Saturday 13 April 2019

In the Stacks of Serendip

Eeee, but I do like a bit of random. It can be a welcome antidote to The Illusion of Control - the idea that being in charge of our destiny is A Good Thing. Random is Good. With 100s of 1,000s of new books published in English each year we cannot possibly read them all. If we follow the chitter of the chattering classes and only read the recommendations of Book Reviewers for the weekend papers then a) we are being boring, normative and unadventurous and b) we're probably missing some humdinging good reads. Dau.I the Librarian recently implemented a cunning plan to show-case essentially random books from the shelves. That curated random is probably better than random-random because so many books are so dull and niche that only a dozen people in the country would be able for them. Years ago when I was full-time in TCD with access to its copyright library, I'd often plunge into the shelves where they paused books between being catalogued and being shelved in the minority interest warehouse out near the airport. It was bad day if I couldn't find something to read for the weekend. Here's a bunch of books discarded when a friend moved his traps from TCD to UCD:
Wooty woot woot! There's a copy of Sokal & Rohlf's Biometry, I said, I'll have that! And I did and I do.
The Library of Congress has the largest collection of books in the world - 25 million items. But quantity is no help if you just want something to read; maybe to help you fall asleep at night. They've launched a kinda useless site called, which randomly lists a bunch of book-titles from its collection. The titles are linked to a catalog entry showing the frontispiece which gives you a teensy bit more information; and in some cases further links to the Full Text. Every time you visit the list changes! So I captured a snap-shot:
  • School management
  • California highways
  • A week on the Concord and Merrimack Rivers
  • English and French in England, 1066-1100
  • The little king
  • A few of Hamilton's letters
  • Macaulay's essays on Clive and Hastings
  • The Sabbath for man
  • A life in song
  • An introduction to American history
  • Night thoughts and day dreams
  • Illinois in the war
  • Electrical instruments and testing
  • The history of the military occupation of the territory of New Mexico from 1846 to 1851 by the government of the United States
  • Strange peoples & customs
  • Proceedings at the first and subsequent annual and spring meetings, and first and subsequent annual dinners, from 1880 to 1895, inclusive, of the New England Society in the City of Brooklyn
  • Proceedings of the Democratic State Convention
  • Vindication of volume first of the Collections of the Vermont Historical Society from the attacks of the New York Historical Magazine
  • The story of Jerry simpson
  • The mental capacity of the American Negro
  • The greater abbeys of England
  • Clay and fire
  • Life, explorations, and public services of John Charles Fremont
  • The second mile
  • Zigzag stories of history, travel, and adventure
You'd have to have a very full social life if you couldn't find something in that kist that seemed clickable. YMMV Your Mileage Will Definitely Vary YMWDV

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