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May 27, 2005

In search of... summer reading

Summer is almost here and you may be thinking about expanding your reading list. With all the choices out there, it's hard to find a good book just by browsing through enormous categories like "mystery" or "novels." You may be in the mood for something funny, or dark, or challenging; you may want to read a story set in the Caribbean, or a book with a lot of plot twists, but how do you find a book that fits this mood?

I recommend giving a try. It's a web site developed by Openlibraries Ltd and Applied Psychology Research Ltd with the help of public libraries in the United Kingdom to help people find less well-known books by describing the kind of book they're looking for. The site features sliding scales for book mood and content, as well as plot and character descriptions. The main page uses Shockwave's Flash plug-in, but there is also a simple HTML-based version that replaces the sliding scales with drop-down lists.

Here's a look at how it works. Let's say I'm looking for a book with a young, female main character, set in the Mediterranean, with a plot that features a revelation. My search page would look like this:


I can stop here and click "go!" or continue to refine what I'm looking for. The above search example, by the way, came back with "The Birth of Venus" by Sarah Dunant, described as "a fascinating insight into early Renaissance Florence, this is an intensely imaginative novel, with a strong and captivating heroine."

The database does not include the biggest best sellers, but instead concentrates on books people might not find on their own. These are fiction and poetry published in English in paperback form since 1995. Entries are created by a team of 150 trained reviewers chosen by the libraries and literary organizations. Lists of the books included can be found here.

I usually cross-reference the book titles that are recommended with to get a more detailed description and reviewer comments. Using these sites together gives me lots of great book ideas.

Happy reading!

Posted by rigd0003 at May 27, 2005 2:04 PM | Cool web stuff