Showing posts with label spotlight on books. Show all posts
Showing posts with label spotlight on books. Show all posts

Celebrating the life of Mark Twain with a Google Doodle and Google Books

Tuesday, November 29, 2011 at 7:24 PM

Please note some images may not be available in full view to readers outside the United States

In honor of Samuel Langhorne Clemens' – better known to the world as Mark Twain – 176th birthday today, Google has prepared a special doodle evoking one the most famous scenes from one of Twain's most famous novels, The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. We at Google Books invite you to take a trip through this American author and humorist's life via our body of digitized works, and maybe even convince you to read a free ebook copy of one of Twain's classics.

As a child, Twain lived in Hannibal, Missouri, a town on the Mississippi River, in the early to mid-1800s. Twain describes one of his first jobs as a "printer's 'devil'" – an apprentice at his uncle's newspaper, the Weekly Hannibal Journal. "500 subscribers, and they paid in cord-wood, cabbages, and unmarketable turnips," he recalls of the experience later in his short-lived column "Memoranda" (circa 1871) for The Galaxy magazine.
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Peering into Jorge Luis Borges’s Labyrinth

Wednesday, August 24, 2011 at 9:34 AM

In honor of Jorge Luis Borges's 112th birthday, Google has prepared a special doodle for today. Borges (1899-1986) was an Argentinian author best known today for his fantastic short stories and influential essays and poetry. His ideas have made a lasting impact on fields as far-ranging as mathematics, philosophy, literary theory, translation studies, and studies in cyberculture/futurology.

Google Doodle by Sophia Foster-Dimino

The New York Times piece "Borges and the Foreseeable Future" highlights Borges's surprising influence on the Internet era. Focusing on Borges's story "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," the article shows how Borges's idea of an infinite encyclopedia can be interpreted as a prototype for Wikipedia.

In a similar light, Borges's story "On Exactitude in Science," which is about a map as large as the area it depicts, has a virtual corollary with Google Earth and Google Maps. In "El Aleph", Borges wrote about a single point in space through which all other points in space and time could be seen. The Google search box hasn’t quite reached this breadth, but we are adding to the index everyday.

In The Library of Babel, Borges describes an infinite library that holds every conceivable book, composed of every conceivable combination of letters. This story has left scholars pondering the consequences of this infinite library, and recent titles, like William Bloch’s The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel, have set about analyzing the mathematics in Borges’s story.

Visualizing Borges’s literary legacy

The Google Books Ngram Viewer is a tool in Google Books which allows you to search for terms and phrases. Using the tool, you can compare trends in word usage in the millions of books in the Google Books digital corpus. Below are Ngrams showing the trends in the number of books that have "Jorge Luis Borges" in Spanish and English. The graphs go from 1899 (when he was born) to 2000. These graphs show Borges's explosive rise in popularity for Spanish and English-reading audiences.

References to Jorge Luis Borges's name in Spanish-language books in Google Books 1899-2000

Books Ngram Viewer graph for Borges references in Spanish

References to Jorge Luis Borges's name in English-language books in Google Books 1899-2000

Books Ngram Viewer graph for Borges references in English

What's interesting about these graphs is how there are Spanish-language books referencing Borges as early as the mid-1920s. However, for English books, Borges's popularity didn't take off until he shared the Formentor Prize, an international literary award, with Samuel Beckett in 1961.

At that point, Borges's popularity in the English-speaking world took off. English translations of his works became more widely available thanks to the efforts of Norman Thomas di Giovanni and other translators, and Borges traveled the world in the later years of his life with Maria Kodama, giving lectures on literature. The number of times Borges's name appears in English books rises sharply in the decade from 1961 to 1971 and continues its upward trend through 2000.

Interestingly, for Spanish books, the frequency of his name dropped soon after his passing in 1986, only to surge from 1990 to 2000. It will be interesting to see in the future, if references to Borges keep rising.

"Of a language of the dawn"

How would Borges, a lover of language known for his exquisite word choice, have used Ngram Viewer? This tool is a step beyond the card catalogue and library indexes he used as a librarian, but is a data visualization tool that allows one to simultaneously peer at and dissect individual words and phrases used in millions of books.

Would Borges have used Ngram Viewer to track trends and the emergence of words in the many languages he knew? Could he have used it to write about the death of one word or language, to be supplanted by another, similar to how he describes the birth of English from Anglo-Saxon in his poem "On Beginning the Study of Anglo-Saxon Grammar"? Or would he have have used the tool in ways we have not yet imagined?

Want to learn more about Borges and his writing?

Visit Google Books to access ebooks by and about Borges:
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A Whole "Latte" Books

Tuesday, May 31, 2011 at 3:07 PM

Please note that some content may not be available in full view to users outside of the United States.

T.S. Eliot once remarked that he "measured out [his] life with coffee spoons." Wise man. I measure out my mornings with double espressos.

Whether it's a double-tall, half-caffeine, sugar-free hazelnut soy latte, cappuccino, macchiato, espresso, or just a fresh, plain hot cup of Joe, we Googlers love our coffee.

