List of the Month: Questions and Suggestions

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List of the Month: Questions and Suggestions

Mar 11, 2:03pm

You may have noticed that I have started adding Lists of the Month to the lists page. I launched this last month with a list of Must Read Books by Black Authors. This month's list is Favorite Science Fiction by Women Authors. Please add to either or both list!

Why am I doing this? Booklists are a common feature of book-related sites, often curated by someone working at the site. I think what makes LibraryThing special is you, our members. Lists that you help to curate will almost certainly be strong ones.

In the end, though, it's not the list itself that matters. It's the discussion that goes into it. Right now, there's a terrific discussion going on about the Science Fiction by Women Authors list over in the Science Fiction Fans group. That's what I'm hoping to see happen with these lists.

Some logistical issues/questions: I have been playing around with the list features. In February I limited contributions to three, but in March I let people add as many books as they wanted. In both cases, I allowed other members to thumb down a choice, but with this month's list, I gave instructions for when and why a book should be thumbed down. I would be very interested to know what your thoughts are about limits, thumbing down, and other list features. Any other general thoughts?

What's next? I'm taking suggestions for upcoming Lists of the Month. The first two have been topical, related to Black History Month and Women's History Month, but they do not have to be. Please share your ideas here.

Mar 11, 3:08pm

>1 megbmore: For thumbs down, I definitely prefer the latter approach, instead of people thumbing down books just because they don't like them. And thanks for creating the lists. Lists are always fun!

Mar 11, 3:30pm

First, I love the idea of a monthly list! I think the lists feature has so much potential but it seems not a lot of people use it (including me) so it's nice to get a nudge to do more with it.

I have some general thoughts and suggestions about structure:

I thought the limit of 3 books on the first list was too few, but the free-for-all on the second list has made it unwieldy, perhaps because it's a genre that has a LOT of series and some LTers added every book in a series, for example. You could make a suggestion that people only add the first book of a series but then what if someone thinks it's the fifth book that's clearly the best? A conundrum, for sure. Maybe a limit but at a higher level -- 5? Top 5 lists are popular, as with the annual Top 5 Books of {insert year here} lists that LT staff members contribute to.

You could also think about whether you want to suggest that people only add books they have actually read, which could also help with the "add an author's entire bibliography" problem.

I agree with having the ability to thumb down a book, and in my case that was really a nice point of interaction. I had thumbed down a book and explained in my comment that I didn't think of it as science fiction. Several other people responded (very politely) and explained why they thought it was. I came away with a better understanding of a genre I don't read that often, and ended up removing my thumbs down and adding the book to my own list, because I had read it and loved it even if I didn't think it was SF.

I am not a member of the Science Fiction Fans group but I went over there and had an enjoyable time reading through that thread — it turns out I'm not the only person with some confusion about what, exactly, SF actually is. I think whenever you can peg a list to a particular group, that's a great way to get a more in-depth discussion than just comments on the list. And also get people exploring parts of LT that they may not regularly visit or even know exist.

Anyway, those are just some thoughts that are worth exactly what you paid for them. :-)

Thanks for taking this on, and for developing the social side of LT more. I enjoy the Twitter polls and other engagement on that site as well.

Mar 11, 3:55pm

I have a problem with people using thumbs down for "best of" and "favourite" type lists, except in cases where the list has specific criteria and the entry doesn't meet those criteria. An example being the Earthsea books being thumbed down in the Science Fiction list, since they're clearly fantasy. You may hate a book that I consider "best of" but that doesn't invalidate my opinion, and so your hate is not a valid reason for thumbing down, and vice versa. So I think instructions on when to thumb down are good.

As for limits - it's a fine line between allowing too many items and not enough. I guess it depends on the purpose of the list. If we're trying to list all the women who write science fiction, then being able to add more is better. If we're trying to curate a "best of" list, then forcing people to be selective might be better. But what limit? 10? 50? Again here, instructions (or at least suggestions) might help. A reminder that adding only the first book in the series is preferred, as >3 rosalita: suggests? That's my own practice on the Favourite Woman SF writers list, but it is hard not to add later books when I really love them :)

Mar 11, 4:39pm

To help with adding all the books in a series, would it be possible to add a series as a whole to a list? That would help with people adding the complete bibliography!

Mar 11, 5:08pm

Community lists are a plus. I commented in
that I think the Science Fiction Fans group could usefully come up with new community lists of its own on a regular basis.

I strongly endorse the idea of limiting thumbs-down to dispute the relevance of list additions, not their general quality or the affection in which they are held.

I think limiting each member's additions is reasonable, and maybe useful. Five might be as effective, while more generous than three.

Mar 11, 5:21pm

Thumbs down: Not everyone uses lists in the same way, and a thumbs down may mean anything from "I hate this book" to "I haven't read this book." Having an explanation of what a thumbs down means for a specific list is helpful.

