Eye It Online
The best spots to read (about) books on the Web
Aggregate (verb trans. & intrans.) Gather into one whole, mass.
—Shorter Oxford English Dictionary, Vol. 1, Fifth Edition (2002)
There are a great many resources for the online reader. Aggregators, sites that either list links or offer archival collections of material, are just time-wasters to some, but to others, they’re lifesavers.
Now, I know that many people hit up Slate, Salon, New York mag and The Huffington Post, for example, for episode recaps of favorite shows, or trawl Wikipedia for info (or just to read), but I prefer my article agglomeration to be primarily bookish. So below is a list of suggested sites to read and mull over, in an appropriately higgledy-piggledy fashion (the Internet tends to work that way).
Note: not all of these are aggregators; some are merely great sources worth scouring for book stuff. Click the links to visit.
- The New York Times Book Review—Not only are we talking about reviews of new and old books and literary chatter/buzz, but a fully accessible and searchable archive of NYT reviews since 1981. That’s all the literary news that’s fit to print. Better even than The New Yorker, in my opinion. Period. Bookmark it!
- Bookpage.com—You can get the print version of this monthly beaut from your local library free of charge, but it’s also online, if the weather happens to have hemmed you in. Reviews of new releases, issues keyed to the seasons, and tons of literary material and bookery of all kinds are to be found here, written by knowledgeable people who care.
- The Los Angeles Review of Books—Thinky, edgy and filled with great writing and reviewing, this is a fine site to visit periodically and simply lounge with (note: tablet probably required for lounging).
- Arts & Letters Daily—A wondrous site from the Chronicle of Higher Education clustering just about everything the Web has to offer that’s worth hearing or thinking about. Possibly the most useful cultural resource online, IMHO. Possibly. Click the links to zip to sites and read reviews of new books, essays and writings of great note, from obits to the sundry elements involving the life of the mind and body. The site’s left rail also offers a nearly unending list of links to columnists, blogs, newspapers, music stations and “diversions.” Well, “Truth Hates Delay,” as the site’s motto says—so hurry up!
- The Wall Street Journal’s Books & Ideas Section—I love this sliver of the paper, thought the Leisure & Arts and the Books sections are, unfortunately, mostly locked subscriber content, alas (well, nothing is really free). But, no matter: The paper also puts out a superb nugget of good reading in its Off Duty section, which is free.
- NancyPearl.com—author of the phenomenal useful, readable and fun Book Lust series, Pearl’s book lore knows no bounds, and her site’s a great resource for those seeking just about anything out there that deserves a spot on a bookcase.
- The New York Review of Books—If you can’t read a book, read reviews, opinion pieces or the blogs on offer here: afterward, you’ll feel well-versed (and well-diverted). Across the pond, The London Review of Books and the Times Literary Supplement do for the Brits what we cannot do for them, in terms of their thriving publishing industry and book culture. To my mind, each of the above is worth a subscription—TLS, itself, is the kind of weekly that we simply don’t have in the States.
- Cabinet—At times off the wall, often groovy, and usually loaded with ideas, reviews and all things bookish, this highbrow yet funky journal is a storehouse of good writing, though not quite as much as Granta or The Paris Review are.
- The Washington Post Books section—Bookmark it, please.
- The Private Library—Apparently, this superb bibliosite went dead about a year ago. I loved visiting it; the webmaster’s jaw-dropping knowledge of books and libraries, and his glossaries (at the left rail) and “Bookish Blogroll” (right rail), are exceptionally varied and learned still.
Probably the best free online sources for reading are your public libraries’ websites, where you can download e-books, audiobooks and the like at no charge. There are also free apps, naturally, from sites and publications (my favorite is by POETRY, the magazine) in abundance, for mobile devices, as well as entire books (usually out of copyright) online without charge (thank you, Google).
Search around, and you’ll quickly lose yourself—which is what reading’s about.
Recommended Reads & one to listen for
Ta-da! Books that recommend…other books for you.
- 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die edited by Peter Boxall—Hey, it’s only 1,001 books. No pressure.
- An Incomplete Education: 3,684 Things You Should Have Learned but Probably Didn’t by Judy Jones and William Wilson—You start to get dwarfed by your own lack of knowledge reading this one.
- The Book Club Companion: A Comprehensive Guide to the Reading Group Experience by Diana Loevy—For book clubs and readers, a must.
- “In Our Time,” a cultural series hosted by Melvyn Bragg you can listen to online via BBC radio, is a storehouse of superb cultural knowledge, often pegged to books. Very worth your time.
David Podgurski is a writer and editor who has lived in Fairfield County his entire life. A former books columnist for The Stamford Advocate and Greenwich Time newspapers. Feel free to email David.