Like Pandora? Try A Literary Offshoot, Booklamp

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BookLamp.org is a new website that is similar to Pandora — it creates algorithms and breaks down your book preferences by main themes. For instance, if you liked White Teeth, then Booklamp discerns that you’re into: Culture, Life/Death/Spirituality, Extended Families, Explicit Language, and “Elements of Time.” This results in some odd recommendations, such as The Cestus Deception (Star Wars: Clone Wars) by Steven Barnes. (Really? Because we are just never going to be in to that.) However, another suggestion was The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis, which makes some sense. So click through and see what hilarious, interesting, and arguably accurate choices we found on our trip through the site.

The book: Girl With The Dragon Tattoo by Stieg Larsson

Booklamp’s suggestion: The Man from Beijing by Henning Mankell (Categories: Police Involvement, Criminal Investigation, Government/Social Discourse/Revolution)

If you like international whodunits, then you’ll probably like Henning Mankell’s novels. Try this opener from Knopf’s website: “January 2006. In the Swedish hamlet of Hesjövallen, nineteen people have been massacred. The only clue is a red ribbon found at the scene.” Mankell has been writing Kurt Wallander mysteries for years, and they were recently adapted into a PBS television series starring Kenneth Branagh — the second series begins this October.

The book: Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Booklamp’s suggestion: Lyrics by Sting (Categories: Life/Death/Spirituality, Music/Performance, Rain/Thunderstorms)

Sting was second on the list! He writes, “While I’ve never seriously described myself as a poet, the book in your hands, devoid as it is of any musical notation, looks suspiciously like a book of poems.” Oh dear. We featured the English singer in our “Squarest Rock Acts” post last week, and we stand by that choice. His book, Lyrics, beat Selected Poems by Wallace Stevens. How weird is that, and how would dear Whitman take this suggestion of similarities between the two, based on the fact that Sting likes thunderstorms?

The book: The Road by Cormac McCarthy

Booklamp’s suggestion: A children’s book… or more Cormac McCarthy.

The first book suggested is The Toymaker by Jeremy de Quidt (Categories: Physical Injury/Exertion, Domestic Environments, Horses/Ranching.) It is for children ages 9 to 12. Now I don’t know about you, but I don’t read McCarthy because of the horses. After that, it’s all McCarthy, which is fine by us: Child of God, The Crossing, No Country for Old Men…the list goes on.

The book: Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth

Booklamp’s suggestion: Expensive People by Joyce Carol Oates

If you like Portnoy’s Complaint because you are able to fully get inside Alexander P.’s self-absorbed, skirt-chasing (albeit guilt-ridden) noggin, then perhaps you should try out JCO’s work if you haven’t already. In Expensive People, our narrator is Richard Everett, a precocious, highly disturbed young man growing up in a dysfunctional suburban family in the 1960s.

The book: Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace

Booklamp’s suggestion: Nothing. We have to admit, we did have a certain amount of glee when we tried both “Infinite Jest” and “David Foster Wallace” and absolutely nothing came up. What? Too difficult for you, random book generator? Ha! This might now be the point where we confess that we’ve never been able to finish the novel. However, Random Book Generator doesn’t need to know that, right?

The book: The Bluest Eye by Toni Morrison

Booklamp’s suggestion:The Jokers by Albert Cossery (Pain & Fear, Romance/Caresses/Passion, Government, Strategic Planning, Education/School Environments)

This was a weird one. Some of the themes are vaguely similar to The Bluest Eye (e.g., race, class, and education), but that’s about it. We admit we’ve never read Cossery, but our interest was piqued once we saw the description on the New York Review of Books website: “The jokers are the government, and the biggest joker of all is the governor, a bug-eyed, strutting, rapacious character of unequaled incompetence who presides over the nameless Middle Eastern city where this effervescent comedy by Albert Cossery is set.” If you’re up for reading a humorous novel about government corruption and subversion, then try this out. If you want a heartbreaking novel about incest, institutionalized poverty and racism, then we suggest that you stick with Toni Morrison, or try Bastard Out of Carolina by Dorothy Allison.

The book: Interview with a Vampire by Anne Rice

Booklamp’s suggestion: More Anne Rice.

The categories are: Pain & Fear/Negative Emotions, Vampires/Supernatural, Features of the Body, Domestic Environments…and…Clothing/Fabrics/Accessories?! If you like sexy vampires dressed in frippery, we would suggest that you get into the Sookie Stackhouse series by Charlaine Harris, but you’re probably already into that and anyway. Keep enjoying Fangtasia, pervert.

The book: The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami

Booklamp’s suggestion: Swamplandia! by Karen Russell

Okay, so maybe this one was a match because the first category for Swamplandia! is “Birds and Winged Creatures,” which is a lie, since the novel is about a lovable family of alligator wrestlers at a broke down theme park in Florida. But go with it, since Swamplandia! is a great end of the summer read, and features “quirky” characters with psychic powers, which are also included Murakami’s novel. See? It works sometimes.

The book: Mildred Pierce by James M. Cain

Booklamp’s suggestion: Spoiled by Caitlin Macy

If you are into noir, then Spoiled is probably not your bag. However, if you liked Milred Pierce (the novel or the HBO series) because of how absolutely rotten Veda is to her mother, then you’ll probably enjoy reading Caitlin Macy’s books about privileged women.

The book: In Cold Blood by Truman Capote

Booklamp’s suggestion: The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky

BookLamp wants you to get ambitious and finally read some Dostoevsky, since you obviously have an interest in morality and crime. You’ve been talking about reading the epic story since your first year of college, so maybe now it’s time to dip into a serious political novel set in a rapidly modernizing Russia. Or you can just go back to talking about reading it and stick with Capote. It’s your call, really. No judgment.