I made a lot of maps of books. I think they are super cool.

They look like this (this is Pride and Prejudice)

Pride and prejudice as a map

Each line is a chapter and they gradually join together to form the whole narrative. The algorithm that builds them starts by joining the most similar chapters (in this case 46 and 47) into one, and then searching for the next most similar pair. It builds up the structure until you can see the overall structure of the narrative at a glance. When you’ve looked at a few you start to be able to see the distinctive structure of, say, a thriller, or a romantic comedy.

In the particular case of Pride and Prejudice, I created a special map - one where if you click on the chapter numbers you can read that chapter. You can find that here.

The maps are based on work that Fionn Murtagh, Douglous Cowie and I wrote a paper on years ago, and I went on to do various reports and testings for people in the publishing industry.

The abstract of the paper is:

From the earliest days of computing, there have been tools to help shape narrative. Spell-checking, word counts, and readability analysis, give today’s novelists tools that Dickens, Austen, and Shakespeare could only have dreamt of. However, such tools have focused on the word, or phrase levels. In the last decade, research focus has shifted to support for collaborative editing of documents. This work considers more sophisticated attempts to visualise the semantics, pace and rhythm within a narrative through data mining. We describe real life applications in two related domains.

The work got quite a lot of press: you can read my thoughts about the original New Scientist article here, and there’s a brief roundup of other mentions here.

Finally, if you want to look at all the maps, the posts are below:

  • 01 Jun 2011   Alice through the looking glass
  • 01 Jun 2011   The Count of Monte Cristo
  • 01 Jun 2011   Gone with the wind
  • 01 Jun 2011   Great Expectations
  • 22 May 2011   Treasure Island
  • 17 May 2011   Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix
  • 17 May 2011   Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone
  • 17 May 2011   Brave New World
  • 17 May 2011   Anna Karenina
  • 06 May 2011   Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  • 06 May 2011   David Copperfield
  • 06 May 2011   A tale of two cities.
  • 01 May 2011   Animal Farm
  • 26 Mar 2011   Eclipse
  • 26 Mar 2011   Breaking Dawn
  • 26 Mar 2011   The Pillars Of The Earth
  • 26 Mar 2011   Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • 26 Mar 2011   The hobbit
  • 26 Mar 2011   Lord of the Flies
  • 26 Mar 2011   Bleak House
  • 12 Mar 2011   Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire
  • 12 Mar 2011   Nineteen Eighty-Four
  • 12 Mar 2011   To Kill a Mockingbird
  • 08 Mar 2011   The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe
  • 02 Mar 2011   New Moon
  • 02 Mar 2011   Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince
  • 02 Mar 2011   Lord of the Rings: full structure.
  • 02 Mar 2011   Return of the king
  • 02 Mar 2011   The two towers
  • 24 Feb 2011   The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • 30 Jan 2011   The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo
  • 30 Jan 2011   Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?
  • 30 Jan 2011   Jane Eyre
  • 30 Jan 2011   2001- A Space Odyssey
  • 30 Jan 2011   Neuromancer….
  • 24 Jan 2011   Snow Crash
  • 24 Jan 2011   Hannibal
  • 23 Jan 2011   Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows
  • 16 Jan 2011   Making Money
  • 16 Jan 2011   The Last Juror
  • 16 Jan 2011   Twilight
  • 16 Jan 2011   Fight Club
  • 16 Jan 2011   Fellowship of the Ring
  • 10 Jan 2011   Digital Fortress
  • 09 Jan 2011   Kaleidoscope
  • 09 Jan 2011   Nightwatch
  • 09 Jan 2011   Assassin’s Apprentice
  • 09 Jan 2011   American Gods
  • 03 Jan 2011   Emma