LibraryThing: State of the Thing
Dear Reader,

Welcome to the April State of the Thing. This month we have new physical description fields for your books, ReadaThing news, 2,763 free Early Reviewer books and hundreds of Member Giveaway books available. I interview authors Marcia Clark and Jessica Speart, and Lisa Carey talks to author Susan Conley.

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News and Features

Physical description fields. We've begun rolling out some new fields to all members: pagination, physical dimensions (height, length, thickness), weight, and volume count. You'll receive a profile comment when the fields are available for your books.

We've also added a fun statistics/memes page to display some of the data from these fields (did you ever wonder how high your books would be if they were all piled in one big stack? or how many bathtubs they would fill? or how far the pages would stretch if laid end-to-end?). You can find yours here. If you're not signed in, check out Tim's here. Read more about this on the blog.

ReadaThing/Do Nothing But Read Day. The folks in the ReadaThing group have planned a 24-hour readathon for Saturday, April 23, and if you're up for a bigger challenge, The Green Dragon is hosting a "Do Nothing But Read" Day for the same day. We hope you'll join one (or both) if you can! More info here.

LibraryThing is faster! Our server administrator, John Dalton (felius) carried out a major restructuring of how our site traffic is distributed across our web servers. This has resulted in significant speed increases on many pages. For more details on this, see the blog post.

MARC Export You can now export your LibraryThing catalog as MARC records. Choose the "Export as MARC" option on the Import/Export page, under the More tab when you're signed in. Read more about this on the blog, or see the HelpThing page.

New LibraryThing for Publishers pages. We'd like to welcome Charlesbridge, Liberty Fund, Pomegranate, Kane Miller Books, and a whole host of other fine publishers to LibraryThing for Publishers. Publishers, we'd love to have you! Find out how to sign up here.

Legacy Libraries news. This month saw the completion of a Legacy Library catalog for George Orwell. Thanks to LTer xkyzero for cataloging this collection!

Free books: Early Reviewers

Read and review free books, before they even hit the shelves! We've given out 76,281 books so far through Early Reviewers.

The April batch of Early Reviewer books contains 2,763 copies of 110 different titles. The deadline to request a free book to read and review is April 28 at 6 p.m. EST. The next batch will be up during the second week of May.

The list of books

The most requested books so far this month:

Interview with author Marcia Clark

Marcia Clark, a former Los Angeles deputy district attorney, was the lead prosecutor in the O.J. Simpson murder trial. Her debut novel, Guilt by Association is out this month from Mulholland Books. Clark lives in L.A.

What made you decide to write a novel? Did you enjoy it more than writing non-fiction?

I've always wanted to write a novel, and over the years, story ideas would come to me, that would make me want to get busy and do it. But it wasn't until about five years ago that I really decided to get off my duff do it. It was one of those "now or never" things.

I always wanted to write the kind of book I like to read, and I've always loved mystery/thriller novels. Though non-fiction can be fascinating, fiction gives you the freedom to create a whole world; a story that intrigues you, the kind of characters you want to explore, the issues that interest you. Its hard work, no question, but it's a lot of fun.

Did you find that real-life experiences or cases influenced the plot of Guilt By Association?

Definitely, though not in any direct or specific way. Real-life experiences gave me the general idea to fashion stories around people leading secret lives, the things they choose to keep hidden, and the mash-up of good and bad in all people. But the story was pure fiction. I never had a case like either of the ones in the book.

Rachel Knight and her associates seem generally comfortable with, shall we say, breaking the rules. Did you observe similar behaviors during your time in the DA's office?

Oh, no you don't. Book or no, I've still got the right to remain silent.

Read the rest of the interview with Marcia Clark.

Interview with author Jessica Speart

Jessica Speart has written widely on a range of wildlife protection issues. She is the author of Winged Obsession, a fascinating look inside the sordid world of butterfly smuggling, published this month by W.W. Norton. The book is available in this month's Early Reviewer batch: request now!

You're also the author of ten mysteries starring Fish & Wildlife Service special agent Rachel Porter, and several articles on wildlife protection issues. What got you interested in writing about this field?

I've always been interested in wildlife but it was a trip to Africa that brought specific conservation issues into focus for me. I returned home knowing that I wanted to somehow help wildlife. I'd previously been an actress so this was a big change for me.

Have you decided to focus on writing non-fiction at this point, or do you plan more mysteries in the future?