Limits: If a list is a Top 5 or 10 or whatever number, then we should only be able to add that many. If it's Best of, Must Read, etc., then any limit should be much higher than three and should be clearly stated in the description.

Future lists: Looking over the current list, it's heavy on English language authors, with a large portion of those from the US. Perhaps a future list could focus on non-English language works? And there are already some pretty cool lists on LT, so maybe highlight a preexisting one?

Mar 11, 5:53pm

>5 Maddz: I love the idea of being able to add a series to a list, especially now that we have touchstones for them, but I've never tried to do it. Does it work?

Mar 11, 5:55pm

>7 amanda4242: I like the idea of limits being tailored to the type of list. And along those lines, a list where people had to pick the one book they would recommend that fits the list criteria would also be very interesting, especially if they added a comment about why they chose it.

Editado: Mar 11, 6:42pm

>1 megbmore: - I don't see a "Lists of the Month" on the list link although I see the science fiction list under recent lists. (and read the thread over on the SF group) I see you said you launched this last month and I missed the one from last month because I don't think I saw it mentioned anywhere. I noticed you said that you mention it on Facebook, but please remember that not all of us choose to be on Facebook. I would like to see a mention either here in the talk thread or as a "top news" item. I like the idea of a monthly list topic.

Mar 11, 6:53pm

>7 amanda4242: I like the idea of highlighting some existing lists. And of non-English and non-American centred lists.

Mar 12, 8:17am

I didn't see it last month, either. I gave up Facebook last summer in the interest of my mental health, and even when I was there I certainly wouldn't have seen something from LT.

Mar 12, 8:36am

I really like the idea of a monthly list topic. Lists need a lot of participation to become interesting and useful.

I will reiterate here what I said in the discussion on the science fiction thread. I think if you want a curated list, it is helpful to limit how many each person can add, because it forces the person to really consider their choices. On the must-read black authors list, I tried to add books I thought were a must-read and weren't already on the list, for instance.

Once a really good list is created, I find I would like to read some of the books from it. It would be really nice to be able to check an option, "Want to read" on the lists. That way, you can create a personal reading list from an existing list separate from the books you've added to the list or already read. Right now, if I'm trying to read through a particular list, I thumbs down books I don't want to read, but that seems punitive.

Mar 12, 11:25am

As a compulsive list-maker, I'm happy to see the list feature getting more attention and I think a list of the month is a good way to generate discussions.

A few thoughts in this context:

- It would be helpful to have better search/browse functionality on the list page. At present it often isn't obvious or easy to quickly determine whether there is already a list on a particular topic, and I know I've started lists a few times only to later discover that a very similar one already existed. (Sometimes this is valuable, because the other list has a slightly different take on the theme; but sometimes the two lists are largely redundant.)

- I suspect my use of lists may be somewhat different than that of many users here. I typically use lists as a way of collecting titles on a particular topic or fitting certain criteria, especially ones that aren't otherwise likely to be recorded by things like tags or awards. I rarely use the ranking options.
In other words, I'm not generally interested in "favorites" or "best of" lists, but in tracking thematic connections and/or finding new books to read. Completism is more important to me than popularity.
I actually find many of the highly active lists not very helpful for this reason, because as more people vote, the more popular titles tend to float to the top -- and these are likely to be titles I've already read or already heard of, so discovering new titles requires a lot of digging.

Even given that in some ways I'm not necessarily the main target audience of a "list of the month" feature, a few suggestions that come to mind: I would like to see topics that are a little less broad and somewhat less likely to be something that people have already created lists about (on LT or elsewhere). Also topics that lend themselves to participation across genre and national lines are always a plus. Not everyone here is based in the US, or reads exclusively in English.
For encouraging a diversity of responses, "desert island" books might work, or "first book you remember reading", or "books with characters whom you'd like to meet/have coffee with".
The occasional non-fiction topic would be welcome (Earth Day is coming up, for example).

Editado: Mar 12, 12:30pm

I would appreciate a nonfiction List of the Month for Earth Day next month. We have related lists on this site but not one, as far as I've seen, in the Lists area.

>14 spiphany: The way I use lists seems to be similar to how you do. Oftentimes, I ignore the top works to look for reading material or inspiration in the last pages.

Mar 12, 11:56am

>15 aspirit: Yeah, I typically focus on the last or penultimate pages of a list in such cases, but that often requires filtering out the hidden gems from amongst the inapplicable or frequently-read but disliked books. And I suspect that after a certain point, people become discouraged from adding their more obscure favorites to "best of" lists at all because the popular titles already have so many votes.

Also if I click on a title to find out more about it and then use the "back" button in my browser, the list defaults to the first page, which makes browsing higher-numbered list pages a rather annoying process...