Not only do we have mobile baristas who travel around our Mountain View campus, but tutorials on how to pull the perfect shot of espresso.

Naturally curious as to where my daily java comes from and how it transforms from this picture of brilliant red berries swinging innocently on a branch surrounded by white flowers into a variety of light, medium, and dark roasts brewed in my kitchen, I dove into Google Books and Google eBooks to learn more.

If you, too, want to get educated in coffee culture throughout history, check out Uncommon Grounds: The History of Coffee and How It Transformed Our World on Google eBooks, published by Basic Books.

Interested in the cultivation and profit-making aspects of coffee? Be sure to read Edwin Lester Linden Arnold's Coffee, its cultivation and profit.

If you're keen on learning more about the corporate culture and commerce surrounding coffee, Everything but the coffee by Bryant Simon (published by UC Press), or Starbucked: a double tall tale of caffeine, commerce, and culture (Hachette Digital) are perfect for your — wait for it — coffee table. Also, make sure to read All about coffee by William Harrison Ukers or Coffee, from plantation to cup by Francis Beatty Thurber.

So grab a book and cozy up with a cuppa! Read the full post 0 comments


Klingon and Elvish 101, with Google Books

Tuesday, May 03, 2011 at 4:27 PM

Tlhlngan Hol Dajatlh’a’? Or as the French would say, Parlez-vous Klingon? Google Books empowers you to learn new languages -- even fictional ones, like the Klingon alien language from Star Trek, or the Elvish dialects found in The Lord of the Rings.

There is no longer any excuse to get tongue-tied at your next Klingon mixer -- unable to even summon up a simple nuqneH (what’s up) or a jIyajbe’ (I don’t understand). After reading through The Klingon Dictionary, you'll be fluently pulling off phrases like, HIjol, Scotty! (Beam me up, Scotty!) in no time.

More advanced Klingon speakers will want to put their skills to the test with The Klingon Hamlet. That's right, taH pagh taHbe’ (to be or not to be). You haven't fully experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in Klingon.

If you've read J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy epic series, The Lord of the Rings, or have seen the movies, you may remember that different races (i.e. elves, orcs and dwarves) each had their own languages. To say that Tolkien loved languages is an understatement. In real life, he spoke or studied dozens of different tongues, from French to Old Norse.

J.R.R. Tolkien

He was nearly as prolific at inventing new languages. The world of The Lord of the Rings was in large part created out of the many languages Tolkien invented for it.

A couple of the most developed languages Tolkien created were two Elvish tongues, Quenya and Sindarin. While Tolkien himself left extensive writings and notes about these languages -- see for instance Elements in Quenya and Sindarin Names in his work The Silmarillion -- others have also created resources to help you polish your Elvish.

Make sure to check out Ambar Eldon’s Elvish dictionaries for both tongues: Quenya-English and Sindarin-English. Are you francophone? They've got you covered there too, with Dictionnaire Elfique Quenya-Français and Sindarin-Français. David Salo's A Gateway to Sindarin is a comprehensive book about the history, sounds and grammar behind the fictional language.

If you want to start with the Elvish ABC's, check out The Lord of the Rings Comprehension Guide's section on how to write words using the Quenya alphabet. For instance, my name in Elvish writing is:
"Oliver" in Elvish

Or maybe you just want to woo an Elvish maiden or an Orlando "Legolas" Bloom. You can send along this little love letter:

Come see the night sky with me, fair maiden/knight.

You’ll be star-gazing in no time.
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Bird watching with John James Audubon

Tuesday, April 26, 2011 at 6:43 PM

Today on our homepage, Google honors the 226th birthday of French-American artist and ornithologist John James Audubon:

J. J. Audubon, who immigrated to America at the start of the 19th century, was a naturalist whose writings on the bird species of North America had a wide and long-lasting impact on the fields of natural history, evolutionary biology, and art. Charles Darwin himself quoted Audubon's work in On the Origin of Species, and the naturalist (and keen hunter) continued to work cataloging birds, and later mammals, into the 1840s.

Audubon's seminal work, Birds of America is in the public domain and available for easy reading (and downloadable as a PDF file) via Google Books. This book, which included dozens of beautiful paintings of bird species, had a storied publication history, and an article in the The Economist noted that 5 of the 10 highest prices paid for physical books were for original copies of Birds of America.

Sophia Foster-Dimino, an artist on the Doodle team that worked on today's tribute says this of J. J. Audubon: "His watercolor and gouache paintings are fascinating from an artistic perspective as well as a scientific one -- Audubon intentionally tried to capture the liveliness and personality of his subjects. I think this warm personal approach is what elevates these images above scientific illustration."

On Audubon's birthday, the Google Books team encourages you to check out this American gem's most important work.

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Terms of Endearment

Friday, February 11, 2011 at 3:43 PM

Throughout history, a wide variety of romantic nicknames have passed through the lips of lovers. Many of these are inspired by and reflected in literature. Romeo called Juliet "my sweet," Rhett called Scarlett "my dear" and Torvald Helmer called Nora "my little lark".

