What to Read Next? I is for Internet

Today’s post, brought to you by the letter

is all about finding books on the Internet — because I is for Internet.

Obviously, I write this blog about books thinking that people might find it helpful in figuring out what to read next, and this blog is on the internet, so the internet MUST be a helpful source of information to figure out what to read next, right? Yes and no.

Let’s start with No so we move in a positive direction. In the past when I’ve followed advice from internet-people-I-don’t-know, I’ve been disappointed. In a usenet group I read a positive comparison between Codex, by Lev Grossman to Possession (which is my selection for The Best Book Ever). It turns out the comparison between Codex and Possession was made in the New York Times Book Review and did not originate with the person who continued the comparison in the usenet group. All I have to say to the reviewer is You Must Be Joking. And: Have You Read Possession? Possession has a depth to it that Codex certainly does not have. Codex barely sustained one reading let alone the multiple readings I’ve subjected Possession to. There are some similarities in subject matter, but there the similarities end. I was thoroughly disappointed in Codex and am surprised it is still in print. This bad experience means a few things. (a) I’m suspicious of recommendations from people I don’t know in usenet groups. (b) I’m really conflicted about trying Grossman’s later books — which look interesting — because of the bad earlier work. (c) No one should ever compare books with Possession. IMHO of course.

On the other hand, Yes, I’ve found the internet helpful in figuring out what to read next. I use the fantastic fiction site regularly to keep up with favourite authors, and to find out which book comes next in the series I just found. This is the website that alerted me to the fact that Margaret Atwood and Kate Atkinson contributed stories to the same collection called Crimespotters. I ran out and read Crimespotters and quite enjoyed it. I also use the LibraryThing recommendation lists. I think there are flaws in the recommendation algorithm at LibraryThing and you do have to be a member with some books entered for this to work (I think) but it gives me a sense of what people-with-books-like-mine have in their collections. Then there are social media sites like Twitter and Facebook. Last year the Toronto Public Library FB page offered to recommend books if people sent them three books they really liked a lot. I did this. It took a while for the TPL staffers to get back to me — I think they probably got flooded with requests — but the list they sent was helpful. And I liked the books they recommended.

What about right now? Has the Internet recommended any books to me lately? Yes. And I’m of two minds about the recommendation. On the NPR site is a new blog post by Lev Grossman recommending books for one’s inner geek. I classify myself as a geek. I’m suspicious of Lev Grossman (see above). Reading a blog post isn’t too much of a commitment, so I clicked on the short link in Twitter. Grossman recommends three books: Possession (which I love), Snow Crash (which I also love, but which is so different from Possession), and Fifth Business by Robertson Davies, which is on my to-be-read shelf. Rats. I think I might take Grossman’s advice and read Fifth Business. I’ll let you know how that turns out.

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