Monday, July 25, 2011

Stumble and surprise

One of the things I've only recently learned to love about Gutenberg.org is the potential for surprise. If years ago when I first discovered the site I was amazed by the mere idea, and more recently, by the ability to download classics, I now relish the availability of less-known titles. In this internet age, when browsing Amazon "recommended" lists always shows the same titles, Gutenberg is an utterly refreshing shift in perspective.

Because here, there's no agenda. When I browse a list of most recent releases, it's literally the titles that were most recently released, not a selection of recently released titles that will benefit the site if pushed. This is how I find myself browsing truly different and weird titles, often by authors who were once a lot more significant than they are today.

Look, for instance, at Mór Jókai. A Hungarian author with a vast bibliography (and a very detailed Wikipedia entry, oddly enough), and yet I've never even seen reference to him. Or Christine de Pizan, one of the earliest feminist writers (and we're talking early - 13th century!). By coming across these books, I find myself learning much more than I might have expected just from simple browsing. There's that magic of newly discovered knowledge, of something different.

Though to be honest, it's that difference from last year's mentality that has me most interested. In a year and a half, I've gone from wanting to standards to wanting the random and the obscure. I realized that I'll always be able to find and download War and Peace if I feel like it, but I might never again come across Xavier Hommaire de Hell again. In the same way that I semi-stumbled upon A Honeymoon in Space, I want to stumble upon other books with obviously silly titles and equally embarrassing old covers.

You know what it is? I want to relive some of that childhood joy of just finding a book and not knowing what it's about or where it came from. I've kind of missed that.

6 comments:

  1. Thank you for the tip on Mór Jókai! And I agree that it's lots of fun to find -- and read -- books without knowing what they're about.

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  2. I've never heard of ANY of the authors you posted, and I consider myself extremely well-read. My pride is smarting!

    Thanks for the tips. :)

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  3. I once read a book that featured Christine de Pizan and have been wanting to read some of her work ever since. It's great to hear that I can access that now. Thanks for sharing this invaluable information with us!

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  4. that's a wonderful feeling! :-) Good luck with your search for more wonderful reads.

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  5. Project Gutenberg is amazing. It's a little overwhelming to see everything that's on there.

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