Now that the days are shorter, and the nights seem endless, you would think there would be time to sit on the sofa with a big thick book – perhaps a weighty Russian novel in translation, or a great big contemporary world-building sci fi book. But no. When it gets dark so early, I just want to be in my jammies, 7:30 can feel like the middle of the night, and I erratically ping pong around my house from unfinished book, to undone task, to not-quite-completed project.
I have never had a reading slump where I didn’t read At All, because that would just be too, too terrible to even contemplate! However, there have been plenty of times when I seemed to get endlessly stuck on a single type of book (funny mysteries, Regency romances, true crime – I’m looking at you). Recently, I have had a bit of trouble carving out any time, and certainly not vast swathes devoted solely to reading, because, well … Life. My reading time has been in car repair shops, medical waiting rooms, or at home but with one ear listening for Darling Dogs Doing Dastardly Deeds – some sort of situation where it’s hard to totally lose oneself in a book.
So, I’ve been looking for shorter reads for my shorter attention span. I’ve never really been a fan of short stories, but I’ve been giving them a new look. The library has plenty on offer – books of stories by one author, or collections by various authors and centered around a particular topic or theme. The library also has subscriptions to a variety of magazines, and most of the issues can be checked out. But I don’t always want to lug an actual book (or three) around with me, and magazines are really (I mean really) hard to keep track of! I want choices, and I also want to be able to access these varied reading materials online. Luckily, the library has me covered! You will need your Richmond Public Library card for access to library databases:
LIBRARY APPS AND DATABASES
- RBDigital Magazines has full color, full text versions of 79 magazines (back issues, too!) that you can read on your computer, or download to your tablet or phone using the RBDigital app.
- Hoopla has comics and manga, which are perfect for tiny bites of time. Hoopla also offers lots of eBooks, audiobooks, movies, and TV shows. And music! There is so. much. music. on Hoopla! Whether you’re looking for punk, pop, or gospel, you will find something to get you groovin’. Download the Hoopla app for on the go access.
- And even more eBooks and eAudiobooks are available from Biblioboard, OverDrive (Libby), and RBDigital.
- FindItVirginia lets you access magazine and newspaper articles, eBooks, and more, all courtesy of the Library of Virginia.
- NewsBank gives library users access to the Richmond Times-Dispatch and other daily newspapers, both current issues and archives.
BRUSH UP YOUR SKILL SET – maybe you want to learn something new. RPL can help! You’ll need to set up a separate online account with each database so you can keep track of your progress.
- If you want to learn a foreign language, you can choose from Transparent Language Online or Rocket Languages.
- Learning Express Library – test prep and training for high school, college, adult “core” skills, career advancement, and software courses.
- Try Universal Class to learn just about any skill or hone your interest in any subject. Earn CE (continuing education) credits for most classes.
THERE’S AN APP FOR THAT – whether you want to read, listen, or watch, try these free apps which allow access to free content. Available from Google Play for Android Devices, and the App Store for iOS.
- ALDIKO – 1000s of free public domain works.
- COOL READER – Android only. Access to free content from The Gutenberg Project and The Internet Archive. (Although you can access both of these websites directly, the app can be used to improve your mobile device experience, or to save and curate content).
- GOODREADS – The app for GoodReads.
- INKITT – 1000s of new fiction titles by aspiring authors – fantasy, scifi, thrillers, horror, mystery, romance, and more.
- LIBRIVOX – Free public domain audiobooks, read by volunteers around the world.
- LIT2GO – Free online collection of stories and poems in MP3 (audio) format. Word count and playing time included for each. Passages can also be downloaded as .pdf files and printed as readalongs.
- LITSY – The app for LibraryThing.
- LOYAL BOOK – 1000s of free audio and eBooks. Stream or download to listen / read offline.
- MEDIA 365 – Free ebooks from all genres and categories.
- MOON + READER – Access 1000s of free eBooks.
- OODLES – Public domain English classics and Hindi books and stories (read or listen).
- POETRY – Poetry Foundation. Search, save favorites for later, or shake your device for a new discovery.
- PROLIFIC WORKS – 1000s of authors use PW to share giveaways. Search and claim books and download to your device.
- QUIDDITY – Summarizes nonfiction books to a 10-15 minute “Quid”. Many have an audio option, powered by Amazon Polly. (the free challenger to the fee-based app BLINKIST).
- QUIZUP – OK, not books, but sometimes you just need challenging, online trivia and brainteasers. Or create your own quiz and share with millions of users.
- SERIAL READER – Classic literature in daily, bite-sized bits that can be read in 20 minutes or less.
- STORYSHOTS – Free self-help book summaries to read, listen to, or watch.
WEBSITES AND EMAIL NEWSLETTERS FOR LITERARY TYPES
- 100 WORD STORY – Read these very short stories and essays, or submit your own.