I loved writing the Rachel Porter mystery series. I got to live vicariously through Rachel while researching and writing about what's important to me. I had to discover another way to do that when the series ended. I found it through writing narrative nonfiction. It brings together all the elements I enjoy. I'm still able to work with fascinating characters and create a powerful narrative to drive the story. I would certainly enjoy writing mysteries again. However, I've also learned that truth really is stranger than fiction.

How did you learn about the Kojima case, and when did you realize you wanted to write a book about it?

A Fish and Wildlife Service agent told me about the case after Kojima had been caught and sentenced. The subject immediately captured my interest. One of Rachel Porter's adventures had involved an endangered California butterfly, and I already knew how quirky the world of butterfly collecting could be. The more I learned about the case, the more I realized a magazine article would never do it justice. The story had to be a book.

Read the rest of the interview with Jessica Speart.

Interview with author Susan Conley

Susan Conley is the author of The Foremost Good Fortune (Knopf), a memoir of life in Beijing, where she and her family lived for more than two years. Susan's writing has previously been published in The New York Times Magazine, The Paris Review, the Harvard Review, and The North American Review. She has taught creative writing and literature at several New England colleges and is the cofounder of The Telling Room, a creative writing lab in Portland, Maine. Susan and her family now live in Portland.

This book is a unique combination of travel memoir, cancer story, and reflections on motherhood. At one point in the book, a friend gives you a journal to record thoughts about your illness and you put it aside, determined not to write about cancer. Can you tell us what changed your mind and how the book came to life?

I set out to China with the intent to write that first book you mention—the travel memoir. I wanted to write a story about my motherhood experience in China and how my boys learned Mandarin and came to some kind of understanding with their new life in Beijing. So I took copious notes and was a variation on the old notion of a scribe—I found pen and paper whenever my kids began asking those big, existential questions that kids ask at ages four and six. The good news for my book project was that my kids began asking even more questions about the universe once they moved to China—questions like how is it that China wakes up twelve hours earlier than everyone in Portland, Maine, where our house was. And quirkier, odder questions like, "Can we stay in China forever, because there's bamboo here?"

I was given a small journal to write down thoughts while I went through cancer. And I did put it away. But only for a week or two. It turns out I couldn't not write about my cancer—just small notes and infrequent. But these notes were enough for me to string together what I call the "cancer section" of my book. Because when I went back to those notes I'd taken, I realized I had one half of the book and that the memoir would be a story about motherhood on two continents and about dislocation—both within China and cancer. I also decided to write the story in present tense and in linear time and that for me opened the whole book up.

What was your favorite thing about living in China? What was the thing you disliked the most? Now that you are back, how did living in China change your relationship with Maine?

The people I met in China were big-hearted and loved life. The Chinese friends we were lucky to get to know were so deeply caring and so willing to help out when things got tougher for us. China for me is all about the people and the ancient culture—the way the old traditions are held on to so tightly and then woven into the new, modern face of China to arrive at all these interesting meldings. I think the thing about China that was the hardest is also the most predictable: ┬áthe pervasive pollution. In my book I describe it as a "noxious white fog." It look like the kind of fog that rolls into the small cove where I have lived every summer in Maine, and it can stay as long as a thick Maine fog soup, but the smog in China brings on splitting head aches and a sense of disorientation unlike anything I've ever known. I grew up in Maine—rural Maine in fact. So living in Beijing has only made me understand more clearly that line in the sand between being a city mouse and being a country mouse. Both are wonderful ways to live—but my roots are in a small village on the Kennebec River and I could never quite get used to the idea of raising my kids for their whole childhoods in the vastness of Beijing.

Read the rest of Lisa Carey's interview with Susan Conley.

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 chat: Larry Andrews is discussing The China-Africa Parallax: A Ryan and Gillian Mystery.

Upcoming chats: Larry Berger will discuss Instant Poetry (Just Add Words), and Jackson Holtz will discuss Fly, Colton, Fly: The True Story of the Barefoot Bandit.

Take me to the 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!

Popular this month

  1. The Wise Man's Fear by Patrick Rothfuss
  2. A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness
  3. I Am Number Four by Pittacus Lore
  4. A Visit from the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan
  5. Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand
  6. Matched by Ally Condie
  7. Cleopatra by Stacy Schiff
  8. Ship Breaker by Paolo Bacigalupi
  9. Room by Emma Donoghue
  10. The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot

That's it.

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

—Jeremy (jeremy@librarything.com)

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