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Reading Resources on the Internet

Mrs. Underdunk the bookworm
Harley Hahn's World of Reading
Start here: Introduction
Why should you read? Your Key to Mental Fitness
Resources: Reading Resources on the Internet
Book reviews (fun to read): What is Harley Reading?
List of books reviewed...From Newest to Oldest
...Alphabetical by Title
...Alphabetical by Author

Reading is a low-tech activity. All you really need is a book and enough light to see properly.

However, if you are interested in learning how to read well and how to appreciate what you are reading, there are a variety of other resources you will find useful.

First, there are reference tools you can use to provide quick, specific answers when you need them. For instance, if you have trouble understanding a particular word or idea, you can turn to a dictionary, a thesaurus, or an encyclopedia for help.

Second, there are resources to help you learn about literature in a broader way. For example, you may wish to investigate a specific genre of literature, or you might decide to learn about a particular author.

On this page, you will find a selection of online resources that will help you in just these ways. In addition, you will find a third type of resource: a large variety of well-known books and short stories that you can read online for free.

I chose the resources on this page to complement the ideas in the essay entitled:

Why Should You Read? Your Key to Mental Fitness

If you haven't had a chance to read this essay, please take a few moments to read it now, before you continue.

NOTE: Some of the resources on this page are from Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages and The Harley Hahn Experience.

Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages contains short essays and commentary on thousands of different topics, organized alphabetically into 185 different categories. It is, in fact, a guide to life, annotated with Internet resources: Web sites, mailing lists, and Usenet discussion groups.

You can use the Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages for free, but there are ads.

Information about Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages

Online Dictionaries

In the essay I mentioned above, I explained that it is important to have a good dictionary, one that is large enough to have the information you need, but not so large that you can't handle it easily. The best solution is to get yourself a good, medium-sized dictionary.

However, there are online dictionaries that you can access for free on the Internet. What about these? Can they take the place of a traditional print dictionary?

The answer is no.

As a general rule, the free online dictionaries you find on the Net are not nearly as good as a robust print dictionary. The free ones are a lot more rudimentary (which is why they are free). As such, they are not good enough if you aspire to be a serious reader. You need to get yourself a real dictionary, one that you can keep next to you and browse through as the mood takes you.

Still, online dictionaries are handy, especially when you are reading Web-based material. Here are links to several online dictionaries you can use for free:


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Other Reference Tools

Within Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages, you will find a Reference section containing information and links for a wide selection of useful tools. Below is a list of the tools which directly pertain to reading. Such tools come in handy when you are reading and you need to pause for a moment to look up a quick fact, such as the meaning of the word "banausic", or the birthplace of Leonardo da Vinci.

Reference   Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages

  • Acronyms
  • Dictionaries
  • Dictionaries: Alternative
  • Encyclopedias
  • Geographic Place Reference
  • Grammar and English Usage
  • Thesauruses

"Banausic" refers to something that is routine or mechanical. ('My goodness,' said the dean to the math professor. 'After teaching freshman calculus for so long, your approach has certainly become banausic.') The word comes from the Greek term for "mechanic".

Leonardo da Vinci [1452-1519] was born in a small town in northwest Italy. The name of the town was Vinci, which is why he is referred to as Leonardo da Vinci.

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Different Types of Literature

It is important to realize that no work of fiction exists in isolation. To truly understand and appreciate any work of art, we need to see it as belonging to a particular culture or time period.

Within the world of writing, when a large body of work is based on a common culture or time period, we refer to the work collectively as a type of literature. For example, we have Modern Literature, Victorian Literature, French Literature, Greek Literature, and so on.

Of course, the culture and time period you know best is your own, so when you read modern-day books, the settings and conventions are already familiar. However, when you read other types of books, it can help a lot if you teach yourself a bit about that particular type of literature, either by reading about it directly or by looking at the work of related authors.

Below is a link to the Literature section of the Yellow Pages, where you will find information on many different types of literature.

Literature   Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages

  • African American Literature
  • American Literature
  • Asian American Literature
  • Australian Literature
  • Beat Generation
  • British Literature
  • Classics
  • Cowboy Literature
  • First Lines
  • Gothic Literature
  • Jewish Literature
  • Latino Literature
  • Literary Calendar
  • Literary Theory
  • Literature Resources
  • Literature Talk and General Discussion
  • Mysteries
  • Native American Literature
  • Russian Literature
  • Spoken Literature

So far, we have spoken of literature as a collection of work that shares a common culture or is based on a particular time period. However, there is another way in which this term is used: to describe a genre of novels and stories that share related themes and conventions.

Thus, we have for example, science fiction, mystery, fantasy, romance, horror, Westerns, historical fiction, and so on, all of which are types of literature.

