Should You Read 2001: A Space Odyssey by Arthur C. Clarke?

The cover of 2001: A Space Odyssey, red with black dotted lines coming out from a circular yellow center

“The drought had lasted now for ten million years, and the reign of the terrible lizards had long since ended. Here on the Equator, in the continent which would one day be known as Africa, the battle for existence had reached a new climax of ferocity, and the victor was not yet in sight. In this barren and desiccated land, only the small or the swift or the fierce could flourish, or even hope to survive.”

– Opening of 2001: A Space Odyssey

2001: A Space Odyssey is a classic science fiction novel divided into three parts. The first follows the ancestors of humanity as they have a strange encounter that changes the course of human history. The second follows a scientist who journeys to the moon to investigate a top-secret discovery. And the last follows an astronaut on a journey to Saturn, although the real purpose of his mission is not told to him until disaster strikes.

I should mention that I’ve never seen the movie that was developed at the same time as this novel. I typically prefer books to movies, and therefore I was interested in reading this book but feel no particular compulsion to watch the movie. As such, this review will not contain any comparisons or an answer to the question of which is better. If you haven’t seen the movie either and are considering whether to read the book, I hope this will be helpful to you.

I will admit that I was aware of the movie going into this, and I knew one particular plot point from what is the third portion of the book (I think I saw a clip at some point), so I was surprised to find that the opening is not about space travel at all. That being said, once I got into it, I quite enjoyed reading about the man-apes, as Clarke envisioned them. It was fascinating to see what he thought they were like or what he thought they might have been like and to wonder about the mystery that begins unfolding here. The second section was, to my mind, a little slow, while the third started slow, picked way up, then disappointed me. I don’t recommend reading this if you’re looking for an exciting or action-packed plot.

What did the book have instead? Lots of descriptions of space, space travel, and the technology that humans use to live in and travel through space. I’m no expert on the science shown here, but it read to me as being quite believable, and there were many times when I did believe the author was presenting details as they truly are. If you haven’t read or watched much science fiction, perhaps many of the ideas would surprise you and catch your interest as well. I suspect that at the time it was written this was a large part of the appeal, as of course no one had created anything inspired by it yet.

I couldn’t help but notice that it is very much a product of its time, both in terms of the level of advancement of the scientific ideas and the portrayal of female characters. The latter wasn’t at the level where it was upsetting, but it was certainly noticeable to this reader. One line that gives a good idea of what I’m talking about is this: “[Space pods] were usually christened with feminine names, perhaps in recognition of the fact that their personalities were sometimes slightly unpredictable.” Coming from the omniscient narrator, that certainly helps explain in my mind why this depiction of “the future” focuses so heavily on men and seems to put them in every single position of power or influence in society. Some readers, I’m sure, will not mind this in the slightest. Others like myself will likely find it interesting, a view into the mindsets of the past as well as the futuristic speculations of the past. In the year 2022, I personally find it interesting to consider how the real 2001 turned out so differently than what Clarke predicted.

In the end, I found this book enjoyable enough. I’m glad I read it in order to understand the cultural relevance and the impact it’s had on what has come since. I also enjoyed seeing the writing techniques used and was intrigued to find that the book is so beloved in spite of what I wouldn’t have expected to be widely considered a compelling plot structure. If you like space and space travel or if you’re a science fiction buff, a lover of classic literature, or an aspiring science fiction writer, I would recommend giving this one a read. If you’re looking for good representation, action, or new ideas, I’d go with a modern science fiction book instead. Perhaps The World Gives Way, which I reviewed previously.

Should You Read How to Be Eaten by Maria Adelmann?

How to Be Eaten tells the stories of a variety of fairytale characters from their perspectives, modernized and with some twists. Each one of them is suffering from the trauma of what they’ve experienced as well as from the unwanted media attention. One thing all these women have in common is that their stories are being told for them–and they’re being told very badly.

“The women gather in the YMCA basement rec room: hard linoleum floors, half-windows along one wall, view of sidewalk and brick. It’s a Friday, just after six, and above them the city of New York bustles. Up there, people are teeming out of subway stations and into the hot sun, rushing toward tourist traps, toward restaurants, toward parties and friends.

“Whatever people do on a Friday, the women in the basement are not doing it.”

