Recently columnist Danny Heitman, was interviewd on Here and Now, an NPR program. He was talking about the loss of a lovely librarian aunt at 94. He enjoyed reviewing and receiving some of her many books. The books, he said were a bit of her "intellectual DNA." He went on to complain that ebooks do not pass anything tangible on when we die. He expressed a concern about the loss of something very precious.
As I listened to the Heitman interview, I reflected on a recent session I had exloring GOODREADS. It is yet another social netowrk----that helps you interact with friends around the books they read and what they think of them. I don't know if this is --tapping into their "intellectual DNA"- but it is an interesting way to relate to friends. I can see what people I care about have read, are reading, and want to read. And I could read which books they liked and why. It is a different way to know a person.
It is not easy to find the link that lets you compare books with friends, in fact, it is not easy to find your list of friends. It was not surprising to find that my reading buddy and I have a 91% overlap in ratings of the books that we have in common. We have been trading reading recommendations for a number of years. These exchanges have taken place in email and are often hard to find when I need to order the next book. Now I can not only follow what he reads but look through what many others are reading and see where there is overlap.
One of the things that I discovered that I did not know was that one of my sisters (I have 4) rates book in almost the same way that I do (95% overlap). This has helped me find some more great reads as I confident that any book she rates with 5 stars, I will like. And it made me a feel a bit closer to her to discover that we like the same books.
And I find it interesting that other friends who have read large numbers of books hardly have any that overlap with ones that I read.
Sharing reading expereinces on GOODREADS is oddly private and social at the same time. I can quietly go and see what is on the book shelves of lots of people I know. And I can see what they say about books that I have either liked or passed over. This intrigues me as I constrantly reflect on why I read a book. Why do I enjoy some stories and not others? What directs me to read what I do read? What do I want from a book or story? When I look at what other choose to read, and in face my own list of over time, it helps me see patterns that I might not otherwise see. Of course this comes at a cost...I give up some information about myself when I share both what I read and what I think of the books with friends.
But to return to the NPR story, I think services like GOODREADS are an answer to the wistful comments like the ones that Heitman and others often make when "tools shift." As mediums change, we lose some opportunities while others open up. While Heitman is worried that with e-book we will lose the ability to inherit treasured books, I am grateful that with tools that come with e-reading, I don't have to wait til my friends are gone to enjoy sharing their intellectual DNA.