Whether you call your main squeeze "stud muffin" or "sweetie pie," you can now find out when your favorite terms of endearment came into vogue and fell out of fashion through the Google Books Ngram Viewer. (The Viewer reveals that "sweetie pie" has grown steadily since the mid-30's while "stud muffin" was last to the love party when it appeared in the late 1980s.)

Comb through more than 500 billion words from more than 5.2 million books spanning from 1500 to 2006 with a few taps and a click. Want to see the words in heart-fluttering context? Click the corresponding links in the table beneath the line graph to browse inside the books where your search terms were found.

Looking for a popular term from a romance language? Très bien! With seven languages including French, you can trace "mon amour," "ma belle," "mon cher" and "mon amie" back to the 1800s.

So no matter what you call your sweetheart this Valentine's Day, impress him or her by knowing the literary history behind your favorite terms of endearment. Read the full post 0 comments


7 Things You Didn't Know About Charles Dickens

Monday, February 07, 2011 at 7:00 AM

Charles Dickens
(Source: LIFE Magazine)

More than a century after his death in 1870, Victorian novelist Charles John Huffam Dickens, author of The Old Curiosity Shop, Great Expectations and A Tale of Two Cities, is one of the mostly avidly read authors today. Here's wishing a "Happy Birthday" to a literary stalwart who has captivated us with marvelously crafted stories and their intricately fascinating characters like Little Nell and Pip.

Aside from his work, however, there was much to the man himself. From being an fervent supporter for the abolition of slavery in America, to being a philanthropist and setting up Urania Cottage—a home for destitute women in England—Charles Dickens did it all.

  1. Dickens's first story was "A Dinner at Poplar Walk," published in the London periodical Monthly Magazine in 1833. He was only 21.

  2. Prior to becoming a famous novelist, Dickens was a political journalist for The Morning Chronicle in Britain, where he published a collection of his work in Sketches by Boz. He later moved on to become the editor of Bentley's Miscellany at the age of 24.

  3. Dickens had a pet raven named Grip, whom he loved so dearly that when it died, he had the bird stuffed and mounted in his study. It is also said that the bird not only inspired Dickens's talking raven in Barnaby Rudge, but also Edgar Alan Poe's memorable poem "The Raven."

  4. While renting hotel suites during his travels to the U.S. and other places, Dickens almost always rearranged all the furniture in the room until he was completely satisfied with the decor. He also insisted on his children keeping their nurseries extremely organized and rebuked them rather severely for untidiness. Literary and psychological experts have often conjectured that this behavior resulted from obsessive-compulsive disorder.

  5. Dickens's ten-year friendship with the fairy-tale writer Hans Christian Andersen abruptly ended when he stuck a note in his guest bedroom, only days after the author of "The Ugly Duckling" had departed, that read: "Hans Andersen slept in this room for five weeks—which seemed to the family ages!"

    Charles Dickens's dream house.
    (Source: LIFE Magazine)
  6. Dickens published Oliver Twist and Nicholas Nickleby in periodical installments, often sensationalizing and altering the plot after taking into account the public reception for each of the published episodes.

    One of Dickens's studies.
    (Source: LIFE Magazine)
  7. At his country home in Gad's Hill Place, Dickens had a faux bookcase in his study that concealed a secret door and was filled with bogus yet amusing titles like Hansard's Guide to Refreshing Sleep, Was Shakespeare's Mother Fat? and The Quarrelly Review.

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The Art of Bling!

Wednesday, December 01, 2010 at 8:00 AM

The art of making jewelry is one of those popular hobbies that have truly withstood the test of time. Since adornments have customarily accentuated haute couture, the craft has long been an attractive recreation for creative fashionistas.

Traditional jewelry making has historically been associated with intricately carved precious metals like gold or silver, sometimes embedded with gemstones, diamonds or rubies. Contemporary art jewelry, on the other hand, is made from various materials such as glass, wood, plastic or clay and can be just as exquisite.

Jewelry belonging to Indus Valley civilization 2500-1500 BC.
Source: LIFE Magazine

For instance, "Winged Lady" and "Dragonfly" are some masterpieces of contemporary art by René Jules Lalique. Lalique has often been credited with restyling the art of conventional jewelry in the late 19th century, by experimenting with a variety of materials like glass and creating brilliant works. Ever since, art jewelry has been a powerful medium of expression for designers worldwide.

Gem jewelry.
Source: LIFE Magazine

The avid use of mixed media in contemporary art jewelry has prompted consumers to cultivate distinct tastes and preferences for the craft, thereby making some styles more popular than others. While adornments made with glass, bead and wire, wood and clay have been in vogue among buyers, paper jewelry has not had as much traction.

People are becoming more open to different types of accessories to complement their personal styles. By being trendier and economical, contemporary jewelry is gradually gaining demand among jewelry collectors.

So, if this brief introduction to art jewelry has whet your creative appetite, check out some cool ideas on Google Books and learn more about this splendid craft. Go ahead, accessorize! Read the full post 0 comments


Happy Birthday, Robert Louis Stevenson!

