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LibraryThing: State of the Thing
Dear Reader,

Welcome to the March State of the Thing, your guide to all things LibraryThing. This month we have a LibraryThing game, a new book recommender, exclusive author interviews with Seth Grahame-Smith and Jonathan Maberry, 2,482 free Early Reviewer books and 310 Member Giveaway books available.

If you'd rather receive a plain-text version, edit your email preferences. You can also read it online.

News and Features

CoverGuess: A LibraryThing game. The goal was to build up a database of cover descriptions, to answer questions like "Do you have that book with a bride on a bicycle?", and what we ended up with is an addictive game where we give you covers, and you describe them in words. If you guess the same things as other players, you get points. See the current high scorers, and play it here. Read more about it on the blog.

New group: Hobnob with Authors. Carving out a place where authors are allowed to promote their books, Hobnob with Authors gives authors and readers a place to mingle. Self-published authors can use the group to find members interested in reviewing their work. Read the blog post for more.

"Read Alike" recommendations. Still in beta (meaning it's not perfected yet but we're showing you anyway), these new recommendations are based directly on the members who have your books, the people who "read like you". Read the blog post.

Early Reviewers: Reviews now identified. For any review written for Early Reviewers, you'll now see an Early Reviewers icon and note at the top of that review. Here's an example.

Early Reviewers: Opt to receive two books per month. We recently had an overabundance situation, and are now offering the opportunity for Early Reviewers members the option of winning a second book. Read the explanation here.

Join "Community Projects" in Groups. Previously, you could join groups, but only watch projects like Legacy Libraries or Combiners!. Now you can join projects. It's a minor change, but it lets you see who your fellow community project members are. Tim explains more here.

Free books: Early Reviewers

Read and review free books, before they even hit the shelves! We've given out a whopping 48,481 books so far through Early Reviewers.

The March batch of Early Reviewer books contains 2,482 copies of 82 different titles. The deadline to request a free book from the March batch, to read and review is Friday, March 26th at 6pm EST. The next batch will be up during the second week of April.

The list of books

The most requested books so far this month:

Interview with Seth Grahame-Smith

Seth Grahame-Smith broke onto the classics scene with Pride and Prejudice and Zombies. Now he's taking on the biography genre with Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter.

By the title, one might think Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is a cash-in on the monster mash-up novel idea. Sure, the title sums up the book in four words, but like Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, it's actually more intelligent than its sensational name. As we all know, Lincoln rises to political power to become one of the most famous presidents of all time for his fight against the injustice of slavery (and vampirism).

The separation of fact and fiction is not obvious in this "biography", with the vampirical information introduced via a secret diary of Lincoln's. What percentage of the book, would you say, is factual Lincoln information? We've seen news agencies pick up stories from The Onion, so are you worried about this being someone's first biography of Lincoln, and them getting their fact and fiction mixed up?

I'm not sure about the percentages, but I tried to include as much real history as possible. To me, that was the fun of writing (and hopefully of reading) the book: blending fact and fiction as seamlessly as I could. I spent a couple of months reading Lincoln's letters, speeches, reviewing his timeline, reading descriptions of his surroundings and studying photos and paintings related to his life—not enough time to become a Lincoln expert by any means, but enough for me to get a solid grasp of the real life story. As for someone mistaking this as fact? Man, I hope not. That would be truly, truly sad for the individual in question.

Did you have a pre-existing appreciation for Lincoln before writing this book?

Absolutely—but nothing like the appreciation I had for him after I wrote it. As I researched, I was struck again and again by the amount of suffering the real Lincoln endured in his life. Burying his mother. Burying his older sister. His first love. Two of his sons. Coming from absolutely nothing—no money, no education, no family name—and through the sheer power of his mind and strength of character, achieving the highest office in the land (and using that office to save our country from self-destruction).

Read the rest of the interview with Seth Grahame-Smith.

Interview with Jonathan Maberry

Jonathan Maberry is the author of the techno-thriller Patient Zero. His new book, The Dragon Factory, is the sequel. This time Joe faces a few more human-created monsters, but none so evil as the bioterrorists who created them.

Jonathan is a multiple Bram Stoker Award-winning author, magazine feature writer, playwright, content creator, writing teacher/lecturer and LibraryThing author. Also, he's in the International Martial Arts Hall of Fame.

A major plot line of Dragon Factory is of bioterrorism, and out-and-out evil, which Joe Ledger and the DMS (Department of Military Science) fight against. Joe makes the point that lighting a fire doesn't usually just harm those in the wrong. Is this a comment on the contemporary world's fight of terrorism, and the complexity of separating those who are evil, those who are unwitting abettors and the innocent folks who happen to be standing nearby?

Yes...and it's a very complex issue. People generally don't wear I.D. badges that say "Good Guy", "Bad Guy" and "Innocent Bystander". There are innocent hurt in virtually any conflict, and a soldier with a strong moral compass has to bear that burden. At the same time, there is the ethical issue of 'acceptable losses'. If there is a threat so massive that it will overwhelm many, is it acceptable to allow a smaller number of innocents to perish in order to prevent the worst case scenario? We've wrestled with that issue for centuries and there is seldom a 'right' answer.

You had done a lot of scientific research (like on prions) to explain the zombies in Patient Zero. What kind of research did you find yourself doing for Dragon Factory?

First off, I'm a research junkie. When I begin a new novel I spend a lot of time doing research. Not only on the core topic—which in this case was transgenics and related areas of genetic science—but dozens of other topics, ranging from ethnic-specific diseases, cryptozoology, World War II, the death camps, the diseases of poverty, and more. The inspiration for this book was the question: What would happen if modern genetic science was applied to the Nazi Master Race program? That's a scary thought, considering the ethnic cleansing.

