History Books.

I've become a big fan of Goodreads lately - I'd avoided it for a while, just thinking it was Ike Foursquare for books - a way to brag about your reading to all your friends. But now that I've tried it out, I realise that it's not a way to organise the books you've read. Rather, it's a way to organise the books you haven't read.

The author a friend recommended to you over coffee, the book that a movie was based upon, the stack of books you bought for two dollars at a garage sale, and the one your co-worker gave you which you can't return without having at least tried the first few chapters. Everyone has a reading list, and sometimes these can seem so imposing that they scare you away from trying new books.

And so, Goodreads provides a way to keep track of which book you're reading next, which gives you a bit more incentive to finish the one you're reading now, and onward goes the happy spiral. As an added bonus, you can also keep track of which books were borrowed from which friend - I know if at least a few sad titles which smuggled themselves out of a city when I've moved.

It's a lovely system, and there's one other feature I love - the bar code scanning system. Just hold your web-connected camera up to the code, and zhoop! There it is, in your virtual library. I must admit, I've taken a lot of joy in scanning all my books this way.

However, there was one title on my to-read list which I just started yesterday, and there was no bar code on it. Published in 1967, it's not that much of a surprise, but it still gave me pause. What a great leap in commerce there's been since then! So much has been automated and digitized that the very appearance of books now includes a brand which tells us everything we want to know about it - without ever even opening it up. I wouldn't say that today's systems are worse, but it's still vitally important to remember what books used to be like, and how the world used to work. Partially to keep us from losing perspective on our own modern age, but also to remind us that everything is built on what came before. My 1967 book is a paperback, which I'm sure would have bewildered booksellers of the 1920s... everything is connected, and we should always be aware of those lines. They help us to understand and appreciate our world, and to help us see where we're going.

All of which makes this 1967 novel of mine wonderfully appropriate:

What can I say? I'd been meaning to read it ever since I was a teenager. Better late than never, right?

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About The Author

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Canadian explorer. Chemist by training, biologist by nature. Long-time supporter and participant in National Novel Writing Month. Known as "Aquadeo" in most Internet circles. Also known as "that guy with the pants" to people who have seen me in certain pants.