Saturday, November 13, 2010 at 8:00 AM

"The difficulty of literature is not to write, but to write what you mean; not to affect your reader, but to affect him precisely as you wish."

Robert Louis Stevenson (source: LIFE Magazine)

He did it once with Treasure Island (1883), and did it again with Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (1886) and then again with Kidnapped (1886) — delighting readers with journeys into mystical lands and chance encounters with mysterious people. These were masterpieces of the creative genius of none other than the famous nineteenth century poet and novelist, Robert Louis Stevenson.

Born in 1850, Stevenson spent a rather protected childhood in Edinburgh, Scotland. But, his wanderlust and story-writing instincts distinguished him from his peers and family. At the tender age of sixteen, he published his first work, The Pentland Rising: A Page of History (1866), commemorating two hundred years of the Covenanters' rebellion.

However, in an attempt to follow in his father's footsteps and support the family business, Stevenson pursued a degree in engineering at the University of Edinburgh. He enjoyed travelling to his family's engineering works over summer not because of technical interests, but because it gave him new insights for his writings. In April 1871, Stevenson finally declared his decision to pursue a career in literature, much to the disappointment of his family.

In 1880, he married Fanny Vandegrift Osbourne and spent an idyllic honeymoon at Napa Valley, north of San Francisco, California. He recounted his experiences in The Silverado Squatters (1883).

The Samoan home of author Robert Louis Stevenson (source: LIFE Magazine)

In the following years, Stevenson penned his immortal tales of adventure, publishing Treasure Island, Kidnapped and Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde alongside Prince Otto (1885), The Master of Ballantrae (1889) and Catriona: A sequel to Kidnapped (1893). From shipwrecks and exotic islands to stealthy pirates and split personalities — all made up the colorful canvas of his novels.

Illustration from Treasure Island by Robert Louis Stevenson (source: LIFE Magazine)

He also published collections of short stories including New Arabian Nights (1882) and The Merry Men and Other Tales and Fables (1887). Stevenson even composed anthologies of poetry such as A Child's Garden of Verses (1885) and Underwoods (1887).

Robert Louis Stevenson enriched English literature with his singular contributions to the classics. His works inspire wonder, while eloquently entertaining our dreams of adventure.

Here's a toast to you, Mr. Stevenson, for following your dream! Happy Birthday! Read the full post 0 comments



Thursday, October 28, 2010 at 10:41 AM

I live in Dublin

Do you see the same city I see?

-James Joyce

[Please note, some books linked from this post may not be available in full view to users outside of the United States.]

Recently, I moved from San Francisco across the Atlantic to the beautiful city of Dublin. The biggest perk of living in the capital of Ireland for an enthusiastic reader and writer like myself is being surrounded by rich literary history everywhere I go!

One of the first nations to practice vernacular writing, Ireland has produced some of history’s most remarkable authors. Notable literary artists from Dublin include Oscar Wilde (1854-1900); poet and author of the famed The Picture of Dorian Gray, Bram Stoker (1847-1912), creator of Dracula; Jonathan Swift (1667-1745), who brought fictional Lilliputians to life in Gulliver's Travels (and who was the first great Irish writer to be recognized internationally), and James Joyce (1882-1941), who captured the very essence of what it was like to live in Dublin through his collection of short stories Dubliners, A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man, and the great epic Ulysses, a work of art I studied intensively in university. Imagine my delight when I could actually experience Joycean Dublin by walking the same streets this great author had!

I took a walk across gorgeous Samuel Beckett bridge, named for the Nobel Prize in Literature-winning writer who had at one point in his life been James Joyce's secretary, examined the very first printing machines and ancient typewriters at the National Print Museum, admired the ancient Book of Kells, preserved in the library at Trinity College, and enjoyed a cappuccino at cozy Finn's Hotel where James Joyce went on his first date with his future wife, which was also the inspiration for Ulysses.

I spent a leisurely afternoon at the Writer’s Museum in the heart of Dublin and discovered the amazing Yeats collection of letters to his lover, friends, and family. Later that night, through the Dublin Literary Pub Crawl, I embarked on a pleasant historical walking tour of the great city with our tour guide quoting at length Yeats, Behan, and Larkin- with stops at local pubs for some hearty, delicious Irish fare.

To visualize the influence of great Irish authors on contemporary Dublin, take an afternoon to stroll through the intense language and exploration of identity of Joycean Dublin in Ulysses on Google Books. Try exploring the literary history of where you live by conducting an Advanced Book Search by using location as subject. You may find a more poetic side to the sights around you!

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Monday, October 18, 2010 at 7:00 AM

When we're not out scanning and subsequently trying to read all the world's books, some of us on the Google Books team actually like to watch television. So it is with some remorse that we watched Sunday's season finale of Mad Men, AMC's hit drama about a 1960s advertising agency--which, if you live in the US and you haven't already heard of it or had someone in your life gush about it, you really should get out more.

