Normal Distribution in Library Thing

At library school I took the required course on the role of research.  Each week the professor would draw graphs all over the dry erase board and then with vigor mark out the bell curves on each of them with his marker.  I didn’t much get it then, and I don’t get it now but looking at my Library Thing page this jumped out at me:

Scary isn’t it.  The distribution of stars I award to books I’ve read does indeed form a bell curve.  At least on the integers if not on the half-stars.

Now someone should run a statistical analysis to tell me what this all means.

Related posts:

Iconic Books of the United States

I’ve often promoted my ongoing program to read books from all the nations of the world in Around the World for a Good Book.   It’s got me thinking closer to home about the best books from each of the United States.  It’s hard to determine an iconic book for each state.  A great book about New York City, for example, would not be very representative of the Finger Lakes for example.  At any rate, I thought I’d get a start by looking through my Library Thing catalog to see if I could find an iconic book or two – mostly fiction – for each state.  When it seemed I hadn’t read any books from a particular state I listed one that had been tagged most often with the state’s name by other Library Thing users.

Here’s my list.  Books I’ve read are in bold.  Let me know in the comments if you have additional or alternate suggestions.


To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee


Call of the Wild by Jack London

Into the Wild by Jon Krakauer


The Bean Trees by Barbara Kingsolver


I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings by Maya Angelou


The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck


Plainsong by Kent Haruf


The Witch of Blackbird Pond by Elizabeth George Speare


The Saint of Lost Things: A Novel by Christopher Castellani

District of Columbia

The Exorcist by William Peter Blatty


Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston


The Salt Eaters by Toni Cade Bambera

Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil by John Berendt


Moloka’i by Alan Brennert


All Over Creation by Ruth L. Ozeki


Dandelion Wine by Ray Bradbury


In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd


Shoeless Joe by W.P. Kinsella

A Thousand Acres by Jane Smiley


Little House on the Prairie by Laura Ingalls Wilder


Prodigal Summer by Barbara Kingsolver


All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren

A Lesson Before Dying by Ernest J. Gaines


Olive Kitteridge by Elizabeth Strout

Empire Falls by Richard Russo


The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth


The Scarlet Letter by Nathaniel Hawthorne

The Namesake by Jhumpa Lahiri


Middlesex by Jeffery Eugenides

Song of Solomon by Toni Morrison


Lake Wobegon Days by Garrison Keillor


The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner


The Adventures of Tom Sawyer by Mark Twain

The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn by Mark Twain


Hattie Big Sky by Kirby Larson


My Ántonia by Willa Cather


Roughing It by Mark Twain

The Ox-Bow Incident by Walter van Tilburg Clark

New Hampshire

A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving

A Separate Peace by John Knowles

New Jersey

The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

American Pastoral by Philip Roth

New Mexico

Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather

The Milagro Beanfield War by John Nichols

New York

The Catcher in the Rye by J. D. Salinger

The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald

North Carolina

Cold Mountain by Charles Frazier

North Dakota

The Master Butchers Singing Club by Louise Erdrich


Winesburg, Ohio by Sherwood Anderson

Beloved by Toni Morrison


The Outsiders by S. E. Hinton


One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey


Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara

Rhode Island

She’s Come Undone by Wally Lamb

South Carolina

The Secret Life of Bees by Sue Monk Kidd

South Dakota

By the Shores of Silver Lake by Laura Ingalls Wilder


Inherit the Wind by Jerome Lawrence


No Country for Old Men by Cormac McCarthy


The Great Brain by John D. Fitzgerald


Midwives by Chris Bohjalian


Pilgrim at Tinker Creek by Annie Dillard

Bridge to Terabithia by Katherine Paterson


The Absolutely True Diary of a Part-Time Indian by Sherman Alexie

West Virginia

Shiloh by Phyllis Reynolds Naylor


Little House in the Big Woods by Laura Ingalls Wilder


Brokeback Mountain by E. Annie Proulx

Book Review: Simplexity by Jeffrey Kluger

Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex (and How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple) (2008) by Jeffrey Kluger is my first foray into reviewing a Advance Reading Copy of a book by of the Library Thing Early Reviewers program.  Or maybe not since I saw this book last week in the window at Harvard Book Store.  At any rate, this is a brand new book and it’s a popular science exploration of the idea of complexity and simplicity or how simple things can more complicated than they seem, and complex things more simple.

