Transcript / LoLT: A Neat Trick For Managing Your Library and Two New Books — 31 May 2024

Transcript / LoLT: A Neat Trick For Managing Your Library and Two New Books — 31 May 2024

Friday, 31 May, 2024

This is a transcription of ‘LoLT: A Neat Trick For Managing Your Library and Two New Books — 31 May 2024’

[cheerful music]

Melissa: Coming up, a modern homage to Murder on the Orient Express.

David: A time-traveling love affair with some teeth.

Melissa: Plus, our distraction of the week. I’m Mel.

David: I’m Dave. This is the library of lost time.

Melissa: This summer, we’re going to Italy and Croatia on holiday this summer, and when it’s time to return home, we’re taking the night train from Venice to Prague. I think I’ve found the perfect book to read in our little couchette. It’s ‘The Main Character’ by Jaclyn Goldis.

Melissa: This twisty tale is partially set aboard the newly restored Orient Express and an early review said ‘it’s as much a colorful travelogue as a tale of suspense.’

Melissa: The plot features a reclusive bestselling mystery author named Ginevra Ex. She pays normal people a crazy amount of money for the right to model characters after them. [DAVE] But her latest subject Rory is special, so in addition to the usual 100 grand, Ginevra gifts Rory a ticket for the newly restored Orient Express for a trip along Italy’s Mediterranean coast.

Melissa: But when Rory boards the train, she learns that SURPRISE! her ex-fiance, her brother, and her best friend are also coming along for the ride. Rather than feeling celebratory, it feels sinister. Cinque Terre and Positano are decidedly less fun when someone is seriously messing with you. Then somebody ends up dead.

Melissa: The book’s chapters alternate between the characters. Rory’s first chapter begins with her boarding the Orient Express, and she may as well have taken my internal monologue and put it on the page.

‘Bevenuto, says the impeccable man in the starched royal blue uniform with yellow braided trim his white-gloved hand oustretched. Behind him looms the Venice Simplon-Orient-Express — a glossy navy train meticulously restored… The train has long been lodged in my imagination as the setting for the most glamorous Agatha Christie novel. A place inexplicably of both un and murder. And let’s be honest — nowhere has murder seemed more alluring that on the Orient Express.’

Melissa: Her room is more of a suite with a full bed, frescoed ceiling, mosaic floors, and an ensuite bathroom with a pink pedestal sink. The exterior of our train, the Nightjet, is also a glossy navy blue. I suspect our overnight accommodations will be slightly less posh. More like bunk beds and sheets we put on the bed ourselves. But it’s still very romantic to me, and I look forward to enjoying an imaginary murder. The book is ‘The Main Character’ by Jaclyn Goldis.

David: This is set in Britain in the near future. This is the story of a woman who’s a civil servant. She gets a job with a government organization. Their specialty is time travel. They want her to be what they call a ‘bridge’ — a local host — for a person who has been brought through time to now. So, she’s going to guide and monitor Commander Graham Gore, one of the men from a doomed 1845 Arctic exploration — who is, by the way, a real person. He’s got his own wikipedia page.

David: And, while it sounds like we’re setting up for a rom-com with hijinks, and there is some of that, the story has things to say about colonialism, and loneliness, and what it means to be out of one’s time and place. Unsurprisingly, the government isn’t doing what it’s doing for entirely benevolent reasons. Things get shady.

David: Before I tell you this next bit, I think it’s important to establish that the author is also a prize-winning short story author and an editor at Penguin. Because, otherwise, this is going to sound like fan-fic. And, it is?

David: In an article in The Guardian, the author, Kaliane Bradley, said the book started during the pandemic. She was watching ‘The Terror,’ a supernatural horror about arctic exploration, which is based on an actual event. She got caught up in one of the characters—a guy who dies in the second episode. She started writing about what it would be like to be in a relationship with him. Many nights later, she had a novel, her first. It is now available in 20 languages. Not only fan-fic. Self-insert fan-fic.

David: The book is a patchwork of sci-fi, romance, social commentary, and humor. The Washington Post called it ‘smart and witty.’ It just came out this month. It’s ‘The Ministry of Time’ by Kaliane Bradley.

David: And now our Distraction of the Week. [magical sound effect]

David: This is a quick one, but it might be a handy trick for people who listen to us. It’s about finding books in your own home. If you’re like us, you have enough books to make it tricky to remember what you have and, more importantly, where it is. But you can use your phone to help manage that. Here’s the trick.

David: If you have a modern phone, you might have noticed that it does OCR when you take a photo. Your phone will take the text from the image and make it searchable. In my case, the OCR doesn’t happen immediately, but it does eventually happen.

David: The trick is this: you can take photos of your bookshelves. Your camera will OCR the words on the spines of your books. Then, later, you can search for those words. When you do that, you’ll see the photo of where the book is in your house.

David: For example, I have a bunch of bookshelves in my office. I take pictures of the shelves. One book on one of the shelves is ‘Wolf Hall’ by Hillary Mantel. The camera scans the photo and converts ‘Wolf Hall’ and ‘Hillary Mantel’ into text.

David: Later, I looked for that book, but I couldn’t remember where I put it. I opened my photo app and typed ‘Wolf’ into the search bar. It showed me a photo of the shelf where that book was—and boom! I knew I had it, and I knew where it was.

David: We’ve got a couple of hundred books in our house. I can catalog everything in about 20 minutes.

David: If you loan many books, you could use the same system to manage that. Just take a picture of the person holding the cover in front of their face. That’s it! That’s the tip. Take photos of your bookshelves and search on them. You’ll always know what you have and where it is. I hope it’s helpful.

Melissa: Visit for more on the books we talked about today and links to more about how to use OCR to track your books.

David: Thanks for joining us on the library of last time. Remember to visit your local library and your independent bookstore to lose some time yourself.

Melissa: Stay curious. We’ll talk to you soon.

[cheerful music]


Top image courtesy of Aneta Pawlik/Unsplash.

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