20.345 what (not) to get someone

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Fri, 8 Dec 2006 14:57:38 +0000

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 20, No. 345.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Tue, 05 Dec 2006 08:13:00 +0000
         From: Willard McCarty <willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
         Subject: what (not) to get someone

For Christmas, or on any other occasion calling for gifts to be
given, and for a person for whom a book would be just right, the
cataloguing service www.librarything.com, offers the Unsuggester,
www.librarything.com/unsuggester/, to which John Lavagnino has drawn
my attention. For any book that at least 75 members of LibraryThing
own a copy, the Unsuggester will give you a listing of books least
likely to share a library with the one you pick. So, for example, you
can ask someone what books they hate, avoiding suspicion that you're
angling for gift ideas.... and so forth.

Using Jacqueline Susann's Valley of the Dolls as my example (313
copies in the members' database) I received a listing of 75 titles.
What's interesting about this list is that I can well imagine some
individuals in whose library Susann's book -- long ago given to me
while I was recovering from a serious operation, and being the only
source of distraction in the room I actually read it.... -- is found
with the unlikely matches. Interesting thoughts certainly do occur
about the complexities of taste. Now if one found Valley of the Dolls
next to The Works of Josephus, perhaps one would conclude that the
owner of the library was just waiting for you or someone similar to
come along and snoop. But next to The Dragonriders of Pern? Rich Dad,
Poor Dad? Royal Assassin?

The Unsuggester folks have given us some unlikely pairs for
encouragement, e.g. Kant's Critique of Pure Reason against
Confessions of a Shopaholic, or Ann Brashares' Sisterhood of the
Travelling Pants against Michel Houellebecq's Atomised, which is a
very interesting conjunction. But those are handpicked from the raw list.

Perhaps we require a much larger database. But it does help you
think, and perhaps find just the right gift, unless you get lost in
thought and so never act. Unfortunately the Unsuggester does nothing
with imaginary titles, or I'd enter In Praise of Short Battery Life.


Dr Willard McCarty | Reader in Humanities Computing | Centre for
Computing in the Humanities | King's College London | Kay House, 7
Arundel Street | London WC2R 3DX | U.K. | +44 (0)20 7848-2784 fax:
-2980 || willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk www.kcl.ac.uk/humanities/cch/wlm/
Received on Fri Dec 08 2006 - 10:21:43 EST

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