- AFRICAN WRITER – NJ based monthly celebrating African literature and writers.
- AMERICAN POETRY REVIEW – Dedicated to reaching a worldwide audience with the best contemporary poetry and literary prose.
- ANNALEMMA MAGAZINE – Print copies available biannually ($15 ea or $25/year) and updated online weekly. Online content available for free.
- ATLAS OBSCURA – “The definitive guide to the world’s hidden wonders”. Sign up for weekly email newsletter.
- BARREL HOUSE – A non-profit literary organization consisting of pop culture obsessed oddballs who like to hang out in the corner. Sign up for their newsletter.
- BLACKBIRD – Free online journal of literature and the arts sponsored by VCU English departments.
- BOOK RIOT – A bookish site covering all things literary. Sign up for their email newsletter.
- BOOK SLUT – A monthly web magazine and daily blog dedicated to those who love to read.
- BRAIN PICKINGS – Maria Popova curates the “most interesting and inspiring articles across art, science, philosophy, creativity, children’s books”. Sign up for a weekly (on Sunday) newsletter and a weekly (Wednesday) dip into the archive.
- BREVITY – A journal of concise literary nonfiction, featuring well-known and emerging writers working in the extremely brief essay form, along with craft essays and book reviews.
- BUZZFEED – BuzzFeed Books is just one of the many interesting newsletters available from the premier purveyor of tantalizing and time-wasting quizzes and info-snippets.
- CHEAP POP – An online literary journal focusing on stories, 500 words or less, that pop.
- DAILY LIT – 15 minutes of fiction a day. Sign up and customize your content. (coming soon: the Daily Lit app).
- DAILY SCIENCE FICTION – Very short, original sci fi (broadly defined to include fantasy, slip stream, etc.) Sign up to get a new story delivered to your inbox every weekday.
- DAILY BEAST – Sign up for customized newsletters.
- ECLECTICA MAGAZINE – Born from a vision to further the (online) reading experience … with interesting enough content to keep readers coming back for more.
- ELECTRIC LITERATURE – A nonprofit digital publisher with a mission to make literature more exciting, relevant, and inclusive. Sign up for email newsletters.
- EVERYDAY FICTION – Daily bite-sized stories for a busy world. Sign up to have a story delivered to your inbox every day, or customize what you receive by setting filters.
- FAILBETTER – Ever tried. Ever failed. No Matter. Try again. Fail better. An online journal of literature and art from Richmond, VA and New York, NY.
- FICTION SOUTHEAST – An online literary journal dedicated to short fiction from today’s most promising writers.
- FIVE STAR LITERARY STORIES – Where publisher, story, and reviewer meet.
- GASTRO OBSCURA – Offshoot of Atlas Obscura. Sign up for “dispatches on the world’s most wondrous food and drink”, delivered to your inbox twice a week.
- GUERNICA – A non-profit magazine focused on the intersection of arts and politics. Subscribe to their weekly email newsletter.
- HOBART – An online home for up and coming writers. Begun as an online-only journal, now also available as an annual print issue most years.
- JSTOR DAILY – Where news meets its scholarly match. Sign up for JSTOR Weekly Digest for a quirky mix of high- and lowbrow stories, backed by the peer-reviewed scholarship of JSTOR.
- LIT HUB – The best of the literary internet, every day.
- LITERARY ORPHANS – Flash fiction, poetry, and nonfiction online magazine from the heart of Chicago – “an analog dream in a digital world”. SIgn up to become “a reader”.
- LITTLE INFINITE – “Poetry for life”. Sign up for their email newsletter to get “the hookup” on all things poetry.
- LONGFORM – New and classic nonfiction from around the web. Read online, listen to their podcast, subscribe to their daily newsletter.
- LONGREADS – Dedicated to helping people find and share the best storytelling in the world. Read or listen to their Longreads podcasts. Sign up to get the week’s best delivered to your inbox every Friday.
- MORNING SHORT – Read or listen. Sign up for one fantastic short story in your inbox every morning.
- THE OFFING – Publishes creative writing of all genres and art in all media, especially works by those often marginalized in literary spaces. Sign up for emails featuring fiction, poetry, essays, art, and more.
- OPEN CULTURE – The best free cultural and educational media on the web: eBooks, audiobooks, textbooks, online courses and lectures, MOOCs, movies, languages.
- PANK MAGAZINE – A literary magazine founded by M. Bartley Seigel and Roxane Gay.
- POEM-A-DAY – From the American Academy of Poets. Subscribe to have a poem delivered to your inbox every morning.
- POOP FICTION – “Stuff to read in your time of need.” Lists by reading time: tiny (1-2 min), short (2-3 min), medium (3-4 min) or long (4+ min). Sign up for updates and early access. App coming soon.
- POTOMAC – A journal of poetry and politics.
