Book Lamp: The Scientific Way to Choose your Next Book

The BookDepository

Book Lamp is a new site which uses a scientific approach to compare books. By analysing numerous different aspects of both content and writing style the site compiles over 30,000 data points for each book. These are then processed to obtain the “book’s DNA” which then can then be used to compare it to other books.

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I decided to test the system by entering my favourite book, A Fine Balance.

Book Lamp came up with the following suggestions:

  1. Family Matters by Rohinton Mistry
  2. Absent by Betool Khedairi
  3. The Lilac Bus by Maeve Binchy
  4. A Beggar at the Gate by Thalassa Ali
  5. Everyman Dies Alone by Hans Fallada
  6. Slow River by Nicola Griffith
  7. A Room with a View by EM Forster
  8. Song of the Cuckoo Bird by Amulya Malladi

It is no surprise to see another book by the same author at the top of the list. I’m reading it now and can confirm that it is almost as wonderful as A Fine Balance.

I was surprised to discover that the second book on the list was one I hadn’t heard of and so I decided to test the site by ordering a copy of Absent. As you can see from my review yesterday I really enjoyed it. I can see why it managed to top the list and as I was reading it I smiled as I spotted the similarities. The writing was of a similar quality and pace, the book focused on people living in a country under turmoil and there was even a seamstress in the first chapter! I’m very pleased that Book Lamp brought this book to my attention.

Most of the other books on the list intrigue me, but I fail to understand why The Lilac Bus ranks so highly. I enjoyed Maeve Binchy as a teenager, but think of her books as warm romances and so struggle to see how they can be similar to life during Indian Emergency. Perhaps I’ll have to read a copy and find out why it has been included.

Have you read any of these books? Do you think I’d enjoy them?

The main problem with the Book Lamp site is that it doesn’t contain a full range of books and authors, but as new books are added every day I’m sure it wont be too long before all my favourites are added.

What do you think of Book Lamp?

Did you discover any new books thanks to its recommendations?

Do you think you’ll use it to discover new books?


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42 Comments

  1. Annabel says:

    Looks fun – but I put in around ten titles and it didn’t have any of them – Penguin et al are obviously not linked up yet… Librarything has a recommendation engine too, haven’t used it for yonks though.

    1. Jackie says:

      Annabel, Yes – lack of titles is their major problem at the moment. No Jose Saramago or Sarah Waters yet :-( I’m sure they’ll get round to them one day soon. Doesn’t the LibraryThing recommendation tool use user ratings to match new books? I have looked in the past and it tends to come up with very popular books that I have already read. I like the scientific approach that throws up more obscure books.

  2. Joanna says:

    Ooh, how cool! I think playing around on Book Lamp will account for most of my breaks today! :-)

    1. Jackie says:

      Joanna, Yes – I warn you it does use up a lot of time and I can see it getting more interesting as they add new features to their search tool.

  3. Teresa says:

    The Lilac Bus made me laugh! ;-) Will investigate Book Lamp later but Everyman Dies Alone is an alternative title for Alone in Berlin which I really liked. I think I’ve reviewed it somewhere on my blog. Interesting to have a Berliner’s viewpoint on wartime events.

    1. Jackie says:

      Teresa, Thanks for letting me know about title differences – I knew I recognised the author from somewhere. Alone in Berlin has been on my wishlsit for a while. Hopefully I’ll spot a copy in my library sometime soon. (I know they have a copy, but it never seems to be in when I check)

  4. sakura says:

    I like that there is a ‘scientific’ way to choose books;P I’ll definitely give it a try and see. I’ve only read A Room with a View which didn’t seem so similar to A Fine Balance, but I enjoyed both.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sakura, I’ve just compared the DNA for the two books and they do seem very similar (pacing, amount of dialogue etc) They also both have strong themes of life/death/fear etc. I guess I’ll just have to read it and see for myself.

  5. Sandy says:

    My problem is that my favorite book changes with the direction of the wind. Still, this sounds like fun. And I’m really not too surprised that you were drawn to this site, being a scientific person yourself. I have read Every Man Dies Alone, and I loved it. Truly. But it is dark and make me feel like I was having heart failure for the last hundred pages.

    1. Jackie says:

      Sandy, The type of book I fancy reading changes every hour, but my all-time top 5 stays quite constant. You are making Every Man Dies Alone sound very appealing. I think I’ll have to push it up the TBR pile.

  6. John Braine says:

    Looks very good. But yes, definitely needs more books. I tried my eleven favourite books and it only had one. A non-fiction one.

    Goodreads recommendations engine launched recently too. But hilariously suggested the Farwaway Tree Stories based on The Wasp Factory, which couldn’t be any more wrong.

    I like http://www.getglue.com and http://www.yournextread.com too, but they’re not as analytical as booklamp and seem more based on what what other people liked that you also liked, which can work really well too.

    1. Jackie says:

      John, It was good to see your favourites – especially all those Iain Banks novels. I’m looking forward to getting hold of copies of them.

      Book lamp was only released a few weeks ago so it will take a while to get all the books we’re interested in on, but I am impressed by what it comes up with now. Sorry your favs haven’t made it on there yet.

      I haven’t looked at the other tools you mention, but I bet you can guess what I’ll be playing with for the next few minutes!

  7. Sounds fun, but I think I don’t need any recommendations! I have enough books to read as it is.

    But it’s really nice that you discovered another great book this way.

    I have only read A Room with a View which I found slow-going and a little boring.

