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John Piper: The Anti-Rowling

While I was slurping down lunch today I spent a few minutes playing with LibraryThing’s “Unsuggestion” feature. For those who have no idea what I am talking about, LibraryThing is a neat little site that allows you to catalog your books. Or as the site says, “LibraryThing is an online service to help people catalog their books easily. You can access your catalog from anywhere—even on your mobile phone. Because everyone catalogs together, LibraryThing also connects people with the same books, comes up with suggestions for what to read next, and so forth.” I began using the service in September of last year and since then have cataloged all of my new books through it (I have yet to add a lot of older books that don’t have ISBN numbers handy). You can see my list here.

One of LibraryThing’s fun features is “LibrarySuggester.” Using this tool, you can input the name of a book and the program will search through other people’s libraries and determine what other similar books you may enjoy. For example, inputting Sprouls’s Chosen by God reveals that 148 LibraryThing users have that book in their library. It then provides these suggestions based on other books in those same libraries: The holiness of God by Sproul, Bondage of the Will by Luther, Evangelism and the sovereignty of God by Packer, Desiring God by Piper, and so on. While not a flawless system, it does tend to provide solid suggestions.

A related feature is the “Unsuggester” which “takes ‘people who like this also like that’ and turns it on its head. It analyzes the seven million books LibraryThing members have recorded as owned or read, and comes back with books least likely to share a library with the book you suggest.” Now the most popular books in LibraryThing are by J.K. Rowling. In fact, the six most-owned books are all from the Harry Potter series. I thought it would be interesting to run her books through the Unsuggester to see who the program would come up with. I was not at all surprised to see that the Anti-Rowling is none other than John Piper. The top two unsuggestions (and three of the top seven) all belong to Piper. The Dangerous Duty of Delight ranks first with Seeing and Savoring Jesus Christ coming second and The Justification of God falling seventh. So if you own books by Rowling, chances are that you do not own books by Piper.

I laughed to see that the top two unsuggestions for Bill Clinton’s My Life are none other than Calvin’s Institutes and Piper’s Don’t Waste Your Life (which, I suppose, means that Christian hedonism does not inspire people to admire those who adhere to the real thing).

Anyways, just something that amused me while I ate my lunch. Please return to your regularly scheduled programming.