact that she spoke little English and I spoke even less Korean. One of the ways we connected was through her stories. She was a great storyteller, very dramatic, but it was the stories themselves that captured me. In the mid 1990s, I started to write one of her stories down, just as a way to find something creative to do that wasn't as equipment-intensive as painting and drawing. That story kept growing. I took a few workshops, got some encouragement, and then as I began to write more, realized I had no idea what I was doing. I also wasn't sure if I should be writing this book as nonfiction or a fiction, especially since, as a Confucian daughter, I had the deeply instilled notion of having to honor my parents. Wouldn't nonfiction be the best way to properly tell their story? I went to school to find out, and realized two important things: that by writing it as fiction, I would have better access to the kind of emotional truth I wanted this story to convey. Second, that because of the language barrier between my mother and myself, when I listened to her stories and would fill in words or phrases I didn't fully understand, I was already creating a fiction in that act of listening.

The main character, Najin, ends up with a nickname based on her mother's hometown, because her father refused to name her out of spite for the day she was born coinciding with Japan's occupation of Korea. Did this actually happen to your mother?

No, my mother had her given name (Hahn Hyegyung) and also, as is very common, a nickname (Taekang--a boy's name). Because it was considered unspeakably rude to call a person by their given name, people chose nicknames by which they were called. An example from my library is the book, The Lost Mother, by Iltang, whose given name is Kim Tae-shin. There were several factors that went into the decision to not give Najin a name. Matriarchal names were lost over generations since they were not recorded in the family registry. My mother never knew her grandmother's name and had to think hard to remember her own mother's given name. Because of her upbringing, it made her too uncomfortable to speak her mother's name, and so she wrote it down for me instead. Also, in my research on this period in Korea, I was surprised and dismayed to find so few works written by or about women. Out of these factors, combined with Asia's tradition of silencing women, the decision to not name my protagonist grew naturally.

Read the rest of the interview with Eugenia Kim

Have your own questions for Eugenia Kim? She will be chatting with LibraryThing members (as well as giving away a signed copy of her book) until December 6th here.

Author interviews—you ask the questions

We're now giving you the chance to come up with interview questions too. Check out the Author Interviews—you ask the questions group.

Next month one of our interviews will be with Julie Powell, author of Julie & Julia, about her new book Cleaving: A Story of Marriage, Meat, and Obsession. We'll also be interviewing 31 Hours author Masha Hamilton. Have a question for Powell or Hamilton? Post them here.

Author chats

Author Chat lets you talk to authors—ask questions, get answers, and find out more about how or why a book is written. The schedule of upcoming chats is posted too, so you can plan to read the author's book ahead of time.

Current chats

More free books: Member Giveaways

At any given time, there are hundreds of books available from our Member Giveaways program. Member Giveaways is like Early Reviewers, but isn't limited to select publishers—any author or member can post books. Request books, or offer your own books!

Other LibraryThing Fun

Help Add Used Bookstores to LibraryThing. To make Local Book Search as good as it can be, we need to connect as many bookstores as possible to the LibraryThing Local system. AbeBooks.com has allowed us to access all their booksellers, to fill in the "Used Bookstore" category. Already, LibraryThing members have added 2,039 stores. We still need help, as there are 3,434 left to go! Start pitching in, or read more in the blog post.

Generosity-based publishing is what Concord Free Press calls giving away free books. In exchange, the receiver agrees to make a donation to a local charity, then pass the book along (so someone else has the chance to read and donate). Thanks to Concord Free Press (whom we love), Abby has mailed 14 copies of Gregory Maguire's new book The Next Queen of Heaven into the wild (via Member Giveaways). We're thrilled to participate, and hope members honor Concord's request to make a donation and send the book along its way. Read more at the blog. You can also read Abby's interview with Gregory Maguire above.

Popular this month

  1. Her Fearful Symmetry by Audrey Niffenegger
  2. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  3. The Year of the Flood by Margaret Atwood
  4. The Lost Symbol by Dan Brown
  5. An Echo in the Bone: A Novel by Diana Gabaldon
  6. Catching Fire by Suzanne Collins
  7. The Magicians by Lev Grossman
  8. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  9. South of Broad by Pat Conroy
  10. Push by Sapphire

One other little thing

This State of the Thing is being sent to you from Sonya, not Abby. You may ask yourself why, why change a good thing? Abby's on to bigger things, as our director of LibraryThing for Libraries and I am taking on much of what Abby had been doing, including Early Reviewers, general site questions and this very State of the Thing.

That's it.

Questions, comments, ideas, suggestions? Send them our way.

—Sonya, one of the LibraryThing librarians (sonya@librarything.com)

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