    1. Jackie says:

      Judith, I don’t need any more books either, but I can’t resist looking anyway!

      Sorry to hear you found Room with a View boring. I think I’ll put it down the list a little bit.

  8. Andi says:

    Looks great! I tried entering a few favorite books with no luck. I’m actually thinking it may be a browser issue on my computer. Will try when I get back to my office.

    I love this kind of stuff, so thanks for putting it on my radar, Jackie!

    1. Jackie says:

      Andi, I don’t think it is a browser issue – it is just a new site so they haven’t loaded that many books yet. I hope you manage to find a few to look at anyway.

  9. Steph says:

    Well, I just tried to use two books (The History of Love, and Then We Came to the End) as the basis of searches and neither book had any entries! Fail!

    Also, I agree with John about how bad the new GoodReads Recommendation system is. Despite having rated over 300 books, most of the books it is telling me to read are ones that do not appeal at all! It’s probably the worst recommendation system I’ve encountered to date!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, Sorry to hear that your two books weren’t in there :-(

      I wasn’t very impressed with the goodreads engine, but I took that to be because I don’t really use it and have very few books rated. I’m sad to hear it doesn’t work even if you have lots on there.

  10. Steph says:

    I also have to follow-up my last comment with the revelation that BookLamp does not even have Jonathan Franzen in its database! I… don’t even know how to process this information!

    1. Jackie says:

      Steph, They mention on their website that they can only upload books if they have the cooperation of the publisher. It looks as though Franzen’s publisher isn’t on board yet. Hopefully they’ll get approval soon. I’ll keep an eye out for you and let you know when he gets added. :-)

  11. Bina says:

    I’ve only read the Forster of those titles, but enjoyed that one. That’s a fun way to choose the next read :)

    1. Jackie says:

      Bina, I love anything that introduces me to new books :-)

  12. Jo says:

    Certainly a few of my favourite books are missing, although it is a good idea to get some other reads, if you fancy a change.

    At the moment I find all the blogs I read helps me choose next!

    1. Jackie says:

      Jo, Yes, blogs are more than enough for me at the moment too :-)

  13. I have never heard of Book Lamp. Although I’m not sure its claim is accurate, it sounds like an intriguing site. Thank you for bringing it to my attention!

    1. Jackie says:

      theliterarylollipop, I hope you enjoy browsing as much as I did.

  14. Jenners says:

    How interesting. I’m going to have check this out and see what it says for some of my favorite books. It seemed like it wasn’t too off the mark for you .. at least for the start of the list.

    1. Jackie says:

      Jenners, It looks as though it works quite well….as long as your books are there….I hope you find it interesting.

  15. they’re finally out of beta. site had been in my bookmarks for years, totally forgot about it

    haven’t read any of those books. tbh I prefer stumbling upon recommendations or finding new reads naturally….in the wild

    1. Jackie says:

      Damned Conjuror, Congratulations on knowing about it before launch day – you are way ahead of me! I love your quote about finding books in the wild – that is such a wonderful experience :-)

  16. I haven’t read any, but do own a few. I tried this and entered Cutting for Stone, Verghese which I loved, and it gave me several Michael Palmer medical thrillers, which I probably would never read…LOL

    1. Jackie says:

      Diane, Booklamp will be far better once you’re allowed to manipulate the bars yourself. That way you could enter Cutting for Stone, but slow down the pace and hopefully that would remove all those medical thrillers from the top of the list.

  17. I like EM Foster. Hadn’t heard of the others or Book Lamp. But I will definitely check into it. Seem like a great tool to find interesting books. @Diane, I loved Cutting For Stone. Great book.

    1. Jackie says:

      Lena, Thank you for commenting on my blog for the first time. I am a big fan of Cutting for Stone too :-)

  18. Kailana says:

    I have never heard of Book Lamp. I can see me wasting time playing around with it, though!

    1. Jackie says:

      Kailana, Enjoy your time playing with it!

  19. Erin says:

    I hadn’t heard about this site, but I’m intrigued to try it out! I haven’t read any of the books on your list, so I can’t help you there, but I’m thinking maybe I’ll put in one of my favorites and see what list it gives me.

    Also, I’m excited to hear you love A Fine Balance so much! It’s on my list, and I have a copy, I just haven’t gotten to reading it yet.

  20. Beth F says:

    Sounds like a fun tool. I hated Room with a View, but that’s just me. I don’t think I’ve read any of the others.

  21. Oh fun! Let me go have a play with Booklamp now.

    I’ve read Family Matters, and while it’s not a patch on A Fine Balance, it’s still very very good. I enjoyed reading it. I enjoyed Such A Long Journey as well.

    I haven’t read the others, but hope they meet the expectations. The Forster is supposed to be a good read.

  22. Intriguing – although it will need more breadth to be truly useful, I think. Like others, I have noted Goodreads’ launch of a recommendation system. I can’t judge it one way or another yet, but just need to try a couple of their recommendations and see how they pan out.

  23. I hadn’t heard of Book Lamp before, but it certainly sounds intriguing! I’m rather curious about the Binchy book now myself – sounds like it must be there for a reason?

    I’ll have to have a play around with it myself, though they probably don’t have my favourite books yet. Thanks for bringing this to my attention, Jackie!

  24. Simon T says:

    Well, it’s a great idea… but hasn’t had the first three titles (all in print!) that I’ve tried – I think it might work better for people with a taste for modern novels…

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