– Opening of How to Be Eaten

How to Be Eaten tells the stories of a variety of fairytale characters from their perspectives, modernized and with some twists. Each one of them is suffering from the trauma of what they’ve experienced as well as from the unwanted media attention. One thing all these women have in common is that their stories are being told for them–and they’re being told very badly. From victim blaming to sexist assumptions, the worst of society is on display, and the reader is left wondering if these characters will ever be able to find peace.

I sometimes get bored with twisted fairytale plotlines because you can anticipate what’s going to happen, but the clever thing about this book is that it starts with all the characters having already been through the experiences you would know them for, which creates a totally different plot. Combined with the modernization, the inclusion of a character who isn’t from a classic fairytale at all, and the fact that some of the women have names that leave you guessing about the story they’re from all help add to add surprises also. I particularly enjoyed the role reality television plays in the story, as that really added something fresh and hammered home the fact that the problematic stories our culture is telling are not all passed down from the distant past.

Certainly, this book makes no secret about being feminist, so you’re more likely to enjoy it if you enjoy reading the type of book that makes you think about these sorts of topics. You might also enjoy it if you like a book that has a larger cast. In this book, each woman tells her own story in first person, separated and introduced by sections written in third person, which makes for a variety of different voices in the spotlight. It’s largely realistic, with certain aspects of fantasy that are depicted in such a way that many characters aren’t sure whether to believe that these things really happened, so I would also recommend it to people who like just a dash of the impossible to spice things up.

Overall, it is a book that I enjoyed, and I had to force myself to take breaks to absorb everything that I’d just read before going back to my swift page-turning. If you decide to give it a try, I predict you’ll also find it a quick read!

Should You Read Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency by Douglas Adams?

The cover of Dirk Gently's Holistic Detective Agency, showing a shining door plate against the background of a dark landscape

“This time there would be no witnesses.

“This time there was just the dead earth, a rumble of thunder, and the onset of that interminable light drizzle from the northeast by which so many of the world’s most momentous events seem to be accompanied.”

– Opening of Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency tells the tale of an Electric Monk, an old college professor who’s apparently paid to do nothing, a computer programmer whose software makes music out of accounting figures, his overbearing and eccentric boss, his sensible but nearly fed-up girlfriend, and, of course, a private detective who swears that because of the fundamental interconnectedness of everything, it’s perfectly reasonable to attempt to charge people for trips to Bermuda in search of their lost cats. When the eccentric boss is unexpectedly gunned down and the programmer seems to be the police’s top suspect, Dirk takes his new client on a wild adventure to clear his name, discover the true culprit, and maybe even save the world. Unlike Sherlock Holmes, Dirk Gently does not eliminate the impossible, and in this case he might just be onto something.

Douglas Adams is an author well known for his humorous and light-hearted writing style, and this book was no exception. Although he’s better known for his Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy books, I found the two Dirk Gently books (this one and the sequel The Long Dark Tea-Time of the Soul) to be easier to enjoy, as I personally had a difficult time getting over the fact that The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy opens with the destruction of Earth. Don’t get me wrong, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy still got a few good laughs out of me, but the Dirk Gently books are more my cup of tea.

Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency starts out very slowly and requires a good deal of patience and concentration before it really starts to ramp up, in my opinion, but I found that when I did give it that focus I was very much rewarded. In fact, this is the sort of book where the astute reader can pick up on vital clues and get the satisfaction of seeing all the pieces fall in place by the ending. It rewards the reader who goes slowly and enjoys every little humor-laced paragraph along the way.

And for me, one of the main attractions is that it did make me smile throughout rather than getting dragged down into sadness while the characters faced their struggles. Certainly, it’s important to read books on serious topics, just as it’s important to stay aware of current events even when they’re frightening or tragic, but there’s also such a thing as too much. Sometimes all you want is to balance it all out with a book that just makes you feel good. This is that kind of book. I recommend it to anyone else who’s looking for the same.

Should You Read The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer?

“On a warm night in early July of that long-evaporated year, The Interestings gathered for the very first time. They were only fifteen, sixteen, and they began to call themselves the name with tentative irony.”

