12 Books, 12 Months Challenge Follow Up

A year ago a friend of mine suggested a new kind of ‘book club.’ See my post here for the background. Many of us joined her, and her write-ups of, and links to, everyone’s reading can be found at her blog here.

My reviews and my initial post can all be found here.

Here’s my list (minus my selection commentary):

  • Ronald Gross, Peak Learning
  • Catherine C. Marshall, Reading and Writing the Electronic Book
  • Carol Collier Kuhlthau, Seeking Meaning: A Process Approach to Library and Information Services
  • Stephen Batchelor, Buddhism without Beliefs: A Contemporary Guide to Awakening
  • Michel Meyer, Of Problematology: Philosophy, Science, and Language
  • George Lakoff and Mark Turner, More than Cool Reason: A Field Guide to Poetic Metaphor Metaphor and Poetry
  • Anthony Grafton, The Footnote: A Curious History
  • John Seely Brown and Paul Duguid, The Social Life of Information
  • Anne Carson, Autobiography of Red: A Novel in Verse
  • Jorge Luis Borges, Seven Nights
  • Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions
  • George Eliot, The Mill on the Floss
  • S. R. Ranganathan, Classification and Communication

Being me, I selected a baker’s dozen instead of twelve. I managed to read 10 of my selected 13 books. I began another but got interrupted by the start of my spring semester and have never gotten back to it (Of Problematology).  One could, in essence, say I began another (Borges’ Collected Fictions) as I read Borges’ A Universal History of Iniquity, which ends up being the 1st section of the Collected Fictions. Ranganathan never got started.

By the most direct reckoning one could say that I failed as I did not finish my 13 (nor even 12) books. But I do NOT consider it a failure; mostly due to giving myself this leeway in my original post:

Thus, I am going to reserve the right to substitute any book for one on this list.  As I see it I will probably read more than 12 books in the next year anyway so maybe they’ll only be additions. One can hope.

In fact, I consider it a rip-roaring success! Over the last year, I was able to read 10 books identified in advance—some of which have been on my To Be Read list for several years. I would definitely participate in a similar book club again.

As to the out I gave myself above regarding “probably read[ing] more than 12 books in the next year” that was easily accomplished. From 1 September 2010 when the challenge started to the end of the calendar year I finished 33 books (7 were Challenge books) and began 1 which is not yet finished. So far in 2011 (with the Challenge ending tomorrow, 5 Sep) I have finished 75 books (3 were Challenge books), began 2 (1 Challenge), gave up on 2, reread 2, and am currently actively reading 4.

Thus, since the Challenge started I have finished 108 books, 10 of which were Challenge books. I don’t think anyone can complain about the amount of my reading. I certainly am not going to.

My reviews can all be found here.

Many other reviews can be found by browsing the Books category on my blog. Reviews of the following books read during the Challenge period appear on my blog:

  • Abbas, Structures for Organizing Knowledge
  • Martignette and Meisel, The Great American Pin-Up
  • Bauer, jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams At Home
  • Peterson, Understanding Exposure 3rd ed.
  • Jacobs, The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction
  • Sontag, On Photography
  • Armstrong, Twelve Steps to a Compassionate Life
  • Nardi and O’Day, Information Ecologies
  • Maines, The Technology of Orgasm
  • Plath, Johnny Panic and the Bible of Dreams
  • Armstrong, A Short History of Myth
  • Jewel, A Night Without Armor: Poems
  • Hey, How It Seems to Me

Of course, all of my Challenge book reviews can be found via that Books category link, as can older reviews and other posts related to books.

More, usually shorter, reviews of even more books can be found at my goodreads account. I do not post them all on my blog.

I am posting this ~30 hours before the end of the Challenge as there is no way I can finish Meyer’s Of Problematology, nor can I read Borges or Ranganathan before then. I won’t even consider trying to do so. I am reading other things currently, much of which is homework and must take precedence. All 3 of those are still on my TBR ‘shelf’ and I hope to get to them in some version of soon, as I hope to get to many others.


Eliot. The Mill on the Floss

Due to my Victorian Lit class and sitting in on Modern Poetry this term my 12 Books 12 Months Challenge reading slipped a little. But then I remembered that The Mill on the Floss which I read for Victorian is on my 12B12M list.

What to say? I adore Eliot. She is an amazing observer of the human condition, whether individual or group. She is one of the earliest (and best) psychologists and the same can be said of her as a sociologist.