Besides providing ample display of period costumes and vices (smoking, boozing, adultery) the show is satisfying for its novel examination of the world of advertising. In depicting the creative process of the fictional advertising agency Sterling Cooper Draper Price, Mad Men argues that the catchphrases and images used to sell us beer and cereal reveal deeper truths about who we are as a culture.

For some Ad Analysis 101, we harnessed the power of Google Magazine Search to look at some actual ads from 1964, the initial setting for the current season of Mad Men. These cultural artifacts hint at an American society on the brink of historical social change.

Lucky Strike

On the show, Don Draper and company struggle to market Lucky Strike cigarettes to a public increasingly aware of the hazards of smoking cigarettes. In this 1964 ad for the brand, one can see the transition away from previous means of marketing cigarettes. For example, compare the 1964 ad to this 1955 from LIFE:

In 1955, smoking Lucky Strike is for lovers. In 1964, smoking Lucky Strikes is for the well-versed cigarette connoisseurs. The 1964 ad emphasizes taste above all else with the word underlined and repeated four times. Rather than a couple enjoying the romantic ritual of lighting up, this later campaign includes just the image of an anonymous set of lips ready for tasting this "fine tobacco at its best."

By focusing in on the taste of cigarettes, perhaps the architects of the 1964 ad were speaking to a population already hooked on cigarettes. Whereas the earlier ad uses romantic imagery to attract new smokers, the later ad highlights the physical and gustatory sensation to an audience that is already craves them--even if scientists are starting to say they shouldn't.


In a Mad Men episode that some critics called the best of series, Don Draper and his ambitious protégé Peggy Olsen bicker over how best to compose a campaign for the the suitcase maker Samsonite. At one point Peggy presents an idea involving the celebrity endorsement of Joe Namath and cites the quarterback's good looks as an obvious selling point for women. Don rebuffs Peggy, saying, "Women don't buy suitcases." As the above two-page ad from LIFE clearly shows, the real ad men behind Samsonite's 1964 campaigns weren't so sure about that.

While the Samsonite Silhouette is "handsome, rugged and trim" for him, it's also
"an elegant summer traveler" for her. This split page ad suggests that advertisers were wary of alienating their male audience by focusing their energies on woman. But they were also growing increasingly aware of the power of marketing to female consumers.

Pepsi Generation

While the guys and gals of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce didn't pen any copy for Pepsi-Cola, this campaign from the soda giant justly belongs in this blog post in that it is part to the larger canon of 1960s iconic advertising. It was named by Advertising Age as one of the top ad campaigns of the century (#21 on the list of 100). This particular spot from a July 1964 issue of LIFE illustrates where advertisers were increasingly aiming their attentions: the young.

The copy reads: "The horizons of thinking young stretch across the land from sea to sea. The mood is healthy; the drink is Pepsi." The reference to the horizon and the literal one stretching out behind this contented, attractive California couple, echo the "New Frontier" of Kennedy's 1960 Inauguration. The ad capitalizes on the lingering hopefulness of a country about to be mired in a protracted war and a divisive national discussion that pitted old against young.

Pepsi's 1964 advertising also reveals the extent to which advertisers were awakening to the growing market of African Americans. This ad from an October 1964 Ebony provides an African American corollary to the otherwise white campaign found in most other magazines.

LBJ signed the Civil Rights Act into law only a few months before the publication of this particular ad, and the inclusive tone of "Come Alive! You're in the Pepsi Generation" links drinking Pepsi with integration. In this ad, they're not just selling soda, they're also selling promises of equality.

* * *

We'll have to wait awhile for a return to the 1960s via the exploits of Don, Peggy and the rest, but the 60s--and many other historical periods--are alive and swinging in Google Magazine Search. To do your own investigation of historic advertising, you can search Google Magazine through the Advanced Search option. With fully searchable text, including the ads, you too can probe such weighty questions about meaning and identity--also, less weighty ones like this. Read the full post 0 comments


Fun and Games with Google Books

Wednesday, September 22, 2010 at 10:54 AM

[Please note, some images in this post may not be available in full view to users outside of the United States.]

As video games become ever more popular, I've begun to wonder how pre-video game generations kept themselves entertained. Games have always been a part of our culture, whether in the form of a leisurely game of bridge or a high-intensity video game of zombies or fantasy worlds.

I spent an afternoon diving through Google Books to examine the history of games, our source of relaxation, happiness, and camaraderie. The Clip feature on Google Books allowed me to easily to capture these great images from game blasts from the past!

Chess, one of the older games, was derived from an ancient game called Chaturanga, created by Hindoo Puranas 3000 years before the Christian era. The layout of the board mimics the field of battle, with soldiers, a king, an elephant, a ship, and a horse, each with its own accompanying pawns.

Every four years we continue to celebrate the Olympics, which were born from the ancient sporting festivals of Greece. Crowds observed Grecians compete for glory in foot races, gymnastic exercises, and combat-style games like Caestus, which involved gauntlets and the shedding of much blood. The ancient Olympic games in Greece opened and closed with marvelous ceremonies in the city of Olympia, a tradition that was carried on for many centuries thereafter.

