An April 4th Update from Richard

Apr 4, 2016

First, thank you for the (c 1300) lovely birthday wishes that you have sent in to

Also for the (c 500) good wishes for my recovery at I seem to be recovering according to plan. The physiotherapist and other aftercare therapists have completed their six weeks of home visits. At least one of them came to my house every single day except weekends, which I think is astonishingly good service, considering that it was all totally free, on the NHS, as was my stay in hospital complete with scans and specialist medical attention. I can now type with both hands, fast but still inaccurately. Still get tired, still can’t sing (not a great hardship), still speak croakily. My balance is improving with physio exercises such as impersonating a stork standing on one leg. And I can ride my bike, albeit a little unsteadily on tight corners. Blood pressure still veers toward the high side, despite medication, and I’m under orders to avoid long distance travel or getting involved in controversy. Controversy? Moi?

Otherwise I am doing well and I consider myself lucky to have escaped the potentially much more severe consequences of a stroke. With Gillian Somerscales I have begun planning my next book (a collection of essays like A Devil’s Chaplain) for which Evernote is clearly going to be an invaluable aid.

And my enforced stay at home has prompted me to attempt the mammoth task of cataloguing my alarmingly large collection of books. I was beginning to despair at the sheer quantity of work that would be needed, typing in authors, titles etc. Then yesterday I chanced upon a brilliant piece of software called Book Collector, which I think is going to change my life. It’s produced by, which is run by Alwyn Hoogerdijk (the programmer) and his wife Sytske Hermans: It runs on Mac and Windows.

There’s an associated app called Barry ( which runs on iPhone, iPad and Android. To enter a book in the database, just pull it from the shelf far enough to see the barcode on the back. Point the smartphone at the barcode. You don’t even have to press the “shutter”. As soon as the phone sees a barcode it auto-focuses, buzzes to signify satisfaction, then transmits the ISBN number wirelessly to the computer. The Book Collector software does the rest. Using the ISBN number, it locates the book on the Internet and downloads every detail and more than you need for a catalogue, including even a picture of the book jacket (if it can find one). It displays the books either as a list or in more visually appealing ways. The picture shows a “virtual bookstand” of chosen that I entered at random yesterday while learning to use the software.

Older books have no barcode on the jacket, so you have to do a little typing. But even then you only have to type author and part of title for the software to retrieve all the rest of the information from the Internet. The software also keeps your data in a cloud (space on which is automatically provided when you buy the program). Seamless syncing means you can use any computer you like to access, or update, your database.

I’m still on the nursery slopes of the learning curve but already I can say, with unusual confidence for a beginner, what a truly beautiful piece of programming. Recommended with enthusiasm.

— Richard Dawkins

33 comments on “An April 4th Update from Richard

  • Well, I wasn’t one of the multitude of well-wishers who documented themselves, but I was one of them in spirit. I looked at hundreds of posts and realized there was nothing I could add of a text nature, but I still could shake a crystal and chant. 😉

    Seriously, it’s great to hear about your progress. And your shameless plug ^^ confirms it nicely. The “Book Collector” software sounds very useful. I’ve been using something called “PAPERS” to help me keep track of literature in my field (endodontics), which is a harder and harder task as I get older and the literature gets more abundant.

    Best Regards from the Windy City!


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  • I’m glad you are feeling better and planning a new book, but I do have mixed feelings about you using Bookcollector to catalogue your library: I had exactly the same problem and arrived to exactly the same solution and also felt hyper excited at the prospect of having all my books properly catalogued… At first everything went well but soon I found that some books had to be entered manually (mainly because they were too old or somehow out of the system)… I tried to convince myself it was just a minor setback… It was not. I hope it is for you!

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  • It is really good to hear that you are so good. As a fellow Brit I agree with you on the NHS. It is great!
    I look forward to yet another book and for further books in the future. Let’s hope they can get the blood pressure under better control. Those apps sound interesting. I can see the Barry app being very useful indeed for me.

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  • my alarmingly large collection of books.

    Oh dear 🙁 this sounds familiar in a bad way. I entertain fearful thoughts of my creaking old bookshelves giving way some day and that the offspring will find me crushed to death under a veritable mountain of my well loved books. I will look into the organizational software, especially since I went hunting for my old Ethics textbook yesterday and couldn’t find it! Grrrr.

    Still, death by book avalanche…what a way to go. 🙂 I’m feeling better about things already.

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  • 8
    maria melo says:

    (Today I am really in a bad mood as almost everyday lately ????I am afraid, but let´s find some mood for a few words.)

    I am really glad to see reported a good health care (and free) and that it is working out and improving Prof Richard Dawkins´s condition.
    Hope sincerely that the latest day 26th has been a very special day (that day I was in worse mood I think for words).
    Perhaps this news can become useful- well, it will not be useful after six months of having suffered a stroke.