- PROJECT GUTENBERG – Over 60K free eBooks to download to a device or read online. No special app required (although there is an app available to improve your mobile device experience, or to save and curate content). Various mailing lists and monthly newsletters.
- QUARTERLY WEST – Founded in 1976, QW is an American literary magazine based at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.
- PUBLISHERS WEEKLY – Familiarly known as PW, “the bible of the book world” has a paid print and online component, but much of its content is available free, including quite a few email newsletters.
- REDIVIDER – Started in 1986 as a print publication by Emerson College (Boston), ReDivider is now published digitally twice a year, and full access to all content is free.
- R/SHORT STORIES (REDDIT) – Original short stories, or links to other works. All genres.
- SHELF AWARENESS – publishes two email newsletters – “S.A. Reader” (for all readers” and “S.A. Pro” (geared towards librarians and booksellers).
- SMITHSONIAN – sign up for the SI email newsletter for fascinating stories and behind-the-scenes peeks at the inner workings of the museums.
- SMOKELONG QUARTERLY – an online literary magazine devoted to flash fiction.
- STORYSOUTH – showcases best fiction, creative nonfiction, and poetry from established and emerging “new south” authors.
- STRANGE HORIZONS – Weekly magazine of speculative fiction.
- WAXWING – A quarterly literary journal “promoting the tremendous cultural diversity of contemporary American literature, alongside international voices in translation”.
- WIGLEAF – Stories under 1000 words.
- WRITER’S DIGEST – Their mission to help ignite writers’ creative vision. Subscription fee for print and online versions of the magazine, but weekly “writing advice” email newsletter is free.
- ALLTOP – Aggregates by topic, pulling from the world’s most popular websites.
- AP NEWS – No nonsense reporting.
- BING NEWS – News for all topics. Similar to Google News.
- CNN’S FIVE THINGS – Up to speed and out the door. Sign up for CNN’s daily (morning) newsletter.
- CURATOR – Display all your social media feeds.
- DAILY SKIMM – Get clarity on what’s happening in the world so you are prepared for whatever the day brings. They also have “guides” – deeper context when you want to go down a rabbit hole.
- DIGG – Collects content from categories such as technology, news, entertainment, sports or science.
- DOGPILE – Best results from multiple search engines.
- (E)SCIENCES NEWS – keep updated with scientific breakthroughs.
- FARK – Peculiar news with a humorous bent.
- FEEDLY – Create your own news stream.
- FIVE THIRTY EIGHT – Hard numbers from statistical guru Nate Silver.
- FLEETING MAGAZINE – Delivering cutting news to all.
- FLIPBOARD – Blog aggregator. Customize your feed.
- GOOGLE NEWS – Shows you the latest news based on your location.
- INOREADER – The content reader for power users who want to save time.
- METACRITIC – Reviews for films, TV shows, music albums, video games, books, and more.
- MIX – Formerly StumbleUpon. Curate and discover the best of the web.
- MORNING NEWS – Focus is on more obscure news topics from around the world.
- NEED2KNOW – Daily email newsletter for all the news with a little bit of humor.
- NEWS 360 – World news, plus stories based on your interests.
- NEWS NOW – U.K. based.
- NEWS REPUBLIC – Mainstream publisher based aggregator tool.
- POCKET – Explore the most popular content across the internet, and create your own reading space by saving the content you like.
- POP URLS – Pulls in latest posts from social networks, blogs, and news publications.
- SMART NEWS – Mobile news apps for top trending world stories. Customizable and can be read offline.
- TECH MEME – Tech news aggregator – good way to up-to-date with tech trends.
- TWEETDECK – Twitter content aggregator.
- THE WEB LIST – Lists popular web portal articles side by side
The RPL READERS page has lots of links for when you “need a little help finding your next great read”. Most of the library branches have a book club, and all library book clubs welcome new members! You will also find a plethora of themed book lists, links to lists of reader-centric blogs and online magazines, free eContent, book reviews, and ways to keep your TBR pile organized.
Authors and Social Media – search for your favorite authors on social media. Most of them have FaceBook and Twitter accounts, and many have followings on other social media. When they’re not writing Good Stuff, they’re just like the rest of us – sharing pictures of their dogs, cats, new shoes, and what they had for breakfast!
Publishers big and small have curated content on their websites. The “Big Five” publishers (Penguin Random House, Hachette, Harper Collins, Macmillan, and Simon & Schuster) all have subsidiary imprints which have email newsletters and blogs, and many offer free content or giveaways. There are so many good “small imprints” – too many for this blog post. Try searching Google for “best U.S. indie publishers” to find your favorite niche publishers. They probably have email newsletters, blogs, or social media presences, too.
And, finally, when you don’t have a lot of time to read, or when your concentration isn’t rock solid, try this booklist of really great fiction titles under 200 pages, Ain’t Nobody Got Time for That.