I have not yet read all of her novels but I have read Middlemarch and Silas Marner, along with some of her short stories, like Brother Jacob and The Lifted Veil. I look forward to reading the rest based on my own experience and my Victorian Lit prof also says the ones I have yet to read are all exceptional novels.

I must say upfront that, if read solely as a story, the ending leaves much to be desired. Nonetheless, the ending is fitting in a symbolic sense, although perhaps not on a human level. I am still working out exactly why that is and may need to address it in my final this week. All I’ll say for now is that, in the context of the novel as a whole, it works.

Be aware, this is a tragedy. It may not be epic, nor a study of grand personages, but as a tragedy of the everyday it is superb. [Eliot does comment on this but it is mostly indirect and occurs across several pages so no excerpts.]

Despite it’s being a tragedy, it can be quite humorous, particularly in that dry British way:

“Mr Pullet was a small man with a high nose, small twinkling eyes, and thin lips, in a fresh-looking suit of black and a white cravat, that seemed to have been tied very tight on some higher principle than that of mere personal ease” (56).

“A boy’s sheepishness is by no means a sign of overmastering reverence; and while you are making encouraging advances to him under the idea that he is overwhelmed by a sense of your age and wisdom, ten to one he is thinking you extremely queer” (91).

The whole of Book Fifth: Wheat and Tares,  ch. II, Aunt Glegg Learns the Breadth of Tom’s Thumb (308-25) is pretty funny.

And my favorite bit of humor in the novel, which had me cracking up:

“You don’t call Mumps a cur, I suppose?” said Maggie, divining that any interest she showed in Mumps would be gratifying to his master.

“No, Miss, a fine way off that,” said Bob, with a pitying smile; “Mumps is as fine a cross as you’ll see anywhere along the Floss, an I’n been up it wi’ the barge times enow. Why, the gentry stops to look at him; but you won’t catch Mumps a-looking at the gentry much — he minds his own business, he does.”

The expression of Mump’s face, which seemed to be tolerating the superfluous existence of objects in general, was strongly confirmatory of this high praise (284).

Some of the themes we discussed in class and will perhaps see on the final Wednesday:

  • Contrast the Tulliver and Dodson mentalities, and how played out in Tom and Maggie.
  • Compare the education of Tom and Maggie.
  • Relevance of the town of St. Ogg’s as a character; the legend.
  • Eliot’s reflections on childhood.
  • Tragedy: In what sense is Tulliver a tragic figure? Can this family be tragic? How do Tom and Maggie differ in their reactions to the tragedy? Mrs. Tulliver and her family’s reactions?
  • Hellenism versus Hebraism (ala Matthew Arnold We read a small bit from Culture and Anarchy, in particular a portion of ch. 1 “Sweetness and Light” and of ch. 5 “Porro Unum Est Necessarium” [But One Thing is Needful])
  • Ethics/morality: Intentionalism, Consequentialism, principle, self-interest, Categorical Imperative, natural law, social code.
  • We also discussed relationships: Tom & Maggie; Tom & Philip Wakem; Maggie & Philip; Maggie & Stephen; and so on.
  • Duplicitousness.
  • Sexual sublimation.

I quite enjoyed The Mill on the Floss and I hope to reread it again someday soon at a more leisurely pace and focusing primarily on the story and on Eliot’s artistry.

Gross. Peak Learning

In this post on Personal Learning I said some reasonably positive things about this book.

Now that we have finished the book I want to take most of it back.

As I said, if you want to look at it get it from a library. It is about 80% fluff/extraneous babbling. Of the 20% left which is of value some is so far out of date as to be of no real use. The entire chapter, “Peak learning in cyberspace,” is so out of date that maybe 5% is of use and you, dear Reader, already know those bits and so much more.

We did finish it but we really had to skim much of the last half of the book to sort the wheat from the chaff.

As for the exercises, some were of value and some were so poorly designed towards what was being aimed for that they were useless. Others were so poorly explained that while they were somewhat valuable only after we sussed out for ourselves what would work in helping elucidate the point, we shouldn’t have had to do that work; nor should the author’s explanation of the exercise confused us so badly.

Anyway, my final verdict is that while there is some value in this book it probably is not worth your time and effort to try and drag it out of it.

Brown and Duguid. The social life of information

This is the 8th book for my 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge.