Kluger refers to the work that’s being done in the study of complexity at places like the Santa Fe Institute.  Then he dedicates each chapter to the concept of simplexity in every day life in areas such as markets, crowd psychology, social structure, business, death, sports, fear, childhood development, liguistics, technology, public health, and the arts.  Particularly nice is his appreciation that hard-working blue color labor is overworked and underpaid. It’s hard to say whether or not Kluger sticks with his thesis, or just writes about a bunch of interesting things but either way it is a fun, breezy read that provokes thoughts and ideas.

I was struck by how many books I’ve read recently shared some basic concepts with this book.  I suppose at the very least Simplexity can be a good summary of a lot of recent literature, but better than that it can be a jumping off point to reading these other books.  Unfortunately, Simplexity does not have a bibliography (or even an index!) so here related books I’d reccomend, some of which were mentioned in the text:

Books I’ve read previously by this author:

Simplexity: Why Simple Things Become Complex (and How Complex Things Can Be Made Simple) by Jeffrey Kluger. Hyperion (2008), Hardcover, 336 pages

Every Book I’ve Ever Read *

So I’m a junior in high school beginning to apply for college and attending a lot of college-related events. Inevitably the following question is asked:

“Liam, what do you like to do?”

“Oh, I like to read a lot…”

“Really, what books have read lately?”

And my mind would go blank.  What have I read lately?  What have I read ever?

Thus, in the summer of 1990 I began tracking the books I read, a habit that continues to this day.  I started on scrap paper, then I kept the list in the back of my journal.  A few years ago I put everything in a spreadsheet.  Starting in 2003, I began writing short reviews/summaries of the books to help me remember the content as well as the titles of the books.  I’ve been putting my current book lists and reviews online since I started Panorama of the Mountains in 2006.

Now, thanks to LibraryThing, the whole world can see Every Book I’ve Ever Read* online and in one place.  The asterisk of course is due to the fact that I don’t remember what I read before I started tracking books in 1990, although I’ve brainstormed a fairly good list of what I can remember.  I wish I could remember the first book I ever read on my own which was about cats.

It should be noted that LibraryThing is kind of geared to cataloging books one actually owns, so the information about particular editions of books in my LibraryThing catalog is really not relevant.  I basically chose the editions with the prettiest covers.  I do like that I can add my old reviews and tags and sort the library in different ways.

For example, if you want to see what books I read in a particular years, here they are:

Pre-1990 1994 1999 2004
1990 1995 2000 2005
1991 1996 2001 2006
1992 1997 2002 2007
1993 1998 2003 2008

As I’ve posted previously, since 1996 I’ve made a list of the ten favorite books I’ve read each year.  I have those listed below as well.  It’s interesting to see what books made a list that I really don’t remember that well, while books I now consider all time favorites didn’t make the cut.

1996 1999 2002 2005
1997 2000 2003 2006
1998 2001 2004 2007

I hope this doesn’t come across as bragging.  For one thing, I still don’t think I’m reading enough books or enough of the right books.  I do like LIbraryThing as a place to share information and ideas about books, because reading is important.

So dive in, take a look, and enjoy.  Sign up for your own account if you’re so inclined., Library Thing, and Twitter updates

Here’s how I’m using my social networking tools these days.

When I first registered for I imported all the bookmarks from my browser and then didn’t use it for a year.  I didn’t really need all those bookmarks so I cleaned things up by deleting them all.  I also cleaned up and consolidated misspelled tags.  I went back to all the links I’ve posted over the past 6 months and added the name of the source (newspaper, website or blog name) as a tag in hopes I can look back and see which sources I can recommend as reliable, or at least interesting. I may go back and retroactively add in all the articles from the many link-of-the-day posts in this blog.

Library Thing

In the process of entering (almost) every book I’ve ever read. I don’t actually own many books but I’ve kept lists of what I read for the past 18 years.  I also hope to use it to rank my favorite books of all time.  I may also try cataloging my son’s collection of children’s books just for kicks.


Some strangers asked to follow me right off the bat, so I followed them back  which was fun for a day or so.  Then I was overwhelmed by the minutiae of their daily lives.  I’m eagerly seeking to use this as a professional development tool by following librarians who tweet about ideas and activities in their jobs and libraries. So from now on I plan only to follow librarians as well as non-librarian folks I already know.

I’m also using Facebook to play lots of games of Scrabulous, WordTwist, and Scramble which I guess proves that Facebook is a valuable social networking tool for wasting time with your friends.