Saturday, October 10, 2009

Virtual Text Trails

After enjoying condo life for 15 years, my family and I finally decided to go house-shopping last Fall. Even though the experience of finding and buying a house was stressful at times, there was one part I found to be enjoyable: Open House (not the occasional Open House I had to host...that was too much work... but the Open Houses of hopeful sellers). Every Sunday for 3 months or so, we'd pile in the SUV and check out what was on the market. How cool it was to walk through someone else's house, someone we didn't even know, and make inferences! (Maybe I need a life, but I thought it was fun. Doesn't take much for me, I guess.) After an Open House visit, I could tell you about the interests of the homeowners, how many people in their family, what colors and type of decor they favor. One of my favorite authors, Malcolm Gladwell, writes about the science behind this. In his 2007 book, Blink: The Power of Thinking Without Thinking, Gladwell shows how just a walk through a room can help you learn a lot about the inhabitant. A person's space is a kind of definition of who they are. When I visited those countless Open House showings, I was following a trail of evidence as I walked from room to room.

A person's bookshelf is much the same, I think. One glance at my home office bookshelf and you'll know what I love: Frank Lloyd Wright, historical fiction, reading comprehension, The Beatles, old journals and Tracy Chevalier.  With every cover of every book, a memory is unleashed. I think about where I was when I read that volume and who recommended it or in what bookstore I purchased it. Sometimes I group books together by topic or color or genre. These "text trails" help me connect to my past and know just who I am.

With the advent of virtual bookshelves, however, now my colleagues and I can view each others bookshelves anyplace, anytime. I can know what Nancy and Mike are reading, what they've already read and what they plan to read next. I'm never without a great book recommendation, and I know my friends even better because I can follow their reading trails and they can follow mine. The books bring us together in amazing ways.

Since February 2008, I have enjoyed creating a virtual bookshelf at Shelfari is a great way to keep track of your own text trails, but other virtual bookshelf options are popping up everyday.

Library Thing
Chain Reading

Virtual bookshelves help you remember what you've read and what you want to read. They help you know yourself as a reader, and your colleagues, too. So blaze a trail! And let me know where to find you.

Happy trails to you,



  1. What a great idea. I spent too many hours starting a bookshelf on shelfari.

  2. I am happy to be your friend on Shelfari. Whenever I need an idea for a book, I can count on you and M.E. to have some good ones on your shelf. I also forget sometimes what I have read and this helps me remember. I also found a cousin on Shelfari and I am gratified to see the kinds of books he reads "way out in California."