Category Archives: Recommendations

Bookstore Shopping with Dirda

I  love articles like this one over at The Paris Review where a writer got to go book shopping with Michael Dirda. It is so cool that one of the greatest book reviewers alive and one who has written about “the classics” spends so much time in the SciFi section of used-bookstores. The whole article is worth reading as it shares a love of books, book hunting and the joy of serendipity.

A great quote by the article’s author:

“. . . you don’t get to be the best-read man in America by giving a damn about someone else’s taste.”

Oh to bump into Michael Dirda, who says he has about 10,000 books and is “a sucker for pretty books”,  in a book store aisle. Over the course of the article Dirda declares Joseph Mitchell’s Up in the Old Hotel as “. . . the greatest book ever”. So that one is now on my ‘books to read’ list.

I also took the time to make a list of the books that Dirda recommends or buys throughout the story. So if you’re looking for something worthwhile, these might be worth looking up. What’s fun is that not all of them are “stuffy”. There are spaceships and sailboats too!

Rick Brant’s ‘Electronic Adventure’ series
anything by Tom Swift
Arnold Bennett’s The Card
Pym (the edition edited and annotated by Harold Beaver)
M.F.K. Fisher’s Two Towns in Provence
Joseph Mitchell’s Up in the Old Hotel
Alberto Manguel’s Black Water: The Book of Fantastic Fiction
Ray Bradbury’s The Illustrated Man
Dorothy Sayers’s Omnibus of Crime
Josephine Tey’s The Daughter of Time
Harry Kemelman’s The Nine-Mile Walk
Ross Thomas’s Chinaman’s Chance


Netflix is Not a Better Librarian

Someone shared Seth Godin’s post The Future of the Library, via Twitter. In it Godin says “Netflix is a better librarian…”. Something that I totally disagree with. I have a 4-year-old and a 2-year-old at home. Ninety-five percent of what gets streamed to my house is kids’ programming. From which the Netflix-librarian-bot makes the following not-so-helpful recommendations:

I took these screen shots today and stopped halfway through Page 2 of the recommendations. Now, none of these are offensive (Netflix once recommended Teeth to us, based on VeggieTales and Strawberry Shortcake) , but I’m not sure which one of these programs my Dora-loving 2-year-old would want to watch.

To be fair, Netflix-bot has gotten better over the past year. We really enjoy the service. But they are a looooooong ways away from being “a better librarian.” I do hope you all read Godin’s post, he does end up highlighting the need for people to curate and determine selections. Even if he does over reach with his esteem for bot-driven recommendation engines. People are still better.