As the centuries passed, different games began to evolve, as demonstrated by The Book of Parlour Games by Catharine Harbeson Waterman. The game, Pinch Without Laughing, was played during an afternoon of tea with guests. The object of the game was to pinch the nose of one’s neighbor, who must submit without laughing. Whoever smiled or laughed lost the game!

School, Church, and Home Games by George O. Draper is a treasure trove of games that can be played by children and students. The author shares trick games, games for the dining table, and even competitive stunts. This book details games for everyone, including hide and seek, Simon Says, and musical chairs - games many remember fondly from our own childhood!

If rain has you stuck inside, check out My Book of Indoor Games by Clarence Squareman if you’re stuck inside because it’s rainy. If you’re somewhere sunny and tropical, explore your athletic capabilities with Outdoor Sports and Games by Claude H. Miller, or gather your friends and play some Games For Everybody by May C. Hofmann. Read the full post 0 comments


Happy Birthday, Leo Tolstoy!

Thursday, September 09, 2010 at 11:45 AM

Anyone who has read Leo Tolstoy knows that curling up with War and Peace or Anna Karenina is no easy feat. At nearly 700 pages apiece, each novel offers adventure, history, views on social reform, morality, economics, human will, society, and of course, war and peace — but even more interesting is the man behind these works, who was born on this day in 1828.

Sketch of Leo Tolstoy at age 29, as an officer in the Crimean War
(Source: Life Magazine)

A Renaissance man, Leo Tolstoy was born into Russian nobility in Yasnaya Polyana as Count Leo Nikolayevich Tolstoy, the fourth son of Count Nikolay Tolstoy. He founded a school for peasant children in 1859, served as an Arbiter of the Peace in 1861, and had thirteen children with his wife, Sophia Behrs, all while penning works considered by many authors as the most remarkable of all Russian literature. Virginia Woolf even declared Tolstoy as "[the] greatest of all novelists."

Audrey Hepburn as Natasha Rostova in the film adaptation of Tolstoy’s “War and Pace”
(Source: Life Magazine)

200 years later, Tolstoy’s writing ranges far and wide in its influence, and his stories have been adapted into film, opera, plays, radio, and television. His wisdom continues to persist throughout the years, such as poignant quotations like "Happiness does not depend on outward things, but on the way we see them" and the aphorism, "the sole meaning of life is to serve humanity."

To celebrate Tolstoy today, make yourself a cup of kvass and check out some of his works on Google Books in full view, including War and Peace, Boyhood, Anna Karenina, as well as some of his short stories.

С Днем Рождения! (that is, happy birthday Leo Tolstoy!) Read the full post 0 comments


The Armchair Traveler

Wednesday, September 01, 2010 at 12:10 PM

[Please note, some images in this post may not be available in full view to users outside of the United States.]

Now that it’s early September and we’re officially in the dog days of summer, what better way to spend this hot, sultry period than to take a refresher and travel to exotic lands afar? Even if you’re working through the summer or are more of a staycationer, you can take a trip around the world by exploring different countries through Google Books!

Courtesy of books scanned via our library project, anyone can stroll through China, experience ninety days' worth of Europe or get to know South America. And if you’re feeling a little fantastical, you can leave Kansas behind and head off with Dorothy to explore the land of Oz.

With the plethora of travel-related books available in full view on Google Books, you can explore the world and be visually enlightened with sights from afar from the comfort of your couch and a frosty glass of lemonade!

Check out the beautiful Flower Pagoda in Canton, China:

Swing by the Uffizi Gallery in Florence to admire the Birth of Venice in Italy and the Italians by Edward Hutton:

See London through Herbert Fry’s eighteen bird's-eye views of the principal streets, or be a Wanderer in Paris experiencing the lovely cafés, museums and walks down rue de l'hôtel de ville:

And while you're there, why not visit the Arc De Triomphe De l’Etoile?

If you’re more of a nature-lover, hitch up your wagon of books via My Library on Google Books and set off on the Oregon Trail and imagine wildflowers, horseback riding, and gorgeous sunsets on plains via first-hand experiences penned by Francis Parkman, or if you’re feeling really adventurous, literally "book" yourself an around-the-world experience by traveling alongside Jules Verne for Five Weeks in a Balloon. For an intellectual dose of scientific observations, you can travel from Chile to Argentina and back again with Charles Darwin's Voyage of the Beagle.

After you return from your incredible journeys, you can easily show other readers your virtual trip by sharing images you found interesting. Blog interesting images using our Share This Clip feature in Google Books, and share your bookshelf with family, friends, or the world! Read the full post 0 comments


Chocolate... in a nutshell!

Tuesday, August 17, 2010 at 1:12 PM

If you thought you knew everything there is to know about chocolate, think again! This world famous decadent dessert certainly has some dark secrets of its own - a treasure that has been enriched over the past three centuries. Try the following trivia and sharpen your knowledge of the indulgent, yet exquisite confection. Check out the links and learn more about your favorite sweet on Google Books.

