A Very Unique Book Event

After two false starts, I was lucky enough that this was the book event I was able to attend. I showed up at the Eat My Words bookstore in Northeast Minneapolis and found a charming, if a bit small, shop. I wandered around looking for where the reading might be before heading back to the counter. I asked about it and was directed to the two people sitting in cozy chairs behind me!

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The woman on the left is Carolyn Porter, author of Marcel’s Letters, the fascinating true story of a French man who was conscripted into a labor camp in Nazi Germany and whose letters found their way to 21st century Stillwater. I settled into the chair next to her and introduced myself. She spend thirty to forty minutes reading passages from the book and the next hour or so talking with us about everything we could think to ask. We managed to turn the hour-long event into an hour and a half!

The event wasn’t what I was expecting, but that turned out to be for the best as I got a chance to chat with and know the author. We even discussed the possibility of doing an event at my library in Northfield. I found the event through Rain Taxi, a Minneapolis-based literary organization. Their Twin Cities literary calendar was a godsend as I tried to plan out my project. I also found the Facebook event for the reading which gave me even more information.

The introduction was more of being pointed to the chair by the woman at the desk. I was, as I mentioned, expecting a larger space and a few more people, though that is certainly not a complaint on my end. If every reading I went to was that personal, I would be a happy man. Though if more people had shown up, I’m not sure their space would have been big enough to host them. There were two recliners and one two-person sized couch. Beyond that, there was some standing room near the front door, but that was not ideal either.

Porter herself was fascinating and hearing her story of creating a font and uncovering a riveting tale in the process was excellent. I plan on getting hold of a copy when our library gets one. When it comes to putting on an event like this (which I actually might be with her! What luck!), I’d be sure to go big on the promotion, especially in Northfield. I feel like this is the kind of story and event that quite a few people in town would be interested in. Not only that, but our programs are generally well attended. We have a newly renovated space and a sizable meeting room that would work well for hosting. This would prevent many of the constraints that could have become a problem at the event I attended. I would make sure that there was a decent amount of time set aside for a Q&A because she was quite engaging with good answers to our questions.

And, at last, a selfie for good measure:

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Reflection No. 4

I’ve definitely heard of LibraryThing (LT). I think that when I started out on Goodreads I looked at LT, but liked the layout and depth of  Goodreads a bit better. So this is really the first I’ve spent much time looking at it. I’m going to spend some time on both LT and the BookSuggester.

LibraryThing boasts a community of 2.1 millions readers, which is certainly appealing. The site looks a bit sparse at first glance, though I like the Recent Activity tab that’s on the front page. The personal pages look similar to Goodreads. The Talk tab seems to be where the action is. There are an enormous amount of topics and people are so active in them. The front page alone shows the most recent posts and they’re all from within the last 2 hours. Groups seem to be similar. I like the variety of groups that the site offers and the ability to see which ones are popular. Zeitgeist looks like fun to me, but I’m kind of a stats wonk. I can imagine it might be overwhelming to someone else though.

On to the BookSuggester! I both like and dislike the fact that there is just a search box and nothing else. It’s nice in a minimalist way and you don’t have to think a lot about your input, but it seems like there’s not a lot of room for specifying your preferences. The individual book page that it took me to is very attractive, but most of the recommendations were for books by the same author. This makes sense, but it would be nice to see a bit more variety. Also, the different sections of suggestions seem to be very repetitive, which I don’t necessarily understand the point of.

All in all, I like the layout, but it seems like the content could be a big stronger. The community aspects of LibraryThing are really appealing. Plus, it has ‘Library’ in the name which panders to me.

Reflection No. 3

Goodreads is one of my favorite sites. I know, I know, the whole Amazon thing is unfortunate, but it’s so simple, has such a good community of readers and reviewers, and is an excellent place for me to keep my thoughts on books and keep track of what I’ve read. So why am I writing a reflection on a source I already use and love? There is so much more on there than I realized! I tend to go straight to my books or the search bar, but the Browse and Community tabs offer so many options! I’d like to discuss some of them and how they can be useful reader’s advisory tools.

Browse > Genres. Holy cow! Again, not spending much time navigating the site, I completely missed this section. You can pick a genre and it will show you new releases (!), what’s been read this week, and collections of lists and groups. Talk about a good way to keep up on the latest and greatest. Each of the books on the new releases section links to its Goodreads profile, offering a quick overview of the book. This might be my new strategy for keeping up with new books.

Browse > Blog. So Goodreads has a blog. Makes sense, but somehow I never even thought to look for one. Goodreads staff post excellent, curated book lists. As someone who is a fan of book lists, this is like a dream. Consider it bookmarked.

Community > Discussions. Again, how is it that I’ve gone this far without knowing that there are groups of people discussing books? There are discussions for books across the board! Not only that, but it seems to be pretty active and as far as I can tell, there’s a hefty archive. This would be a good source for readers who want to dive a bit deeper into their book. It’s kind of like a miniature forum based book club. Schyeah!

That’s what I get for underestimating Goodreads: the opportunity to find even more cool things!