Posts Tagged ‘geekishness’

30th March
written by Steph
I once had a friend tell me that I probably got as much enjoyment out of making lists of books I wanted to read as I did actually reading said books. What can I say? I'm a list maker and love to plan! Like many other book bloggers, I'm always on the lookout for my next great read, and while other blogs are great resources, sometimes I feel like the same books pop up in my Google Reader again and again. That's one of the reasons I love bookstores: I love browsing around and just randomly picking up books and finding titles I've never heard of before. Of course, I'm not immune to the great prices that online shopping can provide, but personally I find book browsing on Amazon (and the like) to be a little tedious and it seems a lot harder to discover surprises that way.

Depiction of YNR interface

Enter YourNextRead. While this isn't the first site I've stumbled across that purports to help readers find their next book, this is one of the best and most effective interfaces I've found. The premise is pretty simple: you type in the name of a book or author that you like, and a little web of related books pops up. Click on one of those, and new titles appear that are related to that second title. Lather, rinse, repeat. What I particularly like about this process is that it kind of operates on the whole "six degrees of kevin bacon" principle. As you click through interesting book options, it's a bit like choose your own adventure, but the books are ultimately linked in some way to that first book you picked. I do like that you can influence the direction of subsequent title suggestions as it's just so much more interactive than a simple list. Additionally, for each title that pops up that is linked to the central book, you can indicate whether you think people who enjoyed the central book will actually enjoy each linked book. I assume that these votes then influence the likelihood of that book showing up again when someone else chooses the central book in the future. One problem I have with Amazon recommendation systems (and many other book recommendation programs) is that they seem to rely too heavily on suggesting other books by the same author. Of course it stands to reason that if I enjoy Pride & Prejudice by Jane Austen that I might very well like her other books, but I could probably have figured that out on my own! I am always looking for new authors, and I've found that YourNextRead does this very well. For instance, on a recent search, I put in Then We Came to the End by Joshua Ferris as my starting novel. From there, I jumped to A Life Apart by Neel Mukherjee (never heard of him!) which looks good enough to warrant further investigation. From there I jumped to A Visit From the Goon Squad by Jennifer Egan (a book I have and intend to read in the future), where I then jumped to The Summer of Naked Swim Parties by Jessica Anya Blau (another new-to-me author). That one didn't seem like my cup of tea, so I backtracked to Goon Squad, and instead tried Come, Thou Tortoise by Jessica Grant (??? exactly!), which seems delightful. From there it's onto The Irresistible Henry House by Lisa Grunwald which sounds effing awesome. And again, is completely new to me. I'm starting to feel a bit like Thursday Next with all this book jumping, plus I think you get the picture. Along the way, I had seven different alternatives to check out each time (plus there's the option to refresh if a central book isn't presenting anything you think looks appealing), but just from this little experimental jaunt, I've found three new books that are now on my wishlist. Dangerous for those of us with bookbuying impulse control, but a really fun way to explore the book universe. If you feel like you're stuck with the same old stuff in your reading pile, this may be just the way to liven things up! Try it out; it's wildly addictive! And feel free to share in the comments any of the book chains you create!
19th August
written by Steph

When I picked up a copy of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao I only knew three things about it: 1) it had won the Pulitzer Prize for fiction; 2) it had a bunch of Spanish in it; and 3) it involved a lot of “geeky” sci-fi/fantasy references. The first point was certainly not a deterrent, and I figured that being fluent in French and having taken one year of highschool Spanish would probably be enough to make it through any smatterings of Spanish throughout the book. I’d only heard effusive praise for the book, even by those readers who didn’t have an extensive background in genre fiction, so I was pretty excited to give it a go. I think the first thing I have to say is something that you’ve probably heard in other reviews but which I must make very clear: THERE IS A LOT OF SPANISH IN THIS BOOK. Sometimes it’s just a word thrown into a sentence here or there that doesn’t completely undermine your comprehension of the book… but other times it’s an entire phrase, and it’s not likely to be one of those phrases you learned in an introductory language course. This isn’t holiday Spanish, this is contemporary, living Spanish that uses a lot of slang and idioms, that will probably be lost on you unless you’re a native speaker or extremely fluent. If you know how to ask where the beach is or proclaim your love of chicken and rice, that’s not going to cut it. Consider yourself warned! (As an aside, you need to worry less if you know nada about sci-fi and fantasy. I’m sure some references didn’t hit home, but I didn’t feel these detracted from my comprehension of the novel.) (more…)
28th May
written by Steph
It likely will live long and prosper

It likely will live long and prosper

Last weekend, Tony and I took advantage of the fact that there is a drive-in movie theater not too far outside of Nashville where you can watch two recent movies for just $7 per person, and all from the comfort of your own car!  Ok, so it’s no Imax experience, BUT it’s kitschy and fun, they have a great snackbar (funnel cake!  philly cheese steaks!), and it’s actually a great way of watching movies you’re kind of interested in seeing but don’t want to pay full price to see.  We tend to go when there’s at least one movie playing that we want to watch, but have never left after just watching one of the movies… which is how we’ve wound up watching such cinematic gems as The Mummy 3 and You Don’t Mess With the Zohan (sadly, I am serious). But ok, sometimes there is a perfect storm where we wind up getting to see TWO movies we actually want to see.  Like last Sunday when after weeks of wanting to go to the drive-in but unwilling to sit through the Hannah Montana movie or Hotel for Dogs in order to do so, we saw they were airing a double header of the new Star Trek movie followed by I Love You, Man (which we had already seen, but enjoyed so much we were happy to see it again). (more…)