(Photo by Suat Eman)

Q: Which ancient civilizations were the first to discover chocolate?
A. The Aztecs and the Mayans of Central America - (The taste of chocolate has only been perfected ever since.)

Q. Where is the world’s largest chocolate museum?
A. Cologne Chocolate Museum in Germany - (Here’s where the flavours are immortalized.)

Q. In which city was the world’s largest chocolate sculpted?
A. Milan, Italy. In May, 2010, Italian chocolatier, Mirco Della Vecchia sculpted a 1.5 meters tall, Dome of Milan, to bag the Guinness World Record for the largest ever chocolate art. (Beat that!)

Q. Where is the world’s largest chocolate factory?
A. No, it’s neither Willy Wonka’s nor Charlie’s chocolate factory. It's Hershey's, in Pennsylvania.

(In 1940, an emergency ration: a Hershey’s chocolate bar, served at Fort Myers. Photo: LIFE Magazine)

Q. In which city is Ghirardelli headquartered?
A. San Leandro, California (Did I hear San Fransisco? If yes, give yourself half a point, as it was first incorporated and formerly headquartered in San Francisco.)

Q. Which country is the largest consumer of chocolate?
A. Switzerland... Swiss Chocolate, anyone?

Q. Which country is the largest cocoa bean producer?
A. Côte d'Ivoire (44% of all the cocoa beans exported in the world come from this West African nation.)

Q. What is the scientific name for chocolate?
A. Theobroma cacao (Try saying that five times fast!)

Q. Name a beneficial health effect of chocolate?
A. Chocolate enhances the circulatory system. (Flavanoids in chocolate increase antioxidants in the blood, protecting against heart damage.)

Q. Name the author of the best-selling book, Chocolat, which was later made into a Hollywood blockbuster starring Juliette Binoche and Johnny Depp?
A. Joanne Harris (Why is it that the book is always better than the movie?)

  • 0-2: You’re a choco-novice!

  • 3-5: You’re choco-connoisseur!

  • 6-8: You’re a choco-guru!

  • 9-10: You’re a choco-holic!
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Happy Birthday, Emily Brontë!

Friday, July 30, 2010 at 12:00 AM

Portrait of Emily Jane Brontë (Source: LIFE Magazine)

No coward soul is mine,
No trembler in the world's storm-troubled sphere:
I see Heaven's glories shine,
And faith shines equal, arming me from fear.
-- Emily Brontë

The indomitable spirit that defined the Yorkshire poet and novelist Emily Brontë also formed the very essence of the classic Wuthering Heights -- her only novel.

In an age when contemporary English society refused to take women’s contributions to literature seriously, Emily and her sisters, Charlotte and Anne, adopted ambiguous pen names to have their works published and accepted. In 1846, the Brontë sisters collaboratively published Poems by Currer, Ellis, and Acton Bell.

The Brontë sisters--Anne, Emily and Charlotte--painted by their brother Bramwell (Source: LIFE Magazine)

While Charlotte Brontë assumed the pseudonym Currer Bell and went on to write Jane Eyre, Anne Brontë settled for Acton Bell and produced Agnes Grey. Emily preferred to be called Ellis Bell in the first edition of Wuthering Heights, which was published in 1847.

And ever since, her creations of Heathcliff and Catherine have captivated audiences worldwide, making Emily Brontë not just a household name, but also a stalwart of romantic fiction. In combination, the courage and passion of her characters, the unusually innovative Gothic structure of her novel and the brilliance of her prose, enabled her to create one of the finest Romantic works.

Actors Merle Oberon and Laurence Olivier during filming of Wuthering Heights in 1939 (Source: LIFE Magazine)

Although Emily unfortunately succumbed to tuberculosis at the young age of 30, her spirit continues to live on through her works -- a tribute to her genius.

Here’s remembering you, Emily Brontë! Happy Birthday!

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Surfacing treasures of the deep with the University of California

Tuesday, May 18, 2010 at 4:44 PM

One of the early pioneers in the library project, the University of California became a Google Books partner in 2006. Since then, over two million books have been made available online from the UC's vast collection, which is comprised of 100 research libraries housed across the ten UC campuses. Because of the hard work of UC staffers, interested scholars no longer need to travel to San Diego, Santa Cruz, or Los Angeles to work with unique or hard-to-find texts held at these campuses. An Internet connection is sufficient to access portions of what is collectively the largest research/academic library in the world.

One example of such a special collection is UCSD’s Scripps Institution of Oceanography (SIO), the world’s largest oceanography library, where digitization was recently completed. Peter Brueggeman, the director of The Scripps Institution of Oceanography Library, has this to say about Google’s work with UCSD to digitize these materials:

"The Scripps Oceanography Library has been in existence for more than 100 years, so digitizing and providing access to this extensive book and journal collection helps to create a larger and more complete digital library of materials on the marine environment for searching and use, including older works dating back to the 18th century in full-text. While these books and other materials have long been available on our library shelves for individual use, Google Books’ in-depth cross-collection searching feature is definitely a game-changer for scholarly research. Google’s digitization of our journal backruns makes these older scholarly resources searchable for scholars and other researchers."