Short version: Librarians, and others in any “information industry,” should read it and ponder its critiques of “information fetishism.”

I bought this book back in May 2005 and finally got around to reading it. I am following it up with Nardi and O’Day’s Information Ecologies which I bought in May 2006. Where this book focuses on the binary rhetoric of “information,” and thus of information technology, Nardi and O’Day focus on the binary rhetoric of “technology.” Nardi & O’Day is 1-2 years older, is cited by Brown & Duguid, and I am hoping they’ll make a nice complementary pair.


  • Preface: Looking Around
  • Introduction: Tunneling Ahead
  • 1 Limits to Information
  • 2 Agents and Angels
  • 3 Home Alone
  • 4 Practice Makes Process
  • 5 Learning—in Theory and in Practice
  • 6 Innovating Organization, Husbanding Knowledge
  • 7 Reading the Background
  • 8 Re-education
  • Afterword: Beyond Information

This book lived up to what I thought it might be after seeing so many references to it over the last 6 years. Originally released in 2000 (my ed. from 2002) I would say that it has held up quite well. Although I would love to see it updated, I truly doubt that much of the analysis would actually change. But with the changes in higher ed, and all of the mergers of massive media conglomerates over the past decade plus, it would be interesting to see if and how their take on the issues might change.

Optimism and pessimism “are both products of the same technology-centered tunnel vision. Both focus on information and individuals in splendid isolation. Once agents are set in a social context, both conclusions—sublime and despairing—seem less probable” (xi).

“This book is particularly concerned with the superficially plausible idea … that information and its technologies can unproblematically replace the nuanced relations between people. We think of this as “information fetishism”" (xvi).

“Our underlying argument in the discussion of education and the common thread that runs throughout … this book is that change is not necessarily occurring where, how, or when predicted, nor for the reasons most commonly cited. Hence, we suspect, many people have become increasingly unhappy with the binary simplicities of predictions about new technology” (xxii-xxiii).

Ch. 2 is primarily about bots, ch. 3 about telecommuting, ch. 4 business process reengineering, ch. 5 knowledge management and learning, ch. 6 knowledge as sticky and leaky, ch. 7 paper and documents, and ch. 8 higher education.

Ch. 7 “Reading the Background” provides excellent examples of what documents do, of the social roles they fill, and of the societies that they help to create. Seeing as I approached this primarily as a librarian that is the area I will focus my excerpts on.

“Among many things relegated to history’s scrap heap by relentless futurism have been, …, paper documents. Here, focus on the information they carry has distracted attention from the richer social roles that documents play—roles that may sustain paper documents despite the availability of digital ones. … …, we believe that documents, like other older technologies, probably will not be replaced (when they should be) or augmented (when they could be), if their richness and scope are underappreciated (xix-xx).

Argues that until we understand what documents do—physically and culturally—we will not understand what they are and how to replace or improve them. A narrow focus on the information that documents carry will fail to result in useful change.

“Documents not only serve to make information but also to warrant it—to give it validity. Here again, the material side of documents plays a useful part. For information has trouble, as we all do, testifying on its own behalf. Its only recourse in the face of doubt it s to add more information” (187).

“So documents do not merely carry information, they help make it, structure it, and validate it. More intriguing, perhaps, documents also help structure society, enabling social groups to form, develop, and maintain a sense of shared identity” (189).

“Documents then contribute not only to forming and stabilizing the worlds but also, …, to reforming, destabilizing, and transforming them. The presence of heretics reminds us that the “information” is not the sole contributor here. The orthodox and the heretics both form around the same information or content. They are distinguished from one another by their unique disposition toward that information” (193-4).

“The political scientist Benedict Anderson provides yet another example of the way groups form around documents. He considered networks so large, so diverse, and so spread out that individual members could not possibly know one another. They nonetheless may develop a sense of membership and belonging if they can create an image of the group as a single community with a single identity. Anderson described the communities as “imagined” and claimed that shared documents play an essential part in this imagining.

Anderson argues that such a document culture made a key contribution to the creation of independent nations” (194).

This is an important work and is still highly relevant. I am going to let it simmer for a while in the back of my mind. But I do think it fits well with my slowly awakening thesis that “information” as a foundational concept for libraries and librarians is a dangerous one.

Books Read in 2010

This list of books that I finished this year is based on the date I started reading each book. Though they were generally finished in something close to this order, some books took much longer than others. I finished a total of 102 books in 2010. Five of these were re-reads.