– Opening of The Interestings

The Interestings is a literary fiction novel that follows a small cast of characters who start as gifted artistic teenagers and grow to see what becomes of their talents and their lives. One becomes famous, another is able to do the work she’s dreamt of with a lesser degree of success, one becomes a spectacular failure, and others find themselves falling into more ordinary roles within society. None, however, find themselves with what they really wanted. The novel follows their individual quests for happiness, fulfillment, and success, with all the ups and downs of life, their stories sometimes branching apart and sometimes becoming intertwined. It’s an exploration of what it means to be “talented” and “successful”, both in general and in the society we live in.

This is one of those books where all the characters are imperfect and happy endings are far from guaranteed. It uses limited omniscience to reveal information, skip around in time, and present the reader with certain judgments, but it tends to focus on one character per chapter, dipping into his or her thoughts alone. I found this to be an interesting technique, and I particularly enjoyed how easily it moved the reader forwards and backwards while letting each scene shine no matter where in the timeline it was located.

On the other hand, there were certain places where I found myself negatively judging both the characters and the narrator, which I was personally disappointed by. Some scenes seemed to do a good job of pointing the reader to the fact that the point of view characters were very wrong in their assessments, but other times the narrator was either absent or apparently agreed with them in a way that didn’t sit right with me.

Regardless, the writing itself was very good, and I would recommend it to any other writers (aspiring or otherwise) who want to explore and learn from its techniques. For more casual readers, it might fit the bill if you enjoy realistic fiction and are prepared to keep your own head about you as you read. It seems to be the sort of book that almost expects you to be making your own judgments and contemplating the characters and their fates. And perhaps it could be the sort of book that causes you to open your eyes and alter your own course in life, which would certainly make it very valuable indeed.

Reading Goals for 2022

(Graph generated by The StoryGraph)

I read twenty-four books in 2021, a lot of fantasy, a little bit of science fiction, one classic, and one non-fiction. On the fantasy front, I read some books by hugely popular authors and others that were very recently published. In a lot of cases, I was reading to try to get a feel for what fantasy readers want to see and for what the current market is like. I also ended up enjoying a lot of what I read, to the extent that I went out and read all the sequels as well.

This year, I would like to continue doing that, but I want to find a good balance between that sort of reading and the other sort that I enjoy even though it doesn’t contribute to that sort of research. I do want to keep reading classic literature, even though it tends to take longer to get through and isn’t directly applicable to the current market. I do think that I pick up writing techniques from reading books that are masterfully written, and I think it gives me insights into the literary world and the real one in which we live.

So I’m not going to set a goal for how many books I read or even how many pages, but I am going to try to spend at least some time reading in a meaningful way every week. Whether that means a few chapters in a classic that makes me stop and think or an entire modern novella that I just fly through, I’m going to try to feel good about myself for what I’m accomplishing. Numbers aren’t the whole story, but at this time next year, I want to look back and feel satisfied.

What are your current reading goals?

Should You Read The Invisible Library Series by Genevieve Cogman?

“Irene passed the mop across the stone floor in smooth, careful strokes, idly admiring the gleam of wet flagstones in the lantern light. Her back was complaining, but that was only normal after an evening’s work cleaning. The cleaning was certainly necessary. The pupils at Prince Mordred’s Private Academy for Boys managed to get just as much mud and muck on the floor as any other teenagers would. Clean indoor studies in the dark arts, military history, and alchemy didn’t preclude messy outdoor classes in strategic combat, dueling, open field assassination, and rugby.”

– Opening of The Invisible Library

The Invisible Library is the first book in a fantasy series that follows the adventures of a librarian named Irene as she buys, steals, or trades for rare and valuable books across a network of alternate worlds, each one uniquely fantastical and uniquely dangerous. In the first book, she takes on a new apprentice who’s a lot more than what he first appears and faces off against a bitterly hated rival as she tries to solve the mystery of who has stolen the book that she came looking for. Armed with a powerful magical language, she’s able to do amazing things, but the world she’s been sent to is inhabited with beings who have powers of their own. She’s not the only one who wants to get the book, and some of her enemies are willing to kill.

In my opinion, this series doesn’t have the most engaging start, but once it picks up, it really picks up. Every single book is action-packed and has new worlds, new characters, and new dangers to be faced. The characters grow throughout it, and mysteries about them are revealed little by little. It all ties together into a series I couldn’t stop reading until I’d reached the end of the latest book that’s been published and was very disappointed that I would have to wait for the next!