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  • Consummate professor as ever – I just happened upon this app the other day as I was looking to do the same. Agreed – it’s a splendid program, worth every cent! I also use the “Papers” program (version 2) for the thousands of journal articles/literature I have, and it has served as an excellent organizational device.

    Cheered to hear that you are recovering as expected, and that you’ve had such great support from the NHS. Continuing to send hugs your way. <3 TLO

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  • @LaurieB

    I use door stops under some of my creaky bookshelves, especially the tall ones. My fear is not so much for myself being crushed but for my little dog being under a book avalanche.

    Prof. Dawkins has a good idea about book cataloging. I have enough books now that duplication can be a problem for my failing memory.

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  • 13
    David Schuy says:

    I am pleased to hear that you are on the road to recovery. I was worried because you used Twitter so seldomly. Therefore, I thought that your health were not good. But now I am happy to hear that you’re okay und your health is good.
    I have to say that I miss your posts and public appearances.
    I am therefore pleased to hear that now a new book will be published by you.
    I would like to know what will be the topic. And if the book will also be published in German.
    After all, it is more comfortable (for me) to read a whole book in the native language (German).
    But if it will not appear in German, then I’ll read it in English. I’ll read any book of you with joy.
    I am very excited and looking forward to the book!
    Your program, you spoke of with respect to the books and its cataloguing is a very good idea. Thanks for the tip.
    At the moment I read several books in parallel by you. For the umpteenth time. But I cannot put it down.

    Furthermore, a speedy recovery!

    Best regards

    David Schuy

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  • @Neodarwinian

    duplication can be a problem for my failing memory.

    I won’t be surprised to find a duplicate or two on my shelves but what really sends me into a foot stamping fury is when I go to the shelves to find a book that contains within it a few lines that I need and due to my books being stacked pell mell in the shelves, the book is hidden.

    What I really need is an index by topic, chapter and line for each book, paper, and article. This is really not going to happen.

    I once went on a day long tour of houses that have personal libraries built in them. It was wonderful to see how the bibliophiles organize their collections. The most outstanding personal library that day was in the home of author Doris Kearns Goodwin. Her house is a rambling old New England farmhouse and the whole first floor is one massive library. It is organized superbly with each room having a subject unto itself. I was flabbergasted to see it! Now that’s my idea of heaven.

    By the way, every time Richard posts a picture of himself in what I assume to be his home, I try to get a look at the books on his shelves behind him. So nosy of me and I do feel ashamed, but it’s part and parcel of being a bibliophile, if I may be permitted this excuse. I’d like to spend a rainy Sunday foraging through those books with a little wine and cheese on the side. I think I remember him saying that he owns a first edition of The Origin of Species. May I hold it (with gloves)? I would like to open it and jam my nose into the binding…inhaling deeply…

    Ok, so there must be a self-help group for this somewhere. :’-(

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  • Good luck with the work. That is certainly a monumental task. I hope you will never finish it, due to speedy recovery.

    I have never finished the task myself because I took another route. Except for one archive box with books I cannot and/or don’t want to scan yet, I have scanned all my books and done away with them. They are now all sitting in/on two dedicated hard disks, and I use dtSearch to find them.

    This method is not too good for people who love books, but it is great for people who love the information in those books.

    Success with the endeavour, and I wish you a speedy recovery.

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  • SO glad your recovery is progressing and you are “alive and well” and have the will to work. Your description of your state and phases is so real and accurate. I can identify with each and every step of the way having been through brain surgery. One gets so aware of the workings of the primitive, autonomous parts of our brain.
    Is it possible that later, when you have the strength and inclination that we can share a few thoughts on what I term the “Selfish Ovum”? A realization I would like to discuss with someone opinionated.
    Servaas de Kock

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  • Professor Dawkins I have to disagree with you on your extensive library. Do you not have public libraries in the UK?

    Here in the USA we have wonderful public libraries that are supported by our taxes. Books are expensive and we have almost 100 million people who live in poverty. One thirty dollar book can keep them from paying an electric bill or buying medications they need. They can’t afford books much less the Internet (VERY expensive here in the USA–all these private, free market corporations) and so libraries have computers, tens of thousands of books, audio-visual rooms, etc. If I want a certain book I can ask my librarian to get it for me.

    I also am a progressive socialist and it strikes me as very elitist to have your own library. How many of your books have you even opened in the last two decades?

    I know that some people LOVE being surrounded by their favorite tomes. Not me. I buy books (such as yours) read them, then give them to my local public library so that others may read them. Then if I want to re-read a book, I check it of charge.

