I joined LibraryThing as well as GoodReads and Bookmooch a few years ago, but don’t feel that I’ve ever really taken advantage of any of those services. I mean, I understand in theory why I’d want to have my personal library online, but since the vast majority of books I read are from the public library, I don’t feel my personal collection is really reflective of my interests.

But then Flowerstorm mentioned that she uses LibraryThing tags to keep track of the books she has read every year since 2006, and I thought that this was an awesome idea! And much more useful to me than keeping track of whichever random paperbacks I happen to have at the house. My goal for 2009 was to read 50 books, because I figured back in January that I have more free time than anyone else I know (as I was going to be unemployed for much of the year) and there are so many good books on my “to-read” list.

My current system has been just to write down the books I have finished in a notebook before I bring them back to the library. Being flaky Julia, I of course forget to do this. So basically every month or so I think about what I’ve read lately (“Hmm, wasn’t there some other book I got as well? Maybe I’ll check my overdue charges… “) and jot them down. I added the ones I had listed into my LibraryThing profile (I had no idea there was a “Read but unowned” category – perfect!) and am now up to 43 books for 2009 – most of which I don’t own. But while I was at it, I went ahead and added in some of the books in my collection, as well. I’m going to have to work hard to read 8 more books by the end of the year (remember, I’ve got finals coming up too), especially since I haven’t finished some of the books I’ve put up (I listen to In Cold Blood, for example, when I cycle into the city, and read Eating Animals on the subway, and Great Expectations is something that I read on my iPod Touch¹ when I’m waiting for the bus or whatever.)

So anyway, I’ve definitely got my work cut out for me… In fact, why am I even writing a blog post when I could be finishing a book on my list?

¹ – Well, I used to read it on my iPod Touch, until the damn thing was stolen a few weeks ago.

Apparently, Lev Grossman’s The Magicians is something of a love-it-or-hate-it book. Count me in the former category. This might have been one of the more unputdownable novels I’ve read all year (along with The Hunger Games stories). I tried to describe it to my sister this morning, and as the description came out of my mouth I came to a realization:

So this 17-year-old kid is obsessed with these fantasy books that are called Fillory novels, but they’re really just like the Narnia stories. He finds out that he can do magic, and then goes off to Brakebills, this magical school in upstate New York for five years and then… Oh this really sounds like a Harry Potter ripoff, doesn’t it?

There are indeed a few winks to Harry Potter¹ (a character jokes about quidditch, Hermione’s teethshrinking spell is mentioned, and a character goes to work at a boring firm called Grunnings Hunsucker Swann), and loads of Narnia references as well. But actually, the magic feels more like the kind they perform in the Jonathan Strange and Mr. Norrell (another awesome book about magicians) than Harry Potter or Narnia, really. But that feels almost beside the point, really. What this book is really about can be summed up in a quote from page 220:

I got my heart’s desire, he thought, and there my troubles began.

Quentin, the character at the center of the story, finds that becoming a magician doesn’t bring any lasting meaning to his life, and his search for happiness is the central struggle of the novel. It’s a wonderful story, and highly recommended as a Christmas vacation read.

¹ – AND I’m pretty sure there’s a David Foster Wallace reference when a character mentions that thinking about Brakebills gives her the howling fantods.

For my GSLIS 706 class, I’ve had to subscribe to a listserv for the past month or two. Since I didn’t know how active certain listservs were, I just decided to subscribe to a whole bunch and see which ones were interesting enough to write about. 

The problem with this solution? I now get upwards of 100 emails a day to my gmail account. I feel as though I’m drowning in information. However, I do get an occasional email that is so helpful that the deluge seems all worth it. One of them was this list of online catalogs for libraries in the New York City area, created by a Manhattan College librarian. I will add this link to the sidebar as well and plan to use it often. What a fantastic resource!

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