Rare Book Monthly

Articles - September - 2013 Issue

A Site That May Help You Find New Books to Read

Booklamplogo

Here is a story that isn't news, or if it is news, it's old news, which sounds like an oxymoron to me. However, it was new to me, and probably will be to many of you, so here it goes, two years late. There is, or was around two years ago, a new website created to help you choose books to read. It's called BookLamp, and it uses a different algorithm than the standard list of more books by the same author or in the same genre. How well it works I can't tell, but it's fun to see and who knows, maybe you will find some books you otherwise would have missed.

 

Rather than relying on reader recommendations, BookLamp uses something it calls the book's genome. What is a book's genome? As their site explains, “It’s complicated and technical... To go into it in detail would take a great deal of time.” Okay. If it's confusing for even them to explain, what are the chances I can understand it, or explain it to you? What are the odds I can do both? Rather than waste each other's time, I'll just say it tries to take into account various features of the book. It can include basic category descriptions, but, as their website says, it may look into frequency of appearance of such things as dragons and horses. If you like one book about dragons, maybe you'll like another. If you read a book to master your skills at parimutual betting on horse racing, maybe you'll like Black Beauty. And why not? Maybe it would be good to take your mind off gambling for awhile and read a nice story like Black Beauty.

BookLamp does provide a little more explanation. Factors considered include the amount of motion in a book, the degree of descriptive language used, the book's pacing, density of text (not exactly sure what this means), and amount of dialog. In other words, it's not just the type or subject of a book that is considered, but the writing style of the author. You might enjoy a book on a subject you normally wouldn't consider if it is written in a way you like.

 

I went to the BookLamp site to give it a try. I don't read a lot of modern books. I don't much go for fluff. So, I tried a book of major importance. I entered “Uncle Tom's Cabin.” I got a bunch of matches. Were they good matches? I don't know. BookLamp describes itself as a Pandora for books. For those who don't know Pandora, it's a music matching site. You enter a song you like and it plays some songs it thinks are similar. It works very well. However, it takes two and a half minutes to listen to a song. You can test for accuracy quickly. It takes me two and a half weeks to read a book. I can't go out and test this for you. You will have to see for yourself.

 

I hadn't read the matches it provided for Uncle Tom's Cabin. Most I hadn't heard of. Then there was one I knew... Zorba the Greek. Is Zorba the Greek like Uncle Tom's Cabin? It never occurred to me there was a similarity, but I can't say for certain. In all honesty, I never read Zorba the Greek. But... I did see the movie. I remember someone who looked like Aristotle Onassis dancing around a lot. Zorba was one of those Mediterranean characters, “full of life” as they say. That differs from we Americans who hole up behind our fences and security gates and avoid each other at all costs. Stay out of my space. Zorba wouldn't understand this. That's about all I remember about the movie. It was 40 years ago. It was a good movie as I recall, but not so earth-shaking that I could remember much 40 years later. Maybe I need to read the book. Perhaps I will find some similarities with Uncle Tom's Cabin. Perhaps it is the style. Or maybe Zorba freed the Greeks from some sort of enslavement. He was a man of the people, as I recall.

 

Anyway, I love new ideas, even if they are a couple of years old. BookLamp is a neat idea which may or may not work for you, but there's nothing to lose in trying it. It's free. Anything that opens new doors, or the covers of new books, is worth a try. So go ahead. You can find BookLamp at booklamp.org/index.php.