I read 85 print books and 17 ebooks (epub) this year. I gave up on 3 print books and 2 ebooks (epub), although one of the print books was really just interrupted. I placed it on my 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge list [see below] and I will begin that one again. I am also working my way through a pdf book, Digging into WordPress v3 which is not included on this list.

My ebook reading is off due mostly to changes in travel and other lifestyle-related issues. I have not become averse to ebooks in any way, they simply do not fit my current lifestyle as much as they once did. All of the ebooks I read this year were epub formatted free books from feedbooks.com (except for the one pdf book).

Of the two ebooks I did not finish, one was Lady Chatterley’s Lover which I discovered about halfway into it that it was an expurgated version. Sara who was also reading it as an ebook found an unexpurgated print copy and started over. Although I was somewhat enjoying the story, I did not find it that compelling so said the heck with it. The other was Wollstonecraft’s A Vindication of the Rights of Women. While this is an important work, she just droned on and on. There are far better examples of effective literature in this genre, even if few this early.

In August a friend of mine introduced the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge to begin in September. Here is my post accepting the challenge. Is it really any wonder that mine is a baker’s dozen? Here is my list at goodreads, at Open Library, and the 12 Books, 12 Months tag here on the blog. This small image for 12 Books 12 Months designates a book on my list.

If I wrote a ‘review’ here on the blog I have linked to it after the entry for the book as [Review]. All of the 12 Books, 12 Month Challenge books that I have read so far (7) have been reviewed here. There are more reviews at goodreads but most are simple commentary and I am too lazy to go find them and link them. [Do not get me started on the amount of work required to generate, much less format, the following list!]

I received four of these books via the Library Thing Early Reviewers program. They are identified by “Library Thing Early Reviewer copy” and a link to the review at Library Thing.

I read 31 books of poetry, not including the one for weddings. I also read 2 books about poetry (Oliver and Kooser), not including the one on syntax. The author I read the most by is the poet Mary Oliver with 13 titles (12 poetry, 1 about poetry). The author in 2nd place is Roy Harris with 6, four of which were re-reads. The author in 3rd place with 3 titles seems to be Conan Doyle, all ebooks. Perhaps I missed someone else with 3 titles though. There were several authors with 2 books each in my list: Jim Harrison, Wilkie Collins, Anne Carson, Pablo Neruda, ….

Batchelor. Buddhism Without Beliefs

Buddhism without Beliefs Buddhism without BeliefsStephen Batchelor; Riverhead Trade 1998WorldCatRead OnlineLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 

This is the 7th book in the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge that I have finished. For another view, see my list at Open Library.

I began this back on 22 March and got halfway before stopping back in April or so due to wedding and move planning/prep. I started again from the beginning on 11 December and finished it on 18 December 2010.

I am a real neophyte when it comes to Buddhism.  I read Siddhartha in high school and I re-read it last year; no I am not claiming Hesse wrote a Buddhist text, just that it introduced the idea to me long ago.

I have also read a bit about mindfulness (2 books, I think) and one or two books by Thich Nhat Hanh.  This, though, is my first serious attempt at learning more about Buddhism.  I am not sure where or how I came across this book, although I think it was from a book review of the author’s more recent Confession of a Buddhist Atheist.  But where the book review came from I do not know; I failed to find it in my delicious bookmarks.  It seems I ordered both books at the same time from amazon this past March.

The book is reasonably short and reads well.  I liked that it rejects the religion of Buddhism, founded on historically institutionalized beliefs, in favor of the actions of Buddhism.  It also remains agnostic on the more metaphysical aspects, such as karma and rebirth, for instance.


  • Ground
  • Path
  • Fruition


The author claims that the four ennobling truths — anguish, its origins, its cessation, and the path — have become “propositions of fact to be believed.”  Thus, Buddhism becomes a religion (5).

Instead, he claims that the four ennobling truths are not propositions to believe; they are challenges to act (7).

Some quotes and ideas that I liked:


“The power of organized religion to provide sovereign states with a bulwark of moral legitimacy while simultaneously assuaging the desperate piety of the disempowered swiftly reasserted itself–-usually by subsuming the rebellious ideas into the canons of a revised orthodoxy” (16).

“The very term “Buddhism” (an invention of Western scholars) reinforces the idea that it is a creed to be lined up alongside other creeds” (16).

