Where to Look for a Book

It’s been a while. Again. Let’s call this most recent break a “hiatus.” That sounds much more professional, and much less dramatic, than calling it what it really was – a struggle to survive 2020.

It’s not that I didn’t read much last year. I read more in 2020 than in recent years. Not just because I suddenly found myself with a lot more free time, but also because reading has always been a means of escape for me – from boredom, depression, anxiety, grief. All of which suddenly took on extraordinary proportions.

(I even read a couple of books about pandemics. Lawrence Wright’s The End Of October sent me into an extended anxiety spiral. The Plague, by Albert Camus, brought some comfort.)

When sharing lockdown coping strategies over the last 12 months, I was asked a few times where I find the books I read. Temporarily without the pleasure of being able to leisurely browse a bookstore or library, are there places online that offer a similar wealth of titles to explore? Why yes. Yes there are.

My two favorite sites to find more books to add to the looming to-be-read tower are Literary Hub and Five Books. Both are very different sites, but both offer an almost limitless amount of book-browsing pleasure.

It would be easier to tell you what Literary Hub doesn’t cover. Author interviews, news, thought pieces, podcasts, giveaways and everything else under a literate sun lives there for seemingly every genre. My own favorite sections include Book Marks – where reviews for new releases are collected and summarized – and CrimeReads that focuses on books about … wait for it … crime, both true and fictional.

If you find yourself wanting to read about a specific subject, head straight to Five Books. Experts are asked to list the five best books about their specialty subject and then made to show their work in an interview on what makes each list worthy. I’ve used it to find books about the former Soviet Union countries, Stoic philosophy, Victorian fiction, and recommendations for the best kids books to give my 8-year-old nephew.

You can search via the vast menu of topics covered or by expert. Oscar-winning documentary maker Errol Morris lists his picks for the best books on photography and reality. Historian Peter Ackroyd details his favorite books about London. See what best selling author Louise Bagshawe thinks are the five best books about people on the run and which books on the Trojan War Stephen Fry says are worth a read. The offerings are endless and fascinating, and new interviews are added every week.

And hopefully, you’ve already discovered that your local library is a wealth of resources, not only in the ‘before times’ but especially over the last 12 months. My library’s website offers not just e-books and safe ways to reserve and pick up ‘real’ books, but also access to movies, digital versions of magazines and newspaper, genealogical databases, and other free resources that will help you pass the time and learn new things. Libraries, for many communities, have been the unsung heroes of the pandemic.

I’d love to hear where you go for reading inspiration, the role your library has played in getting through 2020, and whether reading helped buoy you through these hard times, or went by the wayside as you focused on new priorities and demands on your time. Please let me know in the comments below!

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