The world of book review websites could use an edit. Here are a few of best places to look for summer reading.
A few times a week I get asked this question: "Got any recommendations for a good book?" With summer acomin' in, I am fielding these requests more often.Now there's nothing I love more than matching people with books. For my mother, I scan reviews for something well-written and ambitious, but "not too depressing." For my nine-year old son, I seek out chapter books, preferably in a series, with a mystery and aliens, but "nothing too scary." But when I aimlessly browse online for titles, I get overwhelmed after twelve or so clicks. Queasy, even. Put bluntly, there are too many sites with book reviews and recommendations. We have had great fun exploding the Internet. But even within the comparatively small world of book sites, there are hundreds, dare I say thousands, of worthy and smart blogs, aggregators, and stores. It can all get a bit overwhelming. After so much screen staring, who wants to read a book, anyway?We have reached the phase when we might need a to impose a moratorium on new sites, and focus our energies on culling and curating extant ones. The web is in need of a serious edit.So providing a list of good books to read, and places to go to find more good books, is easy. Choosing only a few, and choosing ones that are restrained enough to offer just a few titles, is hard. Sometimes you have to kill your darlings, take out your favorites, and curate choice.For my friends and family I try to recommend just one place, based upon its ability to offer a few titles appropriate to a particular demographic. Here is my list; I hope you find yourself, and a book, somewhere below:Post-Collegiate Literary Types: The MillionsPenina is a History major who will graduate from Oberlin College this week (congrats, Penina!). She loves to read literary fiction and serious non-fiction, and browses publisher websites such as McSweeney's and Tin House to see what they are up to. For her I suggest The Millions. The site has smart and witty blogs, and a useful map of indie bookstores across the nation. But the best feature of The Millions, if you are just looking for something to read tonight, is the Top Ten. For April, Roberto Bolano's 2666 is number 2 (he's been on the list for three months), and Wells Tower's Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned debuted at number 8."I Really Should Read More And Surf Less" Types: The Morning News Tournament of BooksAndrew is more than 20 and less than 30. He is on the web all day and all night. He reads constantly! He is exceedingly well informed on the events of the day! He recycles! But, he is ashamed to admit, he rarely reads a book anymore. He never thought, after four grueling years of elite undergraduate educating, poring over Sophocles and Derrida, that it would come to this. Now he is embarrassed, because he does not even know where to start. Do not worry, Andrew! You are not alone. To get over your fear of being out of touch and to tap into your male propensity to compete, log on to the The Morning News Tournament of Books. The Tournament of Books pits the critical faves of the year against each other, March Madness style. Only 16 books are invited to the tournament, keeping the list of competitors manageable. Read up on last year's finalists, and the hilarious, snarky results of the competition, and prepare yourself to enter the tourney in 2010.Women Tired of Book Club Selections: BookslutSusan is weary of the standard book club choices. She likes to browse the bargain racks at chain stores, but that gives her a sense that her reading is too idiosyncratic. For her I suggest Bookslut, Jessa Crispin's web magazine. Bookslut contains reviews and interviews with authors, some book-club friendly, and some lesser-known but worthy of more attention. Bookslut contains a healthy dose of often overlooked foreign fiction and poetry, too. The monthly edition contains just enough reviews to give readers a choice, but won't overwhelm a casual reader."I'll Read Anything As Long As It Is Well-Written" Readers: The Public LibraryRob is a 40 something professional man who, although he does not work in the book industry, loves to read novels (thus making a pretty rare breed of American male). He is uninterested in mass market fare. For him, I suggest he do what he already does: go to the nearest public library and scan the "New And Noteworthy" shelves. Librarians, after all, are professional book-selectors, used to the tough work of editing choices down to few, and they know what their patrons from the neighborhood enjoy. The library offers the same therapeutic release of browsing as do chain bookstores, but the shelves are generally more imaginatively stocked. Gotta love the free and legally-obtained content, too.