Read the rest of the interview with Jonathan Maberry. Also, you can post a question or comment for Jonathan RIGHT NOW in the author chat.

Would you like to ask authors questions?

We have upcoming interviews with David Baldacci, Yann Martel, Laurie R. King and Theresa Brown, author of the Early Reviewers book Critical Care. If you'd like to ask any of these authors questions about their books, writing or lives, you can post them in the group Author Interviews. You can also join or watch the group to see which authors we'll be talking to next.

Author recommendations: Dexter Palmer, author of The Dream of Perpetual Motion

Dexter Palmer, author of The Dream of Perpetual Motion, explains how this list of books helped to him to build his new steampunk novel. You may recognize the book from the February batch of Early Reviewers.

Dexter is doing an author chat on LibraryThing right now, so you can post questions and comments for him here.

Paris in the Twentieth Century by Jules Verne. This is one of the books that influenced me when I was designing the setting for The Dream of Perpetual Motion. Discovered in a safe after having been thought lost for 125 years, this 1863 manuscript is Verne's depiction of life in Paris in the then-futuristic 1960s. Verne's lifelong editor, Pierre-Jules Hetzel, rejected the novel upon submission due to its ludicrous, fanciful inventions, such as elevators, fax machines, subways, and electric chairs.

Miss Lonelyhearts/The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West. Often found bound together in a single volume, these two short novels by West are both satires that deal with one of his favorite subjects—the way in which mass media promotes the commodification of sentiment. Miss Lonelyhearts deals with a newspaper advice columnist who's driven to despair by the endless troubles described in the letters he receives; in The Day of the Locust West draws on his experience as a screenwriter to create a trenchant indictment of the Hollywood lifestyle. Both novels are acid-tongued and very funny.

The Difference Engine by William Gibson and Bruce Sterling. This is a 1990 collaborative effort by two of cyberpunk's greatest writers, and one of the earliest novels in the subgenre that's now known as steampunk. The Difference Engine takes place in an exactingly detailed alternate-history London, circa 1855, in which runaway technological advancement has granted the British Empire even more power than it had in our own history. Though not futuristic in the sense that cyberpunk once was, the novel still deals in a fresh way with cyberpunk's habitual concerns, such as the impact of communication technologies on human relationships and civil liberties.

Ada, or Ardor by Vladimir Nabokov. One of Nabokov's last works, published when he was close to seventy, Ada takes place on an alternate version of Earth where the use of electricity has been banned and the history of Russia has taken a sharply different turn. If you are new to Nabokov's writing, or to alternate-history fiction in general, this might not be the best place to start; however, a number of Nabokov's fans consider Ada to be his masterpiece.

Author recommendations: Susan Wilson, author of One Good Dog

Susan Wilson gives us some canine-related recommendations and explains what makes them similar to her just-published One Good Dog. You may recognize the book from the February batch of Early Reviewers.

Susan is doing an author chat on LibraryThing right now, so you can post questions and comments for her here.

Merle's Door: Lessons from a Free-thinking Dog by Ted Kerasote. Probably more than any other book, this memoir of a man and his dog informed my concept of Chance and his world view. Merle, the mixed breed dog of the title is given a gift greater than most dogs in this world get—freedom of movement and choice. With the construction of his door, Merle free ranges all over the countryside of their Wyoming home.

The Art of Racing in the Rain by Garth Stein. Enzo is the perfect narrator of this fanciful tale of love and faith. Believing with all his heart that his next life will be as a human, Enzo lives his life in service to his people. I didn't read this book until One Good Dog was complete, and I'm glad that I didn't. Garth Stein draws his lovable Enzo with such skill I might have been intimidated out of trying. Racing is a wonderful testament to the trope that the willing suspension of disbelief is the truth in really good story-telling.

A Memory of Running by Ron McLarty. Was there ever such an anti-hero as Smithy Ide? Overweight, chain-smoking, sad sack of a guy who one day finds himself on a journey aboard his old red Raleigh bike across country. Redemption is a key theme in One Good Dog, and Smithy's story is a redemption story told in a gentle, yet in its own way, epic fashion. He's let life take hold of him like a dog shaking a squeaky toy, but by the end of his journey, he is reborn and no longer the victim of his own inertia.

The Dog Who Spoke with Gods by Diane Jessup. This story of a pit bull subjected to life in a university research lab is equally disturbing and uplifting. Damien is the once wild dog captured and thrust into life in a cage, subjected to unspeakable torment in the name of science. He is befriended by pre-med student Elizabeth, who, as his only hope and comfort, sacrifices her own safety and future to save Damien from his torture. This is not any easy book to read and I don't know if the author's depiction of medical research is accurate, although I suspect it is, but what is accurate is the degree of faith a good dog will have in his person. It is, after all, the blind trust our dogs have in us that reassures us of our humanity. What's the popular saying: Be the person your dog thinks you are. In this novel, both dog and girl are equally matched in their devotion to one another, both have faith. She is his god, he is her awakening to the painful truth about the trustworthiness of authorities who place success above human kindness.

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!

Popular this month

  1. The Last Song by Nicholas Sparks
  2. When You Reach Me by Rebecca Stead
  3. Let the Great World Spin by Colum McCann
  4. Hush, Hush by Becca Fitzpatrick
  5. Soulless by Gail Carriger
  6. Half Broke Horses by Jeannette Walls
  7. The Help by Kathryn Stockett
  8. Wolf Hall by Hilary Mantel
  9. A Reliable Wife by Robert Goolrick
  10. SuperFreakonomics: Global Cooling, Patriotic Prostitutes, and Why Suicide Bombers Should Buy Life Insurance by Steven D. Levitt

That's it.

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

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

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