Welcome to the August State of the Thing, your guide to all things LibraryThing. This month we have 1,779 free books, new publisher pages, a photo contest, news on our foray into the Dewey system, a few site improvements, an exclusive interview with David Mitchell and a podcast with Dr. Larry Rosen, as well as a list of Lisa Grunwald's summer reads.
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News and Features
LibraryThing for Publishers. We've just finished a new feature for publishers called "LibraryThing for Publishers." Like LibraryThing Local, Local Book Search, LibraryThing for Libraries and LibraryThing Authors, LibraryThing for Publishers is about linking arms with another important player in the book world, for everyone's benefit. Read all about it here.
Photo contest. Mockingjay, the final book in the Hunger Games trilogy, comes out Tuesday. You can win a box set of all three books by submitting a photo recreating a moment from one of the books. Get the details from the blog announcement.
Melvil Decimal System. MDS is the Dewey Decimal(R) System, Melvil Dewey's innovative classification system, as it has been applied to books in LibraryThing members' books. You can read more, including how to participate, in the blog post.
Bookshelf view. We released a new "widget" or "toggle," that showcases a list of book in either list or "shelf" mode. For now, it's just on tag pages, but we plan to expand it to other lists of works. Get more information here.
Your publishers. There's a new Stats/Memes page that shows how your books stack up against LibraryThing Publishers. See yours, and get the lowdown.
Controversial books. Tim created a fun statistics page, showing your 100 most controversial books. See yours and read more about it here.
Helpers changes: Separation tracked, helpers log updated. The act of separating two books that shouldn't have been combined is now being tracked, and shown on the helper log. Also, the helper log now includes tag proposals and brief explanations for each type of combination. Read more about all of the new tweaks here.
ReadaThing: In public. On Sunday, LibraryThing members across the world read in public, as part of the August ReadaThing. A lot of reading was done in coffee shops, but also under a church tower in Belgium, and at the sideline of a soccer match. Read about the public reading adventures.
Free books: Early Reviewers
Read and review free books, before they even hit the shelves! We've given out 57,828 books so far through Early Reviewers.
The August batch of Early Reviewer books contains 1,779 copies of 75 different titles. The deadline to request a free book to read and review is Friday, August 27th at 6pm EST. A mysterious bonus batch will be up Monday.
The list of books
The four most requested books so far this month:
Interview with author David Mitchell
David Mitchell is the acclaimed author of Cloud Atlas. His new book is The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, a historical novel set on Dejima, the Dutch East India Company's island post in turn-of-the-19th-century Japan. Jacob de Zoet, a young Dutch clerk, finds himself falling for a Japanese midwife and caught up in a world entirely different from what he's known. Love transcends culture, Japan's closed society and de Zoet's fiancee back home. Longlisted for the Man Booker prize and already a New York Times bestseller, The Thousand Autumns is currently the #1 most popular book on LibraryThing. The book's website is here.
Mad-Lib Author Blurb: David Mitchell lives in West Cork, Ireland with his family. He forgets things when he's not remembering them.
There are many languages at play in the novel—the Dutch speak to the Japanese through interpreters, the Japanese to each other, and the Dutch to each other, of course—but we read it all in English. How was that to write? Do you speak Dutch or Japanese? Was any of the dialogue originally written in another language, or was it always in English?
Oh, it was a nightmare to write—really, every sentence was an obstacle course.
Rightly or wrongly I feel that my ear for contemporary dialogue is one of my strongest suits, and to be unable to use that faculty—to be unable to write in a novel like I'm writing this email now—felt like running a marathon with 20 kilos strapped to my back. What do you do with idiom or slang? How do you flavour language?
I speak Japanese to an intermediate level, and I learnt enough Dutch to know a little how the language works, but not enough to converse. (Did you know by the by that 'to let the cat out of the bag' in Dutch is 'to let the monkey out of the sleeve'? Isn't that cool?)
Tell me about William Pitt.
The monkey or the British Prime Minister? The latter was a young, dynamic PM, and there's lots to admire about him: a pragmatist with enough idealism to help Wilberforce smuggle through the abolition of slavery in the British Empire, despite ferocious opposition from powerful conservatives. Of course, if you happened to be Dutch and an ally/vassal of France during the Revolutionary and Napoleonic Wars, William Pitt was a cunning, opportunistic enemy who was in large part responsible for strangling Dutch shipping and impoverishing your homeland. Hence the monkey on Dejima is named William Pitt.
