A Genealogy of Reading

The Genealogy of Reading project emerged from a curiosity about the shape of personal reading habits: what books caused me to read other books, and how the books I’ve read helped develop thematic networks over time.

The project takes an abstract model of linked open data and applies it to a web-based project on personal reading habits. Undertaking the project itself affords ways to learn the constraints and opportunities of linked data for myself and creates a sandbox for thinking about leveraging linked data in a variety of other contexts. Visualizations will help map relationships between books—particularly to get a sense of what books cause me to read other books, explore the regional distribution of authors, and reveal broad themes within a cohort of books.

In her keynote at the 2015 Canadian Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, Azar Nafisi presented the inspiration and need of her new book The Republic of the Imagination . Making a powerful argument on the significance of reading, Nafisi suggests reading - reading anything, everything - expands the reader’s creativity, courage, and empathy. She prompted me to expand my interest in the relationships between my books to question if I could begin to trace broader themes or concerns across my personal library? Could I begin to see hints of why I read, or why I am reading a particular way?

Books Nafisi references

Nafisi references several authors, including:

Books read, inspired by Azar Nafisi’s talk:

Shortly after Nafisi's talk, I re-read Italo Calvino's If On A Winter's Night A Traveler, which led to re-reading Invisible Cities, also by Calvino .

Nafisi prompted me to consider the author’s engagement with the reader, to books about reading.

In a sense, I am not yet sure what this project will actually do. I hope it will reveal a sense of the relationships between themes and authors evolve over the course of a few weeks, months, or years. At the moment, I want to track:

A few additional goals and questions:

  1. experiments with visualization as finding aid
  2. could we develop a way to recommend or highlight areas I haven’t read based on dbpedia record of full works of author, other authors that have influenced the author, and authors who have been influenced by the author