“This transformation of Buddhism into a religion obscures and distorts the encounter of the dharma with contemporary agnostic culture. The dharma in fact might well have more in common with Godless secularism than with the bastions of religion” (17).


“Dharma practice can never be in contradiction with science: not because it provides some mystical validation of scientific findings but because it simply is not concerned with either validating or invalidating them. Its concern lies entirely with the nature of existential experience” (37).


“Life is neither meaningful nor meaningless. Meaning and its absence are given by language and imagination. We are linguistic beings who inhabit a reality in which it makes sense to make sense.

For life to make sense it needs purpose” (39).

“The problem is not that we lack resolve, but that it so often turns out to be misplaced” (40).

“A purpose may be no more than a set of images and words, but we can still be totally committed to it. Such resolve entails aspiration, appreciation, and conviction: I aspire to waken, I appreciates its value, and I am convinced it is possible. This is a focused act that encompasses the whole person. Aspiration is as much a bodily longing as an intellectual desire; appreciation is as much a passion as a preference; conviction as much an intuition as a rational conclusion. Irrespective of the purpose to which we are committed, when such feelings are aroused, life is infused with meaning” (40).

“Dharma practice is founded on resolve. This is not an emotional conversion, a devastating realization of the error of our ways, a desperate urge to be good, but an ongoing heartfelt reflection on priorities, values, and purpose. We need to keep taking stock of our life in an unsentimental, uncompromising way” (41).


“Freedom is never absolute; it is always relative to something else: freedom from constraints, freedom to act, freedom for others” (93).

“The questioning that emerges from unknowing differs from conventional inquiry in that it has no interest in finding an answer. This questioning starts at the point where descriptions and explanations end. It has already let go of the constraints and limitations of conceptual categories. It recognizes that mysteries are not solved as though they were problems and then forgotten. The deeper we penetrate a mystery, the more mysterious it becomes.

This perplexed questioning is the central path itself” (98).


All in all I enjoyed this book and look forward to reading Batchelor’s Confession of a Buddhist Atheist, although, without having yet read it, I will say that I prefer the agnosticism of this book. I also look forward to re-reading this one and engaging more fully with some if its ideas.

Borges. Seven Nights

Seven nights Seven nightsJorge Luis Borges; New Directions Pub. Corp. 2009WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 


I enjoyed this slim volume of essays based on seven lectures Borges gave in Buenos Aires between June and August 1977.

There is a short introduction by Alistair Reid which provides some context and historical information on the lectures. Then the seven essays, in this order: The Divine Comedy, Nightmares, The Thousand and One Nights, Buddhism, Poetry, The Kabbalah, and Blindness.  Some of them are, of course, better than others but all of them are worth reading.

This is the 6th book in the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge that I finished.

Marshall – Reading and Writing the Electronic Book

Reading and writing the electronic bookCatherine C. Marshall; Morgan & Claypool 2010WorldCatLibraryThingGoogle BooksBookFinder 


This is my 5th book review for the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge.

Note: This is in no way a balanced review of this book. I do think this can be a valuable book to read if you are interested in the topic; at least it will be for a little while longer. But it has some issues, and those are what I primarily focus on here.

Table of Contents

  • Ch. 1 Introduction
  • Ch. 2 Reading
  • Ch. 3 Interaction
  • Ch. 4 Reading as a Social Activity
  • Ch. 5 Studying Reading
  • Ch. 6 Content: Markup and Genres
  • Ch. 7 Beyond the Book


This book examines “a rather more pragmatic set of issues and developments” and is based on “sources from information science, computer science, and human-computer interaction, but especially on the results of studies I have conducted with colleagues and by myself over the last decade-and-a-half” (8).


In defense of the sociality of reading, one of her examples is “…, drivers read billboards together as they speed by the landscape, …” (16).  Seriously?  The other examples actually support the claim of reading being social but this is beyond me as to how it can be considered social.

In this book:

“The word eBook can refer to hardware, software, content prepared to be read on the screen, or a combination of all three. In much of this book, when we talk about eBooks, we’re by and large referring to the software—the reader—used to present the content” (33).

“…; after all, no one needs instructions on how to read a book, assuming they are literate” (33-34).  On one hand, “No shit!”  To become literate we learn to read books.  This, also, includes how to interact with the physical book; knowledge of which is needed to correctly operate said book so it can be read once learns to read the language marks inscribed in the book.  So her claim is accurate but also inherently circular with regards to what it means to be literate in our society.  On the other hand, there are plenty of books for which we need training to use, although they are not extremely prevalent.  I am thinking of specialty reference books here primarily.  Also, has she never heard of Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book or similar titles? Reading is not a simple, unitary skill, nor or all books “read” in the same manner.


