Wednesday, October 25, 2006

A little Library Thing

I now have a Library Thing.

There are a couple of reasons why I've done this.

Mostly, I just kinda like it and I'm a bit of a geek. And by golly but I do love lists.

A lot of my new visitors (who usually are one-offs!) seem to have found me via some of the books I've reviewed. Of course, I'm probably not going to review books I've read in the distant past and I feel that it is a pity that people will miss out on a recommendation towards some of those books if I don't have a little list somewhere (I'm thinking Simone Lazaroo and Duong Thu Huong in particular). And it saddened me to see that I was one of only two people who'd reviewed The Full Story, and one of only five who reviewed The Gangster We are All Looking For (yes, I googled my own posts - but just to see what else would turn up, honest. I'm not an egomaniac. Oh, wait, I am a bit of an egomaniac). A real pity, particularly for Gangster, as it is such an insightful and lyrical work.

I considered writing a post of all the influential books I've read - but I don't like lists without explanation, and it would have been too long and taken up too much time and too difficult!

I've also read a number of book memes which started me thinking.

The most recent one was a list of Women Writers. The task was to bold what one had read, italicise what one wanted to read, place some kind of symbol beside each of (1)an author one had read but not the book listed, (2) author one had heard of but not read yet, or (3) an author one had not heard of at all. Of the lists I've seen, I've generally read or at least heard of most of the authors. But what I was saddened to see was that so many excellent women authors had been left off the list. Generally speaking, lists will leave people off and one can always quibble with the criteria for inclusion. Nature of the beast and all that. But sometimes such wonderful authors were left off (eg. Maxine Hong Kingston, whom I would expect to be part of any woman author canon) while others less meritorious were left on (eg. Amy Tan, whom I've certainly enjoyed but is not of the literary calibre of Ms Hong Kingston, in my (probably not very) humble opinion).

Another book meme which got me thinking was a list of "World Writers". There was a glut of authors from / having a connection with India but only a very few from Africa (yes, the whole continent) and Australia, and none from Viet Nam. Sure, these lists show the biases and limitations of the makers (as I have my own, and my own blindspots) but I wanted a way to get out the names of great writers of literature, preferably Asian (with a distinct bias towards Viet), preferably women and with a leaning towards Australia.

Thus, My Library Thing was created.

If you think this is all I read, you are wrong. But of what I read, these are the works I think need more attention. Some are there not because they do need more attention (eg Banana Yoshimoto) but just because she's really great. And if you're wondering, I love Haruki Murakami and have all of his books except for my two favourites (go figure!?), but he's remaining OFF my Library Thing. He really has enough attention (he takes up 9 out of the top 10 places in the "Asian Fiction / Asian Writers" group) and I'd like to see more diversity. On which criteria I might need to take Ms Yoshimoto OFF my Library Thing, because she's number one on the top 10 list! (But if she had not been on my list, the Asian Fiction group would not have found me so quickly - no more than a few hours!)

Library Thing strikes me as a very useful recommendation service. It is most often through other people - whether in my non-ether or ether life - that I discover authors I have never heard of: eg. Pham Thi Hoai (thank you NT) and Kien Nguyen (thank you Sume). And now, I can also be recommended books by all the other Library Thingistas out there.

Not that my Books in the Waiting Room need to be expanded upon ... now we just need an internet program to create more time.


Kirsty said...

I'm ashamed to admit I haven't read any of the books on your LibraryThing.

I do have a sad story about my signed copy of Hiam, that I foolishly loaned to someone before I'd read it myself.

I could put a symbol--of the authors I have read variety--next to Banana Yoshimoto, though.

n.t said...

if you lived in melbourne, i'd let you raid my library. =) i have both pham thi hoai translations, catfish and mandala, both kien nguyen novels (the tapestries doesn't seem too great though, but definitely do read the unwanted) and a good assortment of other books too! (although i confess, i've probably only read 10% of what i own)

Oanh said...

Oh Galaxy - that is a sad story. I hope the loan recipient values the copy :-)

NT - yeah! That would be great - except my main problem is time, not access to books.

I used to have a rule that books did not get shelved until I'd read them. Unfortunately that left large pile of books sitting around all over the place. So, things go straight to the shelf and I just have to remember that they're there. And then read them!

honglien123 said...

Wow, I've only read The Woman Warrior and that is mainly because it was required reading in school. How do you find so many books by Vietnamese authors? Do you seek them out specifically by last names or subject matter? And with so many books and so little time, in which do you decide to invest time?

Tseen said...

Cool listing and thanks for the heads-up about Library Thing. Hadn't encountered this before! Being a chronic list-maker myself, I don't know if it's a good thing to discover...! :P

Also - have you read Alice Pung's Unpolished Gem (biography)? I picked it up yesterday from the bookshop and have only just started but it's v. good at sucking me in! About growing up Vietnamese in Footscray.

Oanh said...

Hong Lien,

Once you get started finding Viet authors, you just don't stop. Sometimes, they find you :-) Actually it all started when I browsed through the uni library for Viet literature in translation. It's been a slippery slope ever since.

Priorities wise, I think I am a little bit like you :-) Basically I just try to do everything all at once. Including read all my books, all at the same time.


The internet is a wondrous thing, no? And so full of distractions.

I have heard of Alice Pung's work and have it on my "to be picked up at some stage in the near future but not too soon because I am downscaling my possession not increasing them" list. I'm much pleased to hear that it is so engaging!

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