I wish there were a few more character moments or that some of the moments there are would be drawn out a little more, but if you enjoy a plot-based series with lots of action, it doesn’t get much better. I would recommend reading from the beginning, but each book does function as its own little adventure, which I think does a lot to keep things fresh.

This is a series I would definitely recommend to people who love fantasy. It’s deeply enjoyable in that way that makes you turn page after page and always long for more.

My First Time Using Goodreads

That’s right, I’m a lover of books who practically lives on the internet, and I’ve never had a Goodreads account until now. It’s not that I’ve been unaware of it, but I honestly heard about LibraryThing first and have been so happy with the site that I haven’t seen a need for it. Now I’m giving it a shot, partially so I can give it an honest assessment and partially because I think it would be a good idea to have one if (hopefully when) I become a published author. This is me taking you along for the ride as I take my first steps to building an account.

The first thing I’ll note is that it has a lot of options for using other sites to link in. I’m also one of the few people who doesn’t have a Facebook account (gasp!), so that wasn’t an option. I considered using my Amazon account, but I wasn’t sure that would benefit me much, so I stuck with the old tried and true of signing up with an email. I do think many other people would find this convenient, though. Fewer passwords to remember.

And the first screen I’m greeted with reminds me of that one time I did create a Facebook, only to never add any friends and delete it a few months later (long story, perhaps for another time). Are you sure you don’t want to add any friends? It would ask me. Are you really sure? Here, we’ll do all the work of scouring your address book for you!

Personally, I’m not really in this to connect with my friends over books, mostly because my current friends are computer programmers and I doubt that even the few who read for enjoyment have a profile here. This bit about inviting people to the site feels like transparent self-promotion on the site’s part, which I don’t care for given that I know it’s owned by Amazon and therefore I doubt it’s strapped for cash. But perhaps that’s just me being cynical.

Next, I set a reading goal just so I can see how the site handles that. Then I told it my favorite genres. All good here, except I didn’t realize “Ebooks” was a genre.

Then it jumps to a page that reminds me very much of the way you can let Amazon give you better recommendations. It’s a page filled with books from the first of the favorite genres I picked, and it’s asking me to rate them. I’m guessing it picked ones that are really popular within the genre in order to ensure that I’ve read at least some of them. I certainly do recognize all the books in the top two rows, even though I haven’t read four of them. I do find it a bit humorous that I’m being asked to rate classics first (I’m guessing because it’s alphabetically first of the options I picked). It’s just such a computer program thing to do.

As for the five star ratings, I’ll do them, but I have some complicated feelings about it. For example, I gave The Catcher in the Rye a very low rating because it wasn’t my cup of tea and therefore I don’t want to be recommended books like it, but I also recognize that it is by no means a bad book in terms of quality. It’s not like I haven’t rated books extensively on LibraryThing, but star ratings don’t feel like the single most important thing there. The recommendations are more based on the books you have in the collections that you tell it you want the recommendations based on. It doesn’t matter if you’ve rated the books in them or not. In fact, there are some books I’ve read that I purposefully haven’t rated because my feelings about them are complicated.

Maybe I wouldn’t feel so conflicted about this if I hadn’t heard chatter about how authors can feel about how high or low the Goodreads rating is for their book. I’m not sure.

On a side note: no half stars? Really? That’s just annoying for me. Now I have to take my ratings from LibraryThing and decide whether to round up or down.

This is an interesting development. In theory, I love the idea that when you give a positive rating to a book it pops up more like it to get a better idea for your preferences. But does anyone really think that Angels and Demons is similar to To Kill a Mockingbird? To be fair, the only Dan Brown I’ve read was The DaVinci Code, but from what I’ve heard Angels and Demons is about the same or a little worse in terms of the writing, and I’m not aware of any common themes between it and the book it’s being compared to here. One is a classic novel that centers around the trial of an African American man in the American south during the Great Depression. The other is a fast paced modern thriller about a man investigating a grand plot to kill Catholic cardinals and blow up Vatican City. How are these two connected?

Of the others seen here, the last one is completely unfamiliar to me. I’ve heard great things about The Book Thief, and I know it takes place in Nazi Germany, so I can understand how it might have thematic similarities, but I’m not seeing the connection to The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo. Again, to be fair, I haven’t read it, but I’ve heard enough about it to immediately know that it’s a popular modern thriller. Googling a plot blurb does not provide any immediate insights. Are these two books up here more because they’re popular than because they’re a good fit for the book I rated?