    I also move a lot with my job…I volunteer at free medical clinics for the poor, especially in rural areas. We have NOTHING like your NHS as health insurance lobbies and medical doctor associations keep universal health care off the table. 330 million citizens and despite President Obama’s cobbled together “Affordable Care Act” we still had 30 states opt out of subsidizing this plan. These Republicans REALLY hate Obama. We are a very bigoted racist country.

    60% of all bankruptcies in the USA are from unexpected medical bills. Yeah we “stupid” humans keep having strokes, keep getting cancer, heart disease and only if you are wealthy do you get good care and in some situations ANY care at all.

    I can’t be lugging books around..especially between the mainland and our 50th state, Hawai’i–2,000 miles from our west coast and costs $1.50/pound to ship. So while I read extensively, I do not have a library. I share my books with folks who don’t have the money to buy books.

    On one hand I understand that you have a permanent home and are wealthy enough to have a private library…and perhaps I envy that. And while I keep a stack of books by my chair and bedside, I don’t keep a library. As a widow who lives alone, it’s just one more thing to dust!

    I’ll continue to give books to libraries and fund raisers.

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  • Great to see you on the mend, Richard. Although I’m a bit worried about you, controversy and keeping away from those nasty things :-). I doubt that’s ever going to happen, and glad for that too – as we need more people like yourself who are doing the good fight so too speak. Hope to see you in the near future down in Oz.

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  • Great news Richard…you are back on the bike (literally & figuratively). Your humor, insight and mind are loved & appreciated…and needed in our world. A fine restorative is a good quality Australian red wine. Raising a glass to you now. Respect!

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  • Brilliant to read about your good progress Richard. Even now you continue to inspire! I wouldn’t mind doing the same to my own library…and also my sheet music collection if possible. I finished reading Unweaving the Rainbow s few weeks ago but it’s still on my mind, especially your explanation of probability. Such an eye opener and so good to be aware of it now. Looking forward to reading another of your books so time for a good browse! Keep busy…ish but take it easy!

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  • It’s great to hear that you’re recovering, Professor.

    I like reading books, and I would really like to see your book catalog once you’re done. Do the apps that you mentioned allow sharing your collection to the public?

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  • Dear Prof. Dawkins,

    Very good to hear how well on-the-mend you are!

    RE: the books which do not appear & etc…I’d be surprised if there’s not a decent “speech-to-text” app out there? I mean, I use it with great success on my PC, tablet, & mobile? Does that book software not contain it? If not, the creator ought to have a look at implementing it– just for those who may have trouble typing for any reason.

    Tracy 🙂

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  • Man oh man,
    I just learned about the stroke, I had completely missed the bad news!!
    So terribly glad it went well, we so much need your bright intellectual light shining in the darkness of this age.
    I send you my best wishes for a complete recovery and my hope to have you among us many more years.
    My best regards,

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  • Chen GC, Lu DB, Pang Z, Liu QF (2013). “Vitamin C intake, circulating vitamin C and risk of stroke: a meta-analysis of prospective studies”. J Am Heart Assoc 2 (6): e000329. doi:10.1161/JAHA.113.000329. PMC 3886767. PMID 24284213.

    Multicausal relation


    P.S. Nice feat!

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  • Whales and Hippos same body temperature 96 degrees.
    Within the range of body températures found amongst mammals 93-104 ???

    The new table of the elements, reverse engineered from their physical properties, reveals the true synthetic history (evolutionary history?) of the elements.

    I wish you could see it.


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  • Havn’t a clue what all this code block stuff means… So if this works, good, if not…. tough.

    Unfortunately due to domestic commitments, I missed being able to send Richard some good vibe best wishes…

    So here rather belated is my best wishes to you Richard D, look after yourself Professor, take time out and repair those cells…

    And thank you for leading us not into temptation and for snarling away at the heels of religious addicts the world over.

    Love and best wishes sir, for your continued health.

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  • Happy Birthday!

    Sometimes I feel that atheism and pragmatism are eternally divorced from each other. In the old days, if you were an atheist, you had to hide, hide, hide, and deny, deny, deny. In today’s permissive society, you can be atheist and no one blinks an eye. An eye for an eye, ha ha, wink wink. I was re-reading Antigone written in 441 BC, and it very much occurs to me that modern society has done the Greeks a mis-service by on one hand holding up their philosophy as top rate thinking, but then turning around and viewing their literature, their plays, as primitive and superstitious. The fallacy of modern society, I suppose. The Greeks were atheist to the core, and moreover, they had no bones about hiding it. If you aren’t smart enough to read Antigone from an atheist perspective, you won’t ‘get’ the Greeks at all. Cheers, and very nice to see a prominent figure take an active role on his public website!

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