Autodidact: self-taught


Back in the Net(Galley)

by V. L. Craven


When I purchased my first Kindle (what was then called a Kindle Keyboard) in 2010 I had no ebooks, but there was a wonderful service called NetGalley that would remedy that situation. Publishers listed soon-to-be released books with the service and provided a digital copy to readers in exchange for a review.

I read like a crazy person. All of these books! For free! And all I had to do was write a review of them, which I would have done anyway? Remove yourself from my proximity because I don’t believe you. Happiness ensued.

I got to read several excellent books I otherwise wouldn’t have picked up. It was like the days of being a bookseller when the big white box arrived with all the ARCs (advance reader copies). Except I didn’t have to get off my sofa.

Eventually I fell away from NetGalley–it wasn’t intentional–I acquired my own ebooks and read physical books I had at home. I was writing, I fell into a depression and stopped reading, etc. These things happen.

Then, last week, a lovely person from Grove Atlantic contacted me through this site and asked if I would be interested in reading Bradford Morrow’s newest book, The Forgers. I’d really enjoyed his novel The Diviner’s Tale , so I said yes. She sent the link through NG and I went in (after working out my password) and found this info on my profile:

Queen of Impossible Numbers

Now, maths and I… we have a long history of just… we’ve decided to ignore one another as much as possible. But even I know that 100% is as high of a percentage as a person can earn.

I thought that since I’d read 16 books, somehow the algorithm they use had given me 100% for all 16 books, but on the page that explains the Feedback to Approval Ratio it says that 80% is if you’re approved for 10 books and you review 8. So exactly what you’d expect 80% to mean. It’ll be interesting to see what happens when I submit my review of the Morrow book (which is compelling–look for that review in a couple of weeks). Will the algorithm correct itself? Will I suddenly have 1700.0%? Stay tuned!

–Queen of Impossible Numbers



by V. L. Craven

This week’s links are all about libraries. Rowr.

Biblio Coimbra, Portugal

This is a 360, zoomable pamorama of the Long Room at Trinity College, Dublin.

This is an even more impressive 40 gigapixel 360 panorama of the Strahov library in Prague. Seriously, zoom in. You can see the woodgrain on the shelves. It’s completely mad.

Libraries at the Movies : A blog about libraries and librarians on film. Film reviews written by a librarian; each review explains what the film has to do with repositories of books and the people who work in them (the repositories, not the books. It isn’t about members of Jurisfiction , unfortunately.)

From Flavorwire: the 25 Most Beautiful Public Libraries in the World , the 25 Most Beautiful College Libraries in the World , and 20 Beautiful Private and Personal Libraries . Bonus! Bizarre Looking Libraries from All Over the World

From Mental Floss: 15 Spectacular Libraries in Europe

Libraries is a spectacularly beautiful book of photography of the world’s libraries by Candida Hofer.

And Unshelved . It’s a webcomic by Gene Ambaum and Bill Barnes.

You can also check the ‘Libraries’ page at the left of this blog for photos of books and such. It’s under Images, then Photography faaaar down the page.


The Evolution of a Pretty Face (of a Book)

by V. L. Craven

[This post is from a previous blog; original date: 31 January, 2008.]

They can make you pick up a book you’d normally not look at twice or repel your hand as surely as if it were on fire. The loved, the reviled, the dust wrapper. Dust jacket. Dust cover. Whatever. It’s a misnomer in the first place, as dust collects on the top of the book, not on the covers. But that’s not what this post is about.

I’ve recently been having a very interesting conversation about dust wrappers and the people who love them or hate them and someone posted a site about the history of the dust jacket. [The site no longer exists, unfortunately. It was:] My fav bit is this: “The scarcity of surviving jackets, particularly early examples, results from their purpose and the perceptions of the buying public. Dust jackets were a selling tool, designed to book promote and protect the book inside. Once the book had been purchased and taken home, book buyers were expected to dispose of them. And many did. Keeping the dusk jacket was the equivalent of keeping the boxes in which perfume bottles are supplied today.”

I like dust covers when they’re designed well but as soon as I take a book off the shelf to read it I get that thing naked. The dust cover gets in my way. As one person so aptly put: “They flip, flop, slip, slide, pop out when the book is opened, get stretched out of shape if the end flaps are used as space markers, they can be completely unmanageable.” Yes, my friend. Yes.

I do keep the cover and will later put it back on the book when I’m finished reading most of the time, but sometimes, the book itself is so beautiful–-cloth covered and embossed with the title and author on the spine–-that I don’t bother. If the cover is offensive enough (the third Dexter book by Jeff Lindsay, for example) the cover goes in the bin as soon as it gets through the door.

Some people brodart their dust wrappers like librarians… This makes some sense if the book is valuable, otherwise it’s a little anal retentive. And by “a little” I mean, “get a hobby. Really.”

Oh, wait, that is their hobby. Nevermind.


Baby, Bring That Over Here!

by V. L. Craven

mmmm silky smooooth… you smell so gooood… it’s like a compulsion… I can’t stop touching you, baby… Even when I’m touching another, I think of you and how they don’t compare…

Everyone remembers their first time. You know…the first time you touched a book and thought, ‘Damn, that feels good!’

I still remember one such book, Michael Cox’s The Meaning of Night . Baby, the paper was fiiiiii-IIIIINE! I’d find myself lightly stroking the pages if my fingertips.

Some books just feel good in your hand (don’t go there, people). The weight, you know? They feel solid. Dorothy Dunnet books and the A.S. Byatt quartet (all by Vintage) are the same way. At one point, we had Possession on display in the bookshop I worked at and I’d periodically pick it up and molest it. Between you and me, I think it liked it.

The cover for Meaning of Night felt good, too. It was an ARC, but I’m guessing the actual dust wrapper was textured the same way. It felt like handmade paper. Nice. *grope grope*

Then there’s the smell. Old paper can smell great. I can’t find the link for it right now, but there’s a company that makes book scented candles. They’re out of my price range, and I can just stick my face in a book any time I want, but I love that someone had to figure out how to make something other than books smell like books. What next–books body wash? Can I smell like my favourite font? ‘Oh, honey! Century Schoolbook by Serif! How did you know?!’

I was thirteen the first time I was with someone who got a new book and immediately smelled the gutter (where the book meets the spine/where the crumbs fall when you’re reading and eating). She then beamed and said, ‘I LOVE the way books smell, don’t you?’

I’d thought I was the only one. After that I was no longer ashamed of smelling the books, which is much better than smelling the roses, if you ask me. Not nearly as much danger of bee stings, for one thing.

They say petting an animal lowers blood pressure. I bet petting a book can have the same effect. Caressing something that feels nice can take your mind off other things, right? So put on the Barry White and fondle a book today! You know…for your health!

[This post has been rated 15 for audiences in Great Britain and Ireland and PG13 in North America for suggestive content.]

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