Scrolling down, I see these are the books recommended for lovers of Pride and Prejudice.

I’ve read all of these. They’re very popular modern books. Four of them have romance components. But so do many other books. Including the other novels written by Jane Austen. For context, here are the sorts of recommendations I’m used to seeing on LibraryThing.

So, needless to say I don’t have high hopes about Goodreads giving me good quality recommendations based on my reading preferences, but I’ll stop harping on about it. I’m sure there are other things about this site that are good.

I will say the whole process of rating books here feels almost like a game. Every time I give a book a positive rating, it pulls up a new little bar of similar books. I’m well out of rating classics very quickly, but I can see how this could become addictive. I actually am having fun playing with it in spite of myself.

Random thoughts as I go through:

  • Wow, they’re really using a cover for Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep that has the words “Blade Runner” bigger than the actual title? I haven’t seen the movie, but I’d heard there are significant differences. It kind of hurts to give it that good rating now.
  • Oh, would you look at that, I also just skipped The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy on accident because I didn’t recognize that movie cover. I’m starting to get the feeling that I’m not the average reader.
  • Contrary to what I first suspected, it does start peppering in a few classics after a while. Maybe I stumbled onto the right path down the rabbit hole. Or maybe the algorithm is in disbelief about how stubborn I am.

I gave it fifty ratings to go off of before moving on. Maybe it will give me an opportunity to import all my 600+ books from LibraryThing if I get past the welcome screens? Maybe?

Ah, well that makes sense. Too bad I don’t buy all my books on Amazon. This probably would have been done automatically if I’d used my Amazon account to sign in from the beginning, but at least now I know. Also, this hilariously resulted in a prompt for me to rate the Bible because I bought a digital copy for my Kindle in order to have easy access to it in a digital format. I don’t have it on my LibraryThing or on my StoryGraph, but, sure, five stars.

I did find an option for importing from LibraryThing, but I had to do a bit of searching, and I noticed that the help pages that came up at the top of my Google search showed other people struggling. I was able to pick up on it pretty quickly due to my tech knowledge, but it wasn’t easy. I had to export in a specific format, convert the file to a new format, and split the file up so that it included only 100 books at a time because Goodreads failed to import all 600+ at once. It gave me an error message that didn’t explicitly say I had too many books to add, but I was able to figure it out. I’m sure not everyone would be able to. For me, though, I’m just happy it was possible.

Moving on to my profile, it looks like it took a guess at my location and made that public by default? Wow. I will say that once you get into the privacy and notification settings they do have a lot of different options, though. That’s nice to have.

Apart from that, I wasn’t able to find much to do that really caught my interest. Maybe in time I’ll see benefits from this site having a larger user base? Maybe there’s something to be said for following authors or having easy access to more book reviews.

Overall, I don’t really have a problem with the site, but it did seem strangely buggy. I had problems updating reviews, for one thing. Also, whenever a book page loads, it seems to do so without an ad on top at first, which often causes me to click what I thought was the option to update the shelf, only to find that it’s turned into an ad. These are the sorts of things that make me want to stick with the sites I’m more familiar with, but I’m going to give it a fair shot for a while and see if I change my mind.

An Overview of The StoryGraph

The StoryGraph is a website for readers that lets you keep track of books you’ve read and give recommendations for what you might want to read next. I use it mainly for the recommendations, but there are other features like graphs, reviews and content warnings, and the ability to follow other users and see what they’ve been reading lately.

The StoryGraph's search options

In my opinion, the search functionality is the best part. It includes the option to look for books based on what mood the book is, how it’s paced, what genre it is, and how long it is. You can include many genres you want to see and also give a list of genres to exclude. For example, I can set the genres to both fantasy and sci fi when I could go for either at the moment, and I can exclude children’s and middle grade to make sure I only get results of books that I’d be interested in.

Once you do the search, you get results like this, all laid out with the cover and some basic information about the book right there.

A sample book recommendation by The StoryGraph, showing the cover, the title, the author, the genre, the moods, the page count, and the original publication date

From there, you can click into the book’s page to see more, buy it through affiliate links, or add it to your “to read” list. On the book’s page, you see the same information, as well as a description (shortened but expandable), content warnings (if there are any), and how other readers described it in terms of certain predetermined questions. What moods does it have? What’s the pace? Is it plot or character driven? Are the characters loveable? Are the characters diverse? Are the flaws of the characters a main focus? You can also see the average star rating and how many people have reviewed it overall.