Editado: Mar 12, 12:37pm

Thank you for all of this feedback!

In terms of getting the word out, I'm using:
* Groups: for February I posted in Book Talk. I think going into groups related to the topic is more effective, so I plan on doing that.
* Facebook and Twitter
* State of the Thing (SOTT)
* And, thanks to your suggestions, I've added it to the Homepage.
Anywhere else?

It sounds like there is some consensus around imposing a limit of books allowed to be added, but that three was too few. I do also like the idea of a list where people can only contribute one book: One Book to Rule them All. It would be horrible, but the fun kind of horrible.

I will definitely keep adding instructions around the thumbs down option and how we want it used for these lists.

Still reading and thinking, but this is all great so far and I appreciate the enthusiasm.

Edited to clarify what SOTT is. I should not post right before lunch.

Mar 12, 12:20pm

Mar 12, 12:26pm

>18 lilithcat: State of the Thing, the monthly newsletter.

Mar 12, 12:36pm

>18 lilithcat: Sorry!

>19 amanda4242: Yes, SOTT is State of the Thing.

I will edit!

Editado: Mar 15, 7:19pm

Thumbs down should relate to the type of list you are creating.

For a Best of/Must Read list, I am going to thumbs down a book I don't think deserves to be on the list because I don't think it's one of the "Best" or a "Must Read." If enough people think it's "Best" then it will rise to the top.

If it's simply a list... LGBTQ+ Neurodiverse Characters in Fantasy. Or Your Top 5 Historical Fiction Set Before 1850, etc. I'm only going to thumbs down if it doesn't fit that list.

Mar 16, 10:46am

>1 megbmore: June is Pride Month and I'd love to see an LGBTQIA+ themed list.

Editado: Mar 16, 11:13am

> 15 a nonfiction List of the Month for Earth Day next month

I just finished reading I'm with the Bears: Short Stories from a Damaged Planet. I think a list of books--fiction and non-fiction--about climate change and environmental peril could be worth building.

I am especially interested in lists that would cross the fiction/non-fiction divide.

Mar 16, 11:56am

>24 aspirit: You might be interested in the Books to Read for Earth Day list (which I wish I had a more accurate name to show it's for fiction).

Mar 16, 12:24pm

>24 aspirit:

Nice list, I could add to it. At the risk of repeating myself, though, I enjoy the mixing of fiction and nonfiction titles, and think that there's value in crossing that boundary.

Mar 16, 2:28pm

>24 aspirit: Your wish is my command!

Mar 16, 2:58pm

>26 sturlington: I feel magical! Thank you!

Mar 17, 6:14pm

>Others have commented nicely about the structure of the lists. Thus I'm going to suggest themes for future lists.

Native American heritage month is observed in November. How about a list of fiction or nonfiction titles by NA authors or where the protagonist is NA?

And, one of my favorite authors as a child was Laura Ingalls Wilder. Has anyone looked to see if she or her daughter Rose Wilder Lane have papers or personal libraries worthy of cataloging?

Perhaps it's also worth checking on Sen's John Lewis and Elijah Cummings. They too may have something to catalogue.

Mar 17, 6:42pm

>28 Diversity:

You might suggest Laura Ingalls Wilder and Rose Wilder Lane over in the Legacy Library group:

It's probably too soon for John Lewis' or Elijah Cummings' libraries to have been catalogued anywhere.

Mar 17, 10:01pm

It's probably too soon for John Lewis' or Elijah Cummings' libraries to have been catalogued anywhere.

Man, I HOPE John Lewis's books get cataloged. I doubt it. So many really important libraries just get broken up and that's that.

Mar 17, 10:08pm

>30 timspalding:

I know. There you are, browsing Powell's or, before they moved to Indiana(!!), O'Gara & Wilson's, you open a book, and there's some Nobelist Laureate's bookplate.


Editado: Mar 17, 10:28pm

>31 lilithcat:

There is a particular very important speculative-fiction novelist who died several years ago. We had discussions with their heir about cataloging their library, and couldn't swing it. Or get them to find someone else, like a university to do it. There may be a semi-catalog when they're sold off. It makes me truly, deeply angry and sad.

Mar 20, 2:23pm

I've perused through the first half of the comments, so far.

I pretty much agree with people's thoughts on a number of titles someone can add and the thumbs down.

I also like the idea of highlighting already made lists.

There is probably already a list for this, but I was going to suggest a Scary/Creepy books list (maybe in October, if you wanted to stick with a theme that fits the month).

Editado: Mar 21, 1:18pm

>31 lilithcat: >30 timspalding: A few years ago I was at a library book sale in Newton, Massachusetts & they had boxes of books they were selling for a dollar or two from Howard Zinn's library (some of which are now in mine). That was both depressing & awe-inspiring