Discussing some early objections to eBooks based on their immutability she quotes Baudrillard:

“The compact disc. It doesn’t wear out, even if you use it. Terrifying. It’s as though you’d never used it. So it’s as though you didn’t exist. If things don’t get old anymore, then that’s because it’s you who are dead (Baudrillard 1996, pp. 32-33)” (39).

That is beyond silly.  They do wear out in several ways, both physically and access-wise.  We don’t even have to get into hardware and format changes here.  Borrow a handful of CDs from your local public library and it is quite probable that at least one is wholly or partially unusable.  Quoting some bad analysis by a French theorist, which doesn’t support the point you are trying to make, is not helpful.

Reading as a Social Activity

This chapter begins with a two-by-two matrix borrowed from computer supported cooperative work that divides the world up by place and time.  It is used “as a simple framework to examine the social side of eBook use. Use that occurs in the same place at the same time implies that people are reading together” (73, emphasis in original).  Other than the stipulation that this chapter is about reading as a social activity I fail to comprehend how one can simply stipulate that this implies reading together.  Based on other examples given to support the matrix, I fail to see why two different people cannot be present at the same coffee house, for instance, at the same time.  Perhaps they are even sitting at the same table but reading different things, nor are they discussing what they read.  This is not social reading (unless we admit the billboard example from above; which I am not admitting). This stipulation, and the matrix, thus overestimates the amount of social reading taking place.

Content: Markup and Genres

§6.1.4 Accessibility is in its entirety three sentences long.

“Accessibility refers to the characteristics of eBooks that allow people with visual impairments to read them. Disability advocates have maintained pressure on eBook content providers and eBook platform manufacturers to adhere to accessibility standards and principles. These standards have been developed for the Web and are documented at http://www.w3.org/WAI/” (125).

Clearly this topic is far larger than this book but I find these three sentences to be extremely shortsighted and a slight to the otherwise enabled.  The WAI Introduction to Web Accessibility clearly states: “Web accessibility encompasses all disabilities that affect access to the Web, including visual, auditory, physical, speech, cognitive, and neurological disabilities.” http://www.w3.org/WAI/intro/accessibility.php

“Creative Commons is a licensing alternative to DRM that allows publishers and authors to mark their work to indicate the conditions they wish to apply to it” (129).  Oh really?  There is no reason a CC-licensed book (some licenses anyway) can’t also be DRMed.

In the section on eTextbooks Marshall references the dissertation of Jay Dominick who “makes many interesting observations about the textbook genre before he goes on to discuss his findings about eBooks” (136).  Regarding the economics of textbooks we get the following footnote:

“Dominick makes the important observation that the person purchasing the book (often, the student’s parents) is not the person reading the book. Furthermore, the publisher is selling the book to the instructors, not to the students. The bizarreness of the commercial circumstances that make up textbook economics cannot be overstated” (fn 16, 137).

I wholeheartedly endorse the fact that the textbook market is full of bizarre.  And while we do use “selling” in this aspect I still think that this is highly sloppy writing.  Textbooks are marketed to instructors; they are bought by (that is, sold to) students.

The rest of the discussion re textbooks and eTextbooks is confusing and perhaps even somewhat contradictory.

Overall Comments

The book is well laid out, except for narrow gutters.  It is quite affordable as a paperback.  But it is poorly edited; distractingly so.  Copy editing and proofreading seem to be the biggest issues.  The issues start early and continue throughout.


  • “Rereading is a meta-type that is included in the table as a reminder that any type of reading may be occur multiple times” (T2.1, 20).
  • “… and the reader buys finished book, …” (21).
  • “… leapfrogging beyond explicit the ratings and reviews …” (93).
  • “Digital materials is easy to copy” (126).
  • “The course packs are heavy and bulky; they materials are usually read quickly; …” (138).