This is where the site gets data about what to recommend, so the level of detail and the accuracy can vary for books that aren’t very popular as opposed to ones that are, but I haven’t come across any books that I thought were categorized in a completely wrong way. Mostly it comes down to the nuances of point of view. One person’s fast paced might be another person’s medium. Some people might love characters others don’t care for. In my experience using it, I don’t expect perfection, but it is better than a lot of alternatives out there.

Another page, of course, includes the detailed reviews, but they are hidden under a second layer for those who don’t like to read anything resembling spoilers before they jump into the book. For other people who want it all, it’s just a click at the top of the section that lists the answers to the standard questions on the book page.

A sample of StoryGraph's review results, showing how readers have categorized a book into moods

The StoryGraph, as the name suggests, also includes graphs. You can look at books you’ve read over a certain period of time or expand it to include everything you’ve ever read. It will give you graphs showing: the moods, the pace, the number of pages, fiction vs nonfiction, genres, format, most read authors, number of books and pages read over time, and average star ratings. All of these can be a lot of fun to look at and interesting to reflect on.

Here’s my pie chart of books I’ve read so far this year and what moods they had most commonly. I’ve been mostly going for adventurous, followed by dark and emotional, with reflective and lighthearted close behind. That makes a lot of sense because after reading a few darker books, I like to read something lighter to cheer myself up. Moods like sad don’t come into play at all here, which I guess says that I haven’t been looking for any tragedies lately.

A pie chart showing books that Shannon's read in 2021 and what their moods were

The site also has the option to set book goals and page goals for the year. Once set, it will have a graph that shows how close you are to achieving that goal and whether you’re on track, ahead, or behind given how much time you have left.

In my experience, the StoryGraph is a nice site with a lot of features that readers will enjoy. Better yet, everything I mentioned is free. I have the free version myself, and I’ve been getting great use out of it so far. Feel free to check it out for yourself!

Should You Read Master Class by Christina Dalcher?

“It’s impossible to know what you would do to escape a shitty marriage and give your daughters a fair shot at success. Would you pay money? Trade the comfort of your house and home? Lie, cheat, or steal?”

– Opening of Master Class

Master Class is a science fiction novel set in a version of the United States that has embraced standardized testing to such an extent that every aspect of a child’s life is determined by how well or how poorly they perform on them. There are three tiers of schools, one for the top students, one for the average students, and one for everybody else. Elena is a teacher at an elite school. She also has two daughters, one at a top school and one at an average school. She has a nice life, if you discount the fact that her husband is the worst, but when one of her daughters fails a test, everything changes. Suddenly it’s her daughter being sent away to a mysterious boarding school in the middle of nowhere, and Elena begins to rethink her entire life as she struggles to get her daughter back.

The best thing about this book was the tension in it. From the beginning, it was obvious that everything was much worse than the main character was aware of, that awful things were happening, and that terrible things were very likely going to happen to the children who were disappearing, but without having any real answers, my mind was left to its own devices. I turned page after page, just gobbling up the story in the race to find the answers, even as a part of me didn’t want to find the horrors that I knew were waiting. The story unweaves bit by bit, with stakes increasing all the time, and it definitely holds the attention right up to the final page.

I did find the setup to be a little unbelievable by the end, but the fact that the story is so clearly drawing on true historical events that are little known about is definitely chilling. While I didn’t end up thinking that this exact thing could happen, I did wonder whether something like it could, and that’s a huge part of the draw of this kind of book for me. I also appreciate that it is drawing attention to these issues, as I also believe that some books can be very important in sparking conversations and raising awareness of important topics. Some books can have a real and positive affect on the world, and I think this may be one of them.

Overall, I think you’ll enjoy this book if you like the type of book that asks “what if” while simultaneously suggesting that such things could really happen in our future. It’s a story about motherhood and redemption and breaking out of a bad situation, as well as about the US school system. I would recommend it to anyone who is interested in these concepts and is not afraid to explore some of the darker sides of history and human nature.

