O noes, book list meme

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I was reading some hip and literary Swedish blogs (no, actually I found this stuff on some tech blog, but swimming down the attribution links brought me these far more acceptable references) which talk about a list of books one might be expected to have read. The list has apparently been circulating for some time, witness the lonely librarian, and continues to be passed around, for instance on the symbian diaries (I can’t find any Symbian content there, though). It might be that the list stems from this story (from 2007?), but I’ve seen the Guardian reported as the original source as well.

The list itself (in the form in which it’s being passed around right now) is a little odd, since there’s some strange entries: the Bible (which version? does it matter? with or without the apocryphal books?), the complete works of Shakespeare (zounds, that’s a lot, but it also duplicates Hamlet much later in the list). The list mixes classics with much more recent work and includes some real cruft (IMO) as well. Anyway, I thought that publishing the list would be far too space-consuming and not interesting on a technical blog, so I wrote a python program to produce HTML and plain text renderings of the list, as well as a compact text representation using the initials of authors and titles and a base-3 representation.

You can run the program with something like python booklist.py text to get plain text output; alternate modes are html, code which outputs a kind of geek code, and short which produces a decimal integer. The program comes with an unread database, so it will print an all-unread text representation, or the integer 0. The integer corresponding to my own reading of the list is 472899411102988434671899921134218056756239761136, and you can add that as a second parameter to get the output showing what I’ve read; in code form that’s:


To generate your own book statuses, you’re going to have to edit the program and insert a status (READ or WANT) into some of the tuples that form the book database. Then run the program with only one argument for the desired output format. Once you have the code or short output, you can post it and keep the booklist meme alive (albeit in a more nerdy form).

The program itself can be downloaded as source from here, and is under the GPLv2 or later (bear that in mind if you send patches for an interactive of Qt version, and please don’t berate my python style).

There’s clearly features missing from the program: there is no Qt interface (with PyQt bindings) and no interactive mode, which would make it much easier to generate your own booklist output. Abstracting the purpose of the list would also be nice, and I can see a Meme-Plasmoid (a memeoid?) somewhere in the future where you get the checklist of the day and can enter your results for that checklist, to share across the social desktop. O noes!

4 Comment(s)

  1. surely swimming *up* the the attribution links is the appropriate metaphore

    I guess this isn’t the point but it’s fun to see how many of the books you can identify from the abbreviations above.

    Worked though the first three lines, got all except P-JA.

    1. Persuasion – Jane Austen. Not a very popular book, I don’t think. There’s a lot of that Victorian-ish drivel on the list — and I love it.

      As far as metaphors go, it depends on whether you see the ocean as the source of life and swim down to it, or see the mountaintops as the source, and swim up. Or, to put it differently (but still from the point of view of a Kootenay salmon) — is spawning important, or swimming free. Ah, metaphors.

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