Narratively, William Pitt singlehandedly brings about the novel's first 'cute-meet' (a Hollywood term I only just learnt, meaning the scene in a film where the future romantic interests meet for the first time, tho' being Americans you probably already know this) between Jacob and Orito. William Pitt runs off with an amputated limb. Orito chases William Pitt into a warehouse where Jacob is working alone.
Read the rest of the interview with David Mitchell.
Interview with author Larry Rosen
Dr. Larry Rosen's new book Rewired: Understanding the iGeneration and the Way They Learn looks at how technologies available to children today (the iGeneration) are affecting the ways they best learn. He observes children texting during class, studies the technologies they're using on their own time and applies his observations (and clinical research) to suggestions for educators and parents for how to engage students.
Dr. Rosen and I sat down and recorded a podcast of our phone interview on July 29th. We'll also have a transcript of the podcast available shortly.
Hear the podcast interview with Larry Rosen. You can also ask Dr. Rosen a question in his author chat.
Coming up. Next month we'll have an interview with Jane Smiley, about her new book Private Life. We'll also be interviewing Mary Roach, about her new book Packing for Mars, which was a recent Early Reviewer giveaway.
You ask the questions
If you'd like to ask an author a question, post it in the Author Interviews—you ask the questions group.
Summer reads: Lisa Grunwald, author of The Irresistible Henry House
Lisa Grunwald is the author of the summer hit The Irresistible Henry House. We've asked Lisa to share her summer reads with us.
Only one of these books is new, because I've not yet had my own summer vacation, and have therefore not had the pleasure of getting sand in the pages (or on the screen?). These are just four books I read in other summers and loved so much that they caused either sunburn or pallor, depending on whether I was outside or in when I couldn't put them down.
The Alienist by Caleb Carr. Mystery, murder, mayhem, old New York, literary suspense, and cameos by some of the great historical figures of the 19th century. The great allure of this book is the way it shocks and seduces at the same time. Set in any era, the story of the crimes committed in this book and the attempts to solve them would have been fascinating. But with the patina of another century, the novel enters the realm of the universal when it comes to mining the human mind and heart.
The Puzzle King by Betsy Carter. Admission: the author is one of my best friends. But if she weren't, reading this novel would make me want her to be. It's an immigrant's tale and a vivid, memorable love story, inspired by one small but haunting family fact. Following three German sisters and their experiences in their old and adopted countries, The Puzzle King is filled with longing and love.
Endurance by Alfred Lansing. If it were fiction, it would be too implausible to enjoy. But if you have never read this story of the ill-fated South Pole voyage of Ernest Shackleton, you must. More than 15 years after first reading it, I can still feel the chill of the arctic ice and the primal urge to survive it. The shipwreck and the entire disaster were in many respects the result of Shackleton's hubris, and yet that same drive makes for a memorable main character and a story that is every bit as compelling as the man.
The Right Stuff by Tom Wolfe. Long before the disappointment of Charlotte Simmons or the thrill of Bonfire of the Vanities, there was the brilliance of this unforgettable, reportorial tour de force. With The Right Stuff, which was originally published in 1979, Wolfe did two things that were fairly unusual at the time: he allowed an omniscient narrator to enter the minds of non-fictional characters; and he made heroism compelling to an audience raised on anti-heroes. Amazingly enough, while neither of those is a revelation anymore, the book itself still is.
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.
More free books: Member Giveaways
At any given time, there are hundreds of books available from our Member Giveaways program—right now there are 445. Member Giveaways is like Early Reviewers, but isn't limited to select publishers—any member can post books. Request books, or offer your own!
Popular this month
- The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet by David Mitchell
- One Day by David Nicholls
- The Passage by Justin Cronin
- The Short Second Life of Bree Tanner by Stephenie Meyer
- The Windup Girl by Paolo Bacigalupi
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks by Rebecca Skloot
- Major Pettigrew's Last Stand by Helen Simonson
- Dead in the Family by Charlaine Harris
- The Girl Who Kicked the Hornet's Nest by Stieg Larsson
- Solar by Ian McEwan
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