Sites we like

Our pick of the sites where we have found inspiring readers, interesting books and useful information.

Men Who Stare at Books is a welcome invitation into a world of unapologetic man stuff from the guys at Headline Books. Definitely worth dropping in for a rummage.

The strapline – ‘Books and culture for the thinking man’ shouldn’t be taken too seriously as the team has a witty, irreverent take on popular culture. I particularly enjoyed 5 Popstar Children’s Books We’d Like to See (or not) – I laughed aloud at The Very Angry Caterpillar by Morrissey and Alice in Wonderland by Alice Cooper (with a fab if rather disturbing cover image). Jokes aside – these chaps know their onions.

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I’m a big fan of the Edinburgh International Book Festival and visit when I can – but I live 200 miles away, so it’s not always that easy.

What I love about the Festival website is the way it extends the magic of three blissful weeks of book talk throughout the year and across the globe by sharing author interviews and events through Watch Online and Podcasts. The offer is immediate and very visible on the home page - and the navigation is very straightforward, always a big plus. You can dip in and out or invest serious time in a longer recording – the choice is yours.

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Mr. Bs Emporium is an independent bookshop in Bath. The website gives a good flavour of why readers love this bookshop. The whole enterprise is a glorious and unashamed celebration of reading and the love of books. The site looks great, too, with quirky graphics and a personal, relaxed approach.

You can find author interviews and eclectic book lists. The website is a good place to pick up ideas for what to read next and the blog is worth following because of the straightforward book reviews. There’s a really good mix of features on bestsellers and new or little known authors. Of course, being Bath, they offer visitors a therapeutic Book Spa.

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I have to confess I love the product – these pocket-sized beauties are just perfect for an afternoon read. The website looks as stylish as the book covers – which are presented in a very tempting way under the Books tab. Even a self-confessed e-book junkie like me yearns to hold one. This unique independent press publishes three new books in translation a year, and readers can sign up to receive each new title either by subscription or by purchasing book bundles. Individual titles can be bought too.

Peirene Press exudes intimacy – reinforced by its membership offer, its reading group and supper club – inviting readers to immerse themselves not only in the stories it publishes but also in the world of the people that make them happen. A quirky blog completes the picture. Buying into the whole Peirene package might not be to every reader’s taste – but the books are definitely worth a serious investment of time and money.

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Scott McLoud’s TED talk on understanding comics and graphic fiction is just one of an inspiring collection of informed speakers that tackle all kinds of personal, unexpected and engrossing subjects.

What I love about these talks is the surprises they contain, and the space they give people to explain a subject or idea without interruption. Each talk is brief but long enough to give a new idea an airing so you can see if you want to explore it further. Scott’s talk leans heavily on his graphics (naturally) but most of the talks work just as well with audio.

I’ve discovered all sorts of good reads that I would never have encountered, just by picking a few TED talks at random. When I am making jewellery and need to work slowly and patiently, I find listening to these talks frees me up to focus with more care and calm.

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Europeana is an online library that makes millions of digital objects from libraries, museums and archives across Europe accessible to the public.

It’s not the cosiest or most instant welcome to a website you’ve ever seen, but take the time and once you dig into the resources here there are some terrific presentations and real surprises. The site creates themes and illustrates them with objects from the many partner libraries and museums. You can create your own library of images on site.

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I met @annecater through Twitter – and was hooked by her self-confessed obsession with receiving things through the post which began when she was a child. I was that kind of child too. As an adult, she writes a blog called Random Things Through My Letter Box which is mainly about books, but sometimes about other stuff too. Things that make this site well worth a visit are:

  • The range and variety of books reviewed – there are plenty of surprises and some great new introductions.
  • The honesty of the reviewer – this really feels like one reader talking to another.
  • The huge books covers – a big plus for me, they look great and it’s often the way I choose my next read.
  • The ever-changing home page – this blog is current and on the pulse. Shows commitment and makes me think it’s worth a return visit.
  • Book giveaways – always a good thing.

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