March 2007

Readers' Advisor News

An e-newsletter published quarterly by Libraries Unlimited

Six Degrees

Ever played "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" (see Wikipedia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_degrees_of_kevin_bacon)? For film buffs, it is THE trivia game of choice. How does it work? I can show you, with one of my favorite recent films:

Keira Knightley starred in the 2006 version of "Pride and Prejudice"; the movie also featured Donald Sutherland; and Donald Sutherland was in "Animal House" with Kevin Bacon. Keira Knightley therefore has a "Bacon number" of 2.

Sometimes, when I read, I am struck by how many connections exist between books, both fiction and nonfiction. It used to a be a weird dream of mine (okay, it still is) to go through a library, open the books, find ways that they reference each other, and tape orange strings from the referencing books to the referenced. Just picture it: it'd be like a linked web page, only it'd be real, like a huge cat's cradle of book connections.

Why orange string? I don't know. I just like orange.

But is there any particular reason we can't play Six Degrees with books and reading? I don't think so, and because no library is about to let me loose in their stacks with orange string and tape, we're going to have to do this the virtual way. Today's example? An homage to Kevin Bacon, of course:

  1. The book Degrees, a photographic illustration of the six degrees of Kevin Bacon, by photographer Andy Gotts, is due to be released in April 2007;
  2. It features photos of more than one hundred actors connected to Bacon, including Pierce Brosnan, who starred in the movie "The Tailor of Panama," based on the book by John Le Carre;
  3. John Le Carre also wrote The Russia House, a novel about espionage during the period of glasnost in Russia;
  4. Espionage is explored in the 2006 nonfiction book The Enemy Within: A History of Espionage, by Terry Crowdy;
  5. Crowdy's book refers to the network of spies used by Julius Caesar, whose story is prominent in Colleen McCullough's historical fiction "Masters of Rome" series, which opens with the title The First Man in Rome;
  6. Colleen McCullough also wrote the novel The Thorn Birds, which was made into a television miniseries starring Richard Chamberlain (who himself has a "Bacon number" of 2).

Fun, huh? I'll be submitting more "Six Degrees" articles to the Reader's Advisor Online Blog, due to be released this spring. Of course, I'll be cheating a bit, as I'm too flighty to stick with one book as a starting or ending point (a la Kevin Bacon). But we'd love to hear your thoughts about books and how they're connected; send us "Six Degrees" lists of your own, or feel free to challenge us by suggesting two of the most disparate titles you can think of! For now, send to ranews@lu.com. (We will have a new email address when the blog is available.)


author photoSarah Statz Cords is a librarian who works at both the reference and circulation desks of the Alicia Ashman branch of the Madison Public Library. She is the author of The Real Story: A Guide to Nonfiction Reading Interests (Libraries Unlimited, 2006) and consulting editor for Reader's Advisor Online.