Rare Book Monthly

  • <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Charles Darwin on sexuality and the transmission of hereditary characteristics: Autograph Letter Signed to Lawson Tait. Down, 17 January [1877].
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> MILTON, JOHN. <i>Paradise Lost. A Poem written in ten books.</i> London: 1667. A very rare example with the contemporary binding untouched and with a 1667 title page.
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> Hamilton secures the ratification of the Constitution: <i>The Debates and Proceedings of the Convention of the State of New-York, assembled at Poughkeespsie, on the 17th June, 1788.</i>
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> The social contract “Man is born free, and everywhere he is in chains”: ROUSSEAU, JEAN-JACQUES. <i>Principes du Droit Politique [Du Contract Social]</i>. Amsterdam: Michel Rey, 1762
    <b>19th Century Shop:</b> “The first English textbook on geometrical land-measurement and surveying”: BENESE, RICHARD. <i>This Boke Sheweth the Maner of Measurynge All Maner of Lande…</i>
  • <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jacques-Émile Ruhlmann, wallpaper sample book, circa 1919. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Archive from a late office of the Breuer & Smith architectural team, New York, 1960-70s. $3,500 to $5,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> William Morris, <i>The Story of the Glittering Plain or the Land of Living Men,</i> illustrated by Walter Crane, Kelmscott Press, Hammersmith, 1894. $2,500 to $3,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustave Doré, <i>La Sainte Bible selon la Vulgate,</i> Tours, 1866. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Gustav Klimt & Max Eisler, <i>Eine Nachlese,</i> complete set, Vienna, 1931. $15,000 to $25,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>Eric Allatini & Gerda Wegener, <i>Sur Talons Rouges,</i> with original watercolor by Wegener, Paris, 1929. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>C.P. Cavafy, <i>Fourteen Poems,</i> illustrated & signed by David Hockney, London, 1966. $5,000 to $7,500.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b> Jean Midolle, <i>Spécimen des Écritures Modernes...</i>, Strasbourg, 1834-35. $3,000 to $4,000.
    <b>Swann Auction Galleries Apr 26:</b><br>E.A. Seguy, <i>Floréal: Dessins & Coloris Nouveaux,</i> Paris, 1925. $3,000 to $4,000.
  • <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> BEETHOVEN, LUDWIG VAN. Autograph Manuscript sketch-leaf part of the score of the Scottish Songs, "Sunset" Op. 108 no 2. [Vienna, February 1818]. Inscribed by Alexander Wheelock Thayer. SOLD for $131,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> Violin belonging to Albert Einstein, presented to him by Oscar H. Steger, 1933. SOLD for $516,500
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> EINSTEIN, ALBERT. Autograph Letter Signed ("Papa") to his son Hans Albert, discussing his involvement with the atomic bomb, September 2, 1945. SOLD for $106,250
    <b>Bonhams: Results from Fine Books and Manuscripts on March 9, 2018</b>
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> HAMILTON, ALEXANDER. Autograph Letter Signed, to Baron von Steuben, with extensive notes of Von Steuben's aide Benjamin Walker, June 12, 1780. SOLD for $16,250
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> NEWTON, ISAAC. Autograph Manuscript in Latin, being detailed instructions on making the philosopher's stone. 8 pp. 1790s. SOLD for $275,000
    <b>Bonhams, Mar. 9:</b> 1869 Inauguration Bible of President Ulysses S. Grant. SOLD for $118,750
  • <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> E.H. SHEPARD, Original drawing for A.A. Milne’s The House at Pooh Corner.<br>$40,000-60,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> BERNARD RATZER, Plan of the City of New York in North America, surveyed in the years 1766 & 1767. $80,000-100,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> THOMAS JEFFERSON, Autograph letter signed comparing Logan, Tecumseh, and Little Turtle to the Spartans. Monticello: 15 February 1821. $14,000-18,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN C. FREMONT, Narrative of the Exploring Expedition to the Rocky Mountains, in the Year 1842.. Abridged edition, the only one containing the folding map From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $3,000-5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ZANE GREY, Album containing 94 large format photographs of Grey and party at Catalina Island, Arizona, and fishing in the Pacific. From the Sporting Library of Arnold “Jake” Johnson. $5,000-$8,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> WILLIAM COMBE, A History of Madeira ... illustrative of the Costumes, Manners, and Occupations of the Inhabitants. produced by Ackermann in 1821; From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> ERIC TAVERNER, Salmon Fishing... One of 275 copies signed by Taverner, published in 1931,From the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN WHITEHEAD, Exploration of Mount Kina Balu, North Borneo. Whitehead reached the high point of Kinabalu in 1888. Part of a major group of travel books from the Sporting Library of Jake Johnson. $2,000-$3,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> JOHN LONG, Voyages and Travels of an Indian Interpreter and Trader, describing the Manners and Customs of the North American Indians... The first edition of 1791. $3,000-$5,000
    <b>Doyle, April 25:</b> SAMUEL BECKETT, Stirrings Still. This, Beckett’s last work of fiction with original lithographs by Le Brocquy, limited to 200 copies signed by the author and the artist. From the Estate of Howard Kaminsky.. $1,500-$2,500

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