Still more questions for, and answers from, the Biblioracle:
That first installment of the Biblioracle was quite something, wasn’t it? Boy howdy! Better than 400 in three hours by my reckoning. It was simultaneously exhilarating and exhausting.
Were you surprised by the outpouring of requests for book recommendations? Sort of, yes, but then on further reflection, not really.
Come on! Don’t you know that reading is dying, that the internet has fried our attention spans so they’re crispier than the KFC Double Down? That all we thirst for is connection, connection, connection, bouncing from byte to byte? Why on Earth would so many people want to be told what they should read? Here’s the thing. The prophets of deep-thinking doom are failing to recognize that the book (whatever form it comes in) remains a one-of-a-kind piece of technology, the only virtual reality experience currently available.
How do you mean, virtual reality? Isn’t that more like 3D movies or video games? Release the Kraken! It’s kind of amazing when that shit pops off the screen like that, isn’t it? The Biblioracle saw Avatar just like the rest of the world and holy moly that was some amazing stuff. In fact, during the movie, the Biblioracle spent some time watching the other moviegoers and what he noticed is that in four out of five cases it looked as though their jaw muscles had atrophied, dropping their chins to their chests. In some cases, there might have been drool. I’ve heard we only use 10 percent of our brains. In this case, I would’ve put the number closer to three percent. Movies, even at their best, still primarily support passive intake.
Compare this to the experience of reading a book, where one’s brain is actually engaged. In an interview, George Saunders described the connection between reader and writer this way:
I think that what any of us pays for when entering into a reading experience is that feeling of seeing another mind at work, and not at work in a rational way. There’s something thrilling about seeing this other mind at work in this blissful and private and self-referential way, and then suddenly your mind joins it. How weird and inexplicable that is. There’s a sort of knowledge that goes beyond our mundane everyday knowledge. The reader and writer are being smarter together than either one could be separately. This is like a sort of experiential proof of the fact that our apparent separation is delusional.
When I finish a good book, it’s like emerging from a dream, a lovely fog over my brain.
When I walked out of Avatar, I had a migraine and a worthless pair of ugly glasses.
And as for the role video games play, let me recommend the incredible new book by Tom Bissell, Extra Lives: Why Video Games Matter. He does an amazing job of demonstrating his subtitle, but also makes it clear how video games don’t yet (and maybe never will) replicate the experience of reading a good book. As anyone who has played them can tell you, video games can be every bit as immersive as books, but it seems to me that they immerse us in a different part of the old cranial pool.
That’s great and all, books are fantastic, blah blah blah, but what you’re doing isn’t all that special, is it? How do you mean?
Well, for instance, one of the commenters in this nice writeup from the Christian Science Monitor noted that Amazon offers the “here’s the books other people bought feature” saying that it’s the “same principle.” Obviously, this person is wrong. A relational database that just tells you what other people have purchased is a long way from recommending something that other people liked and more importantly, understand why someone might like it.
How about librarians, don’t they do the same thing, every day, for free? Now you’re on to something. Indeed, while the Biblioracle may have a gift for this kind of thing, a librarian is something even better, a trained professional. My grandmother worked as a librarian in the public and school systems of Rockford, Ill., for better than 50 years.
Since the Biblioracle only appears periodically and has to take to his bed for a full day following a bout of recommending, he wholeheartedly recommends making use of these people who work in just about every community across the land and are frequently underappreciated.
The Biblioracle recommended a book for me and I’d like to express my appreciation. How can I do this? The most important thing you can do is read the book and tell the Biblioracle how you liked it by emailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. You could also follow the Biblioracle on Twitter. Once he reaches 100 followers he will endeavor to provide occasional, non-annoying book-related tweets in between his Biblioracle appearances.
I either missed out on the fun last time or forgot; how do I get a recommendation? Between the hours of noon and 2 p.m. ET today, list the last five books you read in the comments below and the Biblioracle will provide you with the next book you should read.
List the last five books you’ve read, and the Biblioracle tells you what to read next.
The Biblioracle will be open today, June 22, from noon to 2 p.m. ET.