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Hitting the books

Click your way to literary bliss.

There’s no doubt about the Internet’s profound effect on the book world, from the furious battles between online chain stores to the spectacular spike in sales of used books, to the introduction of e-books. But even more exciting is how the Internet has opened up new ways for people to learn about, talk about, and even collaborate on books. Lose yourself on some of these sites, and you’ll never get lost in a library or bookstore again.

BookSpot

In my quest to find great online book reviews and news, this was not my first stop, but I highly recommend you make it yours. Another excellent site from StarSpot Network, it functions as the online equivalent of the oversized library reference book, leading you to the best stuff first.

In the What to Read category, BookSpot points the way to booklists, reviews, and even where to read first chapters of books. Seven sites it lists will compare online book prices, and you’ll find booksellers large and small, for specialty, antique, and out-of-print books. BookSpot will get you into all the best author sites and discussion groups. (Two good sites are Publisher’s Weekly and Authors On the Web.) Best of all, BookSpot doesn’t stop there. Its lists are the most comprehensive and diverse of any other site, including the most current prize winners of book awards, the best books of the ’90s, 100 Favorite Children’s Books, 100 Greatest Love Poems, and even Oprah’s picks. The site also answers questions such as “Can I borrow books online?” and “What is a first edition?”

BookPage

BookSpot only lists four must-see sites, and this is one of them, a noncommercial monthly online magazine that carries anywhere from 60 to 100 book reviews per month, for free, archived to 1996. Enjoy.

BookReporter

Another of the must-sees, this site is chock full of reviews, articles, interviews, new paperbacks, guides for readers’ groups, lists of what books the groups are reading, quizzes, a free monthly newsletter, and a word-of-mouth section for readers’ reviews.

Powell’s Books

While the previous sites I’ve mentioned are more like reference guides to find books, Powell’s Books is an independent store. It is mentioned here, however, because you could spend all day on this site, learn a ton, and not spend a dime.

Clearly, the people who run Powell’s are smart, friendly, funny, and book-loving. They’ve pulled in a review a day from the likes of the Atlantic Monthly and The Christian Science Monitor, and they link to “book shelves” by those reviewers and more, such as Dr. Dobbs, SatireWire, Mother Jones, and Poets & Writers. And I love their site’s layout, which subtly mimics a book with its two columns and friendly font.

Their awards list is comprehensive and well organized, with a succinct description of each award and a list of its winners, spanning the award’s life. For the Pulitzer, for example, entries date to 1918. It also includes lesser-known awards such as the Orange Prize for Fiction, the Edgar (mystery), Hugo (sci-fi), and Firecracker (independent).

Finally, what independent bookstore would be complete without a cat? Read about the adventures of Fup every two weeks.

Guys Read

Last year, Jon Scieszka, author of children’s books such as, “The Stinky Cheese Man and Other Fairly Stupid Tales,” started this Web site to draw attention to boys’ literacy and provide a clearinghouse of books that particularly (though not exclusively) appeal to guys.

Alarmed at boys’ poor academic reading performance, Scieszka hopes his site will spur the kind of attention here that boys’ literacy is receiving in other countries. In the meantime, it’s certainly spurring interest in fun. At Guys Read, visitors can vote for their favorite books, get recommendations, and jump off to other online discussion sites.

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