Here are just a few examples of the notable books that we’ve digitized from the SIO collection:

  • The Fishes of the Swedish South Polar Expedition, by Einar Lonnberg, 1905
    This report documents the fishes collected on a famous Antarctic expedition, the Swedish South-Polar Expedition of 1901-1903 led by Otto Nordenskjold. Although the expedition was a great scientific success and resulted in the collection of many species new to science, the explorers' ship was crushed by ice. The crew were forced to build and live in a stone hut on an Antarctic island, subsisting on birds eggs and penguins until they were rescued by a ship from Argentina.

  • The Land and Sea Mammals of Middle America and the West Indies, by Daniel Giraud Elliot. 1904
    This book has a comprehensive collection of illustrations along with a long list of common names for each species. Did you know that in 1904 there were over 65 different common names for types of squirrels?

  • The Stalk-eyed Crustacea, by Walter Faxon, 1895
    This book includes a report on crustaceans compiled during a United States expedition to Central and South America and the Galapagos aboard the famous ship the Albatross. The Albatross, a ship built by the U.S. government specifically for marine research, was a precursor to today’s U.S. oceanographic fleet of ships.

The SIO collection, like the Bodleian Library at Oxford University and the Nettie Lee Benson Latin American Collection at the University of Texas adds to the overall richness of the corpus of material available on Google Books. We hope that you enjoy exploring these great volumes as much as we have. Read the full post 0 comments


Spinning your own yarns with Search Stories Video Creator

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 at 1:55 PM

Last February we ran our Parisian Love ad during the Super Bowl. It was composed simply of Google searches and a little music. Other Search Stories ads followed, along with hilarious parodies from our users.

To help everyone get in on the fun, we've made a really simple video creation tool, which you can try out today. All you need to do is type in your Google searches, pick some music and — presto! — you've got your very own Search Story to share with your friends or showcase on our YouTube channel.

Of particular interest to you book lovers, Google Books search results are among those available to highlight and invoke as you weave your search story. I had fun this morning creating a few "literary" stories using the tool.

The first follows in the footsteps of America's favorite anti-trancendentalist:

With a little creativity, you could easily tell your favorite literary character's side of their story using Google search terms. Or follow them on their archetypal hero's journey!

Have fun creating, and share your favorite Search Stories on Google Books in our Google Books Forum! Read the full post 0 comments


Emily Dickinson, in her own words and in translation

Thursday, December 10, 2009 at 12:02 PM

In A Room of One's Own, Virginia Woolf poses a question that's had a major impact on discussions of writing and gender over the past and current century: Does writing have a "gender"? Does one’s gender leave a trace in words? Could you tell the gender of a writer just by reading what they've written?

Emily Dickinson was born on this day in the year 1860. And while in most of Dickinson's poems it's very obvious to me that they came from the pen of a woman, in others she seems to make her gender imperceptible.

My first introduction to Emily Dickinson was when reading her work in Spanish, and the translator for the book was another woman: the great Argentinean writer Silvina Ocampo. Here things become more complicated... how do we translate? And if writing has a gender, does a translation have it too? What is the task of a translator? Grammar has its own agenda and changes according to the language, so the traces of gender that appear in the original version of a poem may disappear in its translation. At other times, I've read translations that have unearthed traces of gender that were not evident in the original version.

Google Books has scanned books in over 100 languages, and you can search for titles in a specific language by selecting it on our advanced search options. If you speak a language other than English, why don’t you give it a try and look for versions of your favorite books in different languages? You will see it’s a totally different experience! Read the full post 0 comments


The Bodleian's treasures, available to all

Thursday, March 26, 2009 at 10:44 AM

In 2004, Google began a partnership with Oxford University Library to scan mostly 19th century public domain books from its Bodleian library. Five years on, we're delighted to announce the end of this phase of our scanning with Oxford, our first European partner. Together, we have digitized and made available on Google Book Search many hundreds of thousands of public domain books from the Bodleian and other Oxford libraries, representing the bulk of their available public domain content.

From English to German, to Spanish and French, most of the digitized works date from the 19th century and range from classic literature to more scientific volumes in fields including Geography, Philosophy or Anthropology. Among some of the works now available through Book Search, you can find the first English translation of Newton's Mathematical principles of natural philosophy from 1729, the first edition of Jane Austen's Emma, and John Cassell's Illustrated History of England. You can search and read the full text of these works on Google Book Search, and download and print a pdf if you wish to.

So, does this mean we are done?

Far from it! With most of Oxford's 19th century public domain works now digitized and available to users online, we look forward to continuing our partnership with Oxford to digitize more content as it becomes available and work together to bring more books to more people in more languages around the world.

"Library users have always loved browsing books for the serendipitous discoveries they provide. Digital books offer a similar thrill, but on multiple levels-- deep entry into the texts or the ability to browse the virtual shelf of books assembled from the world's great libraries," says Sarah E. Thomas, Bodley's Librarian and Director of Oxford University Library Services.

For more information on Book Search, visit
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