The Art and Science of LibraryThing

This past weekend I entered many of my books into a delightful website, LibraryThing. It’s the internet incarnation of those wonderful old wood card catalogs with the tiny brass-labeled drawers, only much simpler to use. (Does anyone actually remember how to use a card catalog anymore?)

(Just in case you think cataloging books is a waste of time and energy, let me point out that today, after many long debates, the International Astronomers Union finally decided Pluto isn’t a planet:

“Some people think that the astronomers will look stupid if we can’t agree on a definition or if we don’t even know what a planet is,” said Dr. Pasachoff of Williams College. “But someone pointed out that this definition will hold for all time and that it is more important to get it right.”

Or the definition will hold until their next big meeting. . . But back to LibraryThing.)

Really, all I wanted was the little widget on my sidebar which displays random covers. I love it. A familiar book cover is like a snapshot of a smiling friend. Hello there, “A Wrinkle in Time”! When you were on my bookshelf, I never got to see your face, only your boring spine!

So I compared my library with the other user libraries on LibraryThing, but I should have known an n of 200 (the maximum number of books allowed in a free account) is too low for meaningful conclusions. Several of my books are shared with zero other users, and my disproportionate representation of Dorothy Sayers and Stephen Jay Gould skews my data towards users who share those books but none of my others (check out the AuthorCloud function, it’s nifty). Basically, I have weird taste in books. But I hope that as LibraryThing grows, it could be an interesting source for book recommendations.It’s not as if you can search Amazon for “art and science” and get the most relevant hits. Someone has written a how-to book entitled “The Art and Science of X” for every topic imaginable, from Operative Dentistry to Personal Magnetism – whether or not the topic has a clear artistic and/or scientific component. I think the two words come together in this titular cliche precisely because they’re seen as disparate: any guide covering the art and the science of Culinary Preparation must be a comprehensive survey indeed!

So here are a few “Art and Science” books I’d actually like to read. When I have a significantly larger disposable income, they will be showing off their spines on my shelf.

Art and Science by Sian Ede

The Molecular Gaze: Art in the Genetic Age by Suzanne Anker and Dorothy Nelkin

The Science of Art: Optical Themes in Western Art from Brunelleschi to Seurat by Martin Kemp

Colour: Art and Science (Darwin College Lectures) Trevor Lamb and Janine Bourriau, Eds.

This entry was posted in Books. Bookmark the permalink.