LibraryThing changed my life! I wonder how many bibliophiles can honestly say that. It’s certainly true for me.
I’ve always been an avid reader. I remember very clearly the moment when reading ‘clicked’ with me as a child. All of a sudden the jumbles of letters meant something! I can quite clearly remember my juvenile epiphany on a car journey to my grandma’s house, I couldn’t not read things anymore – when I saw a sign, I read the name. No matter how I looked, I couldn’t go back to the moment when the sign meant nothing to me. I had to read it! Being obtuse and obsessive, I took that to heart and haven’t been seen without my nose in a book since.
I clearly remember my first ‘grown up’ book, the first one that I actually owned, a paperback copy of ‘Little House on the Prairie’ that my parents brought back for me from a shopping expedition. I remember running to the car (followed by my duck Lucky – Lucky by name, lucky by nature … well, until my impatient neighbour ran him over because he was shorter than a goose … but that’s a whole other story!). I grabbed the book and retreated to a world a million miles away, contained in the pages I held, one that I’ve never fully returned from. A few chapters into the book, I remember my dad pointing out “You can read in your head, you know”. To his relief, it dawned on me that I could. Epiphany number 2 – the world that is created inside your head doesn’t have to be shared with the outside, it’s yours! (Also that there are limits to parental patience … but that one was less important.)
Fast forward a decade or two (OK, or three, but we’ll gloss over that part). In the whirlwind of time, we flash past avenues of books … also some more ducks, the same geese and the odd one-legged chicken … rabbits, hamsters, cats, thousands of fruitflies, snails and axolotls … a couple of degrees but only one graduation ceremony … and we return to almost the present day. The older we get, the busier life gets. Having removed myself from my English literature degree because it was destroying my love of reading and didn’t live up to my expectations of shared literary experience and stimulating debate, I was still an avid reader and had fallen back on my family to listen to my recommendations and curses regarding the quality of literary masterpieces. Bless ’em, long suffering though they are, but fully satisfying it wasn’t. I tried book groups but they just weren’t serious enough for me. I wanted to talk to people who read as voraciously as I do and who were equally opinionated. Life also has a funny way of intruding on your reading time. My habits were often lazy – it’s easier to pick up a sci-fi book than a classic at the end of the working day, and so simple to leave unfinished a challenging tome with the excuse of a work-wearied mind and the easy distraction of television. I had kept blogs for my own writing but they’d dropped by the wayside, time-consuming in the face of more mentally sedentary pursuits. One day, whilst browsing my husband’s computer magazines, I came across an article that pretty much described LibraryThing as the second coming for book lovers. A book cataloguing site … hmmm … second only to my love of books is my love of lists … there might be something in this LibraryThing lark. So, I jumped down the rabbit hole and I’ve never looked back. Epiphany 3 – LibraryThing.
First off, my obsessive tendencies were gently massaged by the cataloguing side of the site. Initially, it became a matter of honour to include all my books on that list (still working on that one …). Then, as I became more LT savvy, I realised the full potential of tagging – my first efforts were woefully incomplete, it’s now a challenge I’m approaching in a more head-on and systematic manner, but even my proto-tags added so much to my ‘bookish’ experience. I could browse my library anywhere, no longer did I have to resort to sitting in the middle of the study floor smiling in a slightly psychotic manner at the bookshelves arranged in my perfect order – I had tags, and my husband couldn’t mess them up to play with my mind! This pretty much absorbed my first year on LT. I was already an addict – no gateway drug necessary, straight to the hard stuff! Then I ventured into ‘Talk’ … drawn in by the ’50 Book Challenge’ group (incorporating books, a list of some kind and a challenge … what’s not to love?). I was undone! Suddenly I’d found a vibrant community of book-lovers, empassioned debates, recommendations, scholarly commentaries, an ER programme … everything that had been missing from my undergrad experience. I had found my spiritual web-home.
LibraryThing has enriched my day-to-day life. I couldn’t honestly say that if all it did was provide me with another technological distraction. It’s much more than that. Now I discuss, debate, blog and review. All of that is secondary, however, to the fact that what I do now is read more voraciously than ever before. When I was at uni studying English, one of the reasons I left was that I had stopped reading for pleasure. LT has had the opposite effect. I’m reading more now than at any other time. I actively turn off the television once my husband has left the room and pick up a book instead. I think about what I read and try to complete challenges like the ‘888 Challenge’ (8 books in 8 different categories in a year) and I read books that had never occurred to me as a result of recommendations and the LT Early Reviewer programme. I review too, which makes me read in a more thoughtful way. Most of all, I know that I’m not alone out there in my book-obsessed ways.
So, I want to shout very loudly, “Thanks LT!”.