Stranger Days #29: Reading Recommendations...Sorta

Estimated Reading Time: 4 minutes

Welcome to stranger days--my blog series exploring daily life, challenges in times of the COVID-19 pandemic, and just sharing insights or thoughts about how to make it through these days.  

Since starting this series, I've taken a few opportunities to post about books that I am reading (Here and here).  And while I've continued to read since I last posted, it's mostly been books that I'm reviewing for elsewhere so I haven't been able to share them or they have been books that I couldn't quite relate to this series.  

I have no doubt that I will have more books to recommend in the days to come but I also wanted to highlight the abundance of places for you to enjoy, whether your interests are finding fantastic fiction, enjoyable audiobooks, comic books, or more academic and nonfiction work.  

First up, I have already mentioned The Internet Archive's National Emergency Library which has about 1.2 MILLION books in English for you to enjoy. An account is needed to borrow many of these books and they come with time limits, but there is definitely a lot of great things to explore.  For instance, they have tons of children and young adult books, science-fiction (if the current times didn't already feel like a dystopia in the making), books by and about African Americans (caveat: the filter options here aren't ideal), and poetry.  

A comic book cover page that depicts a large crowd of people holding a sign that reads "The Future Is Now"
Since we're talking about the Internet Archive, I should also mention they have a substantial comic book collection too.  But if you're looking for a massive archive of comic books, check out the Digital Comic Museum which has thousands of comic books from the 20th century (particularly early comics) that you can download and read.  They have comic runs from a variety of publishers including Canadian Comics (eh!?!?), Fawcett Comics, Fox Feature Syndicate (the original Firefox or really meaning of FFS?), or Ziff-Davis Publications.   One collection here that is fascinating to look at is the Government Pamphlets collection.  Many of them are military training tracts (many of which were done by Will Eisner) but they are a curious mixture of entertainment and historical artifact such as this Quaint and Interesting Cartoons About PA (also, racist cartoons, just a heads up), The Guidance Center of the Adult Authority (about criminal justice), and The Future Is Now (about social security).

I'm also a fan of Public Books as a place to find out about interesting and complicated books. I find many of their recommendations make it onto my reading lists. Their essays on books are both accessible and academic and I find myself enjoying how they are crafting a public conversation about books.  They recently posted a significant list of publishers that are offering open access to books. Overwhelmingly, these are academic publishers or publishers that deal with cerebral topics.  But it's an extensive list of books available and many of the publishers have more open access books beyond what is offered in this article.  Some of the publishers allow users to download a PDF or epub version of the book entirely, while others require you to download individual chapters at PDFs which is a bit annoying but if you want free books, it's probably worth it.  

If you're unfamiliar with what "open access" is, then there is an open access book called "Open Access eBooks" by E.S. Hellman to learn more.  You can check out at my next resource: The Digital Public Library of America.  Now, the site itself is a great collection of materials, resources, and exhibits to explore but they also have their book collection which isn't as robust as the Internet Archive but is easier to navigate and find something to enjoy. 

Of course, I also need to highlight Librivox, one of my favorite sites.  They are a volunteer-run site by folks who narrate audiobooks that are in the public domain. Are they perfect?  No, but they are a great and dedicated community that looks to make audiobooks free and available to folks.  Here, too, you can explore the site by looking at different genres such as children's fiction (if you get tired of reading to your young'en), crime & mystery, humorous fiction, or plays.

So there you have it!  Amazing places to find great reading and listening material.  Check them out and report back what you find!

Take care. Be careful. Be care-filled.  Welcome to stranger days.

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