Out of Date

This should not have been a book as it is already out of date.  At best, it should have been an ebook.  There is an ebook but try getting access to it.  Neither amazon nor Google ebooks has one.  From the publishers site you can get 24-hour access to a PDF or a PDF Plus for $20.00.  If you institution has an institutional subscription then you seem to be golden. http://www.morganclaypool.com/toc/icr/1/1

Either way, this book is already out of date.  Some of the reasons why without going into much detail:

  • In the sections on readers the iPhone is barely mentioned at all; the iPod Touch not at all.  In the subsection on navigation I noticed a few things that the iPhone can do that was not mentioned.
  • No mention of epub format
  • No mention of books as apps
  • No mention of iPad
  • No mention of HTML5 and CSS
  • No Kindle’s circulated (144).  This one was true at the time it was written probably but no longer is.

This book is worth reading.  Some of my critiques are minor and clearly a book  (or any other document) cannot comment on something that did not exist before it was published (e.g. the iPad).  Then again, should documents that will be out-of-date as they go to press still be being printed as physical books?

My recommendation:  This book is of value to those with an interest in or need to understand some of the areas it touches upon.  It is also a gateway to the assorted literature(s) of studies on ebooks.

Do your wallet a favor and get the book from the library.

Kuhlthau – Seeking Meaning

This is my 4th book review for the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge.

I mostly enjoyed this book, which I read from 10 October to 26 November.  It is written fairly straightforwardly, is reasonably well edited, and has a better than average physical layout.

The last couple of chapters do seem fairly repetitive.  The last chapter seems particularly so.  Well that it should, as it is the wrap-up and conclusion; but somehow it doesn’t seem like it is seriously serving that purpose, only that it is repetitive.  All in all, this is a small gripe.

The ideas in this book, centering around the Information Search Process (ISP), are important ones.  Keep in mind, the ISP is for more complex tasks, such as researching and writing a term paper or preparing a case for trial, for example, and not for simple fact-finding questions.

  • Ch. 1 The Constructive Process in Library and Information Science Theory
  • Ch. 2 Learning as a Process
  • Ch. 3 The Information Search Process
  • Ch. 4 Verification of the Model of the Information Search Process
  • Ch. 5 Longitudinal Confirmation of the Information Search Process
  • Ch. 6 Uncertainty Principle
  • Ch. 7 Roles of Mediators in the Process of Information Seeking
  • Ch. 8 Zones of Intervention in the Process of Information Seeking
  • Ch. 9 Implementing the Process Approach
  • Ch. 10 Information Search Process in the Workplace
  • Ch. 11 Process-Oriented Library and Information Services

The “book is about library and information services for intellectual access to information and ideas, and the process of seeking meaning” (xv).

It proposes a process approach, the ISP, based on: Constructivist theory of learning – John Dewey (provides historical & philosophical perspective); Personal construct theory – George Kelly (provides psychological perspective); and an Integrated perspective – Jerome Bruner (xvi).

It critiques the bibliographical paradigm and systems approach that remain predominant within library and information science (LIS); at least within the literature.  This does seem to be slowly changing, though.

Much of what Kuhlthau writes seems highly integrational to me.

A model of sense-making information seeking should incorporate three realms of activity: physical, affective, cognitive. These form a complex interplay.

“The criteria for making these choices are influenced as much by environmental constraints, such as prior experience, knowledge, interest, information available, requirements of the problem, and time allotted for resolution, as they are by the relevance of the content of the information retrieved” (6).

The ISP is a 6 stage model which associates the feelings (affective), thoughts (cognitive), and actions (physical) that accompany each task and the process of moving along the information search process.

Initiation, when a person becomes aware of a lack of knowledge or understanding so that uncertainty and apprehension are common

Selection, when a general area or topic is identified and initial uncertainty often gives way to a brief sense of optimism and a readiness to begin the search

Exploration, when inconsistent, incompatible information is encountered and uncertainty, confusion, and doubt frequently increase

Formulation, when a focused perspective on the problem is formed and uncertainty diminishes as confidence begins to increase

Collection, when information pertinent to the focused problem is gathered and uncertainty subsides as interest and involvement in the project deepens

Presentation, when the search is completed, with a new understanding of the problem enabling the user to explain his or her learning to others (165-166)

I think these ideas are extremely valuable and that they ought be taught to children in school as early as they begin doing projects of this kind of scope.  Kuhlthau reports on some studies where this was done in the book.

All in all, I think the ideas in this book need to be given far more prominence in our schools and our libraries.  Students should be educated in this process from a fairly early age.