An Overview of LibraryThing

I created a LibraryThing account over ten years ago, and I’ve been using it consistently ever since. I use it to keep track of the books I own, the books I’ve read, and the books that I would like to read. I’ve posted reviews and chatted about books with other users in the forums. I’ve spent hours rating and tagging and having fun with the statistics. It’s been one of my favorite websites for a long time, and I’d like to give a quick overview of features, as well as give a few tips for how I get the best use out of them.

The add books feature on LibraryThing, showing a search box, options to add tags, and checkboxes for collections

One of the most important features is the ability to add books to collections. These are totally customizable, and you can see the ones that I use here. I like to keep track of books that I own as physical books, as well as ones I own in digital form. I tend to prefer physical books, but because I only have so much shelf space, I like being able to have a listing of just those books, as well as a listing of books that I own in other formats or have read and really enjoyed as an easy reference for if and when I do get a new shelf or decide that I would like to replace one book with another one. I like to keep track of every book I’ve ever read because it’s nice to remember books that I enjoyed when I was a kid, for example, but I don’t want those to feed into the recommendations the website gives me. Nor do I want recommendations based on books I read but didn’t end up enjoying or even finishing. By keeping them in separate collections, I can easily control which collections feed into those recommendations while still keeping track of what I’ve read the way I want to. Similarly, I can keep track of my “to read” list separate from my wish list of books that I would like to buy in physical form someday.

The Your Books page on LibraryThing, showing books and information related to them

After a book has been added to a collection, you can then see it along with all the other books in that collection. You can view all collections at once or one at a time, and you can sort them according to any column you want. I often like to sort by reading date so all my most recently read books show near the top. I also like to sort by rating so that I can easily give people a list of all my favorite books when they ask.

The Your Books page is, again, very customizable. You can decide what data you want to show, as well as what order you want it to show in. You can even decide how many books you want to show per page. You can also edit information right in here by clicking on the number of stars to add a rating or change it, clicking into the reading date field to add a start or end date, and more.

The work page on LibraryThing, showcasing a book with lots of information about it.

You can click on a book anywhere you find it to be taken to the page specific to that book. It will show a lot of information about the book, both in general and specific to you. You can see how popular and well-received it is, what its genre and main topics are, and books that are considered to be similar to it. You can scroll down to read reviews and see even more information, which I find really helpful because it lets you decide whether you want the risk of spoilers. You can also make changes here, like adding ratings, tags, your own review, and more. You can also change the cover that displays, which I often find really nice when I’ve added a book that has been printed with many different covers and I want it to match the one it had when I read it. Sometimes I even change it to the one I like best just because I can!

I find work pages to be particularly helpful for books that exist as parts of a series because it will link you to a page for the whole series right on top. Sometimes I didn’t even realize a book was part of a series until I saw that. Sometimes I’m trying to jump into a new one and want a quick reference point that will tell me where to start.

The series page on LibraryThing, showing all books included in the series with covers, story order, and more

After clicking to this page, you can easily see which books you own or have read, as well as story order and publication order, which can be very helpful for a series like this one, which had a prequel published after book one. In this case, it also shows a book that has yet to be published but that has been announced, so readers can add it to their “to be read” lists.

A graph showing the height of various landmarks, with one bar added to represent a stack of books

The Charts and Graphs page includes a lot of fun visual data, including how many books you’ve read over time, what genres you read most often, which countries those books were originally published in, and more. This example shows how tall the stack of books in my collections would be if they were all stacked on top of each other, which is one that I find particularly fun.

I also enjoy this collection of charts because I find that it encourages me to expand my reading horizons and try new things. (The blue bit on the dead or alive is for “not a person”, which can happen when a book has been cowritten or written under a pen name used by multiple people. Also, if I expand the gender chart I can see two other categories, for unknown and for not applicable, which I assume includes those “not a person” authors as well as authors who identify in a different way.)

Charts showing various demographic information about authors: dead or alive, nationality, and gender.

Finally, the website includes forums with many different groups that you can join or just drop in on. It can be a good way to find people with similar reading tastes and chat about books you loved, join reading challenges, or read a book along with other people.

Overall, it’s a website that I’ve really enjoyed using, and there are so many more features and pages that I haven’t even mentioned. It’s a great place to explore, and I would use it to search for books and see information about them even if I didn’t have an account. I would encourage anyone who’s interested to check it out for themselves.