Tombouctou manuscripts online

You may have heard of Timbuktu as a stand-in for a far away, exotic place. It also happens to be the location of one of the most magnificent ancient libraries in the world. The Timouctou Manuscripts Project is trying to get that library entirely digitized so that it can be accessed online!

slide_1-480x280This is pretty magnificent, so make sure you go check it out!


Is LOTR an allegory?

The story starts with Frodo: a young hobbit, quite bright, a bit dissatisfied with what he’s learnt so far and with his mates back home who just want to get jobs and settle down and drink beer. He’s also very much in awe of his tutor and mentor, the very senior professor Gandalf, so when Gandalf suggests he take on a short project for him (carrying the Ring to Rivendell), he agrees. Frodo very quickly encounters the shadowy forces of fear and despair which will haunt the rest of his journey and leave permanent scars on his psyche, but he also makes some useful friends. In particular, he spends an evening down at the pub with Aragorn, who has been wandering the world for many years as Gandalf’s postdoc and becomes Frodo’s advisor when Gandalf isn’t around.

So much more interesting than that Nazism/World War II interpretation! Read the whole explanation here.

The app that makes reading faster

A friend told me about a new-ish app called Spritz that makes reading books much faster. It works by displaying only one word on the screen at a time, and by identifying the “Optimal Recognition Point” (ORP) (“the precise point at which our brain deciphers each jumble of letters”) and aligning the words on that point. That way, your eye no longer needs to move and locate itself with each new word.

Reading App

You can read the whole article for more information.

When I first read the article, I wasn’t sure how I felt about this idea. On the one hand, it sounds like a great way to get through school textbooks or other non-fiction where the purpose of reading is not enjoyment and where the prose doesn’t particularly matter. On the other hand, it sounds like a terrible idea the prose is important.

So I looked around and found a couple articles essentially saying the same thing, including this one that argues that Spritz is “reading to have read.” It’s a bit melodramatic, but the essentially point is one that I agree with – that a method like Spritz gets you through content fast, but not necessarily well.

Still, I think of all the stress I could have saved myself in university, and the idea certainly has its appeal…

The Great Culling

Great Culling

My husband has often threatened to burn my books, particularly when we’ve had to move (twice now) for the extra space to accommodate them. When we were moving into this house, his “deal” was that I could keep my books but I had to move them all myself. I showed him in the end, though, because I totally did and build some mad muscle definition in the process. 
His next “deal” was that I could only keep as many books as I could fit on our bookshelves. No more stacks! Thankfully, two friends have each gifted me a bookcase since then. Even so, I’ve developed a new system – all the books I’ve read go on the bookshelves in the livingroom. Then I have a bookcase in my office for books that I’ve bought but not read yet (with two rows of books per shelf, plus stacks on the top of each row). As I read them, I either move them onto the primary bookshelves if I love them, or I donate them to the library if I don’t. As more books are added to the primary bookshelves, they knock off ones already there that I’m not completely attached to. So far, it’s working fairly well. 
(h/t: Edward Spoonhands)

The Library Hotel

Library Hotel

The Library Hotel in New York describes itself as:

The Library Hotel concept is inspired by the Dewey Decimal system. Each of the 10 guestroom floors honors one of the 10 categories of the Dewey Decimal System and each of the 60 rooms is uniquely adorned with a collection of books and art exploring a distinctive topic within the category it belongs to. Guests are invited to unwind from their urban adventures by enjoying the quiet exploration of over 6,000 books.

The room rates aren’t cheap, but they aren’t too terrible (at least by my government town standards). And who couldn’t fall in love with a hotel inspired by a library cataloguing system?

10 Great Banned Science Fiction Books

  1. Shade’s Children by Garth Nix
  2. The Giver by Lois Lowry
  3. The His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman
  4. Stranger in a Strange Land by Robert A. Heinlein
  5. Nineteen Eighty-Four by George Orwell
  6. Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  7. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeline L’Engle
  8. Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  9. Brave New World by Aldous Huxley
  10. A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess

Go read through the whole article for a summary of each book and the reason for its banning.

How many of these have you read? Did you read them in school or on your own?