LIS services and systems should take this model into account when they are designed and implemented.  Reference and instruction can certainly benefit from the model; but our systems ought also be designed to assist with the process.  The old bibliographic paradigm and systems view that provides one or more “relevant” sources for the user is a failed paradigm.  This claim of failure is mine (and others) based on many things external to this book.  I believe Kuhlthau would agree that it is a failed paradigm but I do not think she showed that as well as she might have, nor do I believe she used the word “failed.”  Although, to be fair, the book is not about the bibliographic paradigm, nor the systems view, so she probably dedicated a reasonable amount of space to her critique.

My concern is the same as with all similar sorts of reform of our services and systems.  Where will the time come from?  This is not something that can happen in a one off instruction session.  Also, it needs to happen at a much earlier age than when students get to college.  But so much needs to change in our educational system, and society, before I can see a strong emphasis on teaching something like the ISP, that I have little hope that much progress can be made.

But. If for whatever reason you are still doing information seeking for complex tasks, such as writing long papers (thesis, perhaps) maybe learning a bit about the ISP might help you understand the kinds of feeling and thoughts that go along with the process as well as understanding the proper attitude to take towards your information seeking at each stage.

Recommended for reference librarians, instruction librarians, those who routinely undertake reasonably complex information seeking tasks, and anyone interested.

The following is a link to something I wrote a bit over 6 years ago in one of my early required masters courses regarding an article by Kuhlthau: Kuhlthau’s ISP Model

Looks like I finally got around to reading Seeking Meaning, and I stand by what I wrote way back when.

Anne Carson – Autobiography of Red

Carson, Anne. 1999. Autobiography of Red : a Novel in Verse. 1st ed. New York: Vintage Contemporaries.

This is my 3rd book review for the 12 Books, 12 Months Challenge.

I had read Carson’s Eros the Bittersweet in August 2009 and quite enjoyed it. Thus, when I came across this one last November in a bookstore for a reasonable price I grabbed it.

This is a retelling of the story of Geryon based on the existing fragments of StesichorosGeryoneis. All I will say about the story is that Geryon and Herakles are lovers.

Honestly, I am unsure what I thought of it. It seems both ancient and postmodern at the same time. I did enjoy the story, though, and it is a quick read. To give some idea of the book here is the TOC:

  • Red Meat: What Difference Did Stesichoros Make?
  • Read Meat: Fragments of Stesichoros
  • Appendix A: Testimonia on the Question of Stesichoros’ Blinding by Helen
  • Appendix B: The Palinode of Stesichoros by Stesichoros (Fragment 192 Poetae Melici Graeci)
  • Appendix C: Clearing Up the Question of Stesichoros’ Blinding by Helen
  • Autobiography of Red: A Romance
  • Interview (Stesichoros)

The 1st section provides some background on Stesichoros, Stesichoros’ influence as a writer, and on his Geryoneis.

This section begins with an epigraph by Gertrude Stein on the feeling of words doing as they want and have to do. Thus, Carson writes,

“Here we come to the core question ‘What difference did Stesichoros make?’ A comparison may be useful. When Gertrude Stein had to sum up Picasso she said, ‘This one was working.” So say of Stesichoros, “This one was making adjectives.’

What is an adjective? Nouns name the world. Verbs activate names. … These small imported mechanisms are in charge of attaching everything in the world to its place in particularity. They are the latches of being” (4).

I love that! The “latches of being;” of particularity.

The 2nd section includes XVI purported fragments of Geryoneis but what portion of the “eighty-four papyrus fragments and a half-dozen citations” (5) are they?

See Wikipedia article on Stesichoros for the relevance of his purported blinding (and restoration of his sight) by Helen.

As I said, I enjoyed this. But I am doubtful how much I would have if it had been, say, twice as long. I absolutely loved Eros the Bittersweet; so much so that I bought a copy as soon as I had finished reading the library copy and am looking forward to rereading it.

Between Sara and I we also have the following two books by Carson:

Carson, Anne. 2002. The Beauty of the Husband : a Fictional Essay in 29 Tangos. 1st ed. New York: Vintage Contemporaries.

Sappho. 2003. If Not, Winter : Fragments of Sappho. Trans. Anne Carson. 1st ed. New York: Vintage Books.

I am looking forward to reading both of these, also, although the Sappho truly is fragments; generally very short fragments.

Carson, Anne, and Center for Hellenic Studies (Washington, D.C.). 1986. Eros the Bittersweet: An Essay. Princeton, N.J: Princeton University Press.