In the list above, there are two items of this type, Cowboy Literature (Westerns) and Mysteries. However, there is another section of the Yellow Pages book that contains more such items, these are related to science fiction, fantasy, and horror.

When you visit this section of the book, you will see a large number of different items. Below, I have listed only the ones that pertain directly to reading. There are other items related to TV, movies, fan conventions, and so on.

Science Fiction, Fantasy and Horror   Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages

  • Cyberpunk
  • Horror Fiction Online
  • H.P. Lovecraft
  • Edgar Allan Poe
  • Science and Science Fiction
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Online Books
  • Science Fiction and Fantasy Reviews
  • Science Fiction Author Talk and General Discussion
  • Science Fiction Talk and General Discussion
  • Science Fiction Zines
  • J.R.R. Tolkien

Why am I showing you these lists? One reason is that I want you to see the wealth of information that is available online.

Another reason, however, is that I am trying to help you broaden your tastes. For example, I hope that, as you look at these lists, you will be inspired to go to the library and browse through the books in an area of literature that is new to you.

For example, when was the last time you read any British Literature? Have you ever read a Russian story? Do you know what Cyberpunk is? Do you understand the difference between Science Fiction and Fantasy? Or, for that matter, is it possible that you have never read a good romance or mystery novel?

To me, literature seems a lot more inviting when I think of it as a valuable treasure, accessible to anyone who has a library card and some spare time.

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Information About Specific Authors

It doesn't take a lot of reading before you begin to have your own favorite authors. However, it is easy to get stuck in a rut in which you find yourself reading books from only a small set of writers, especially if they are authors whose work is currently in vogue.

In some situations, being stuck in a rut is not necessarily bad, as long as you are basically satisfied. (Ask anyone who is happily married.) However, when it comes to reading, we should ask more of ourselves.

To be sure, it is comforting to spend time with writers we already know and, personally, I wouldn't want to give up my favorite authors. However, it is more stimulating to read books by authors who are new to us and have something new to offer. Compared to sticking to our usual choices, getting used to the work of a new author can be more work and, hence, more rewarding.

But how do you know which new authors to try? One way is to ask yourself which writers have earned their place in history? Who are the writers whose work has proven to be of enduring value?

Below you will see links to two sections of the Yellow Pages book, one devoted to classic writers, the other devoted to contemporary writers— all of whom have been judged (by me, anyway) to be important. My guess is that many of these names are already familiar to you, even if you haven't read their books.

Literature: Classic Writers   Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages

  • Jane Austen
  • The Brontë sisters
  • Willa Cather
  • Joseph Conrad
  • Charles Dickens
  • Dante
  • George Eliot
  • Ralph Waldo Emerson
  • William Faulkner
  • F. Scott Fitzgerald
  • Thomas Hardy
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Ernest Hemingway
  • James Joyce
  • William Shakespeare
  • John Steinbeck
  • Robert Louis Stevenson
  • Jonathan Swift
  • Henry David Thoreau
  • Mark Twain
  • Edith Wharton
  • Oscar Wilde
  • Virginia Woolf

Literature: Contemporary Writers   Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages

  • Maya Angelou
  • Isaac Asimov
  • Margaret Atwood
  • Charles Bukowski
  • Sandra Cisneros
  • Hermann Hesse
  • Aldous Huxley
  • Norman Mailer
  • Toni Morrison
  • George Orwell
  • Dorothy Parker
  • J.D. Salinger
  • Leslie Marmon Silko
  • Gertrude Stein
  • Amy Tan
  • Hunter S. Thompson
  • Kurt Vonnegut
  • H.G. Wells
  • P.G. Wodehouse
  • Richard Wright

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Books, Stories, and Zines to Read Online

Let's say you hear about a book that sounds like one you might like to read. Where would you find it? You could get it from a bookstore, from a library or, perhaps, from someone's personal collection.

However, thanks to the hard work of a large number of volunteers, you have another alternative: you may be able to find it on the Internet. Indeed, there are literally thousands of books available to read online for free.

Most of these books are works whose copyright has expired. For example, all of Shakespeare's plays are available online. Although you will find many timeless classics, there are also a great many other books, ones that you otherwise might never have found on your own.

Will electronic versions of books ever replace real books on paper? If you have ever tried to read an entire book on a computer monitor, you know the answer is no. It is difficult enough to read anything from a screen for an extended time, let alone an entire book. In my opinion, when it comes to reading, nothing comes close to matching the convenience and comfort of real books printed on real paper.

Still, electronic books do have some important advantages.

As I mentioned, there are a vast number of electronic books available for free. This means that, whenever you have a spare moment, you can download a copy of a book to your computer and read for a while. This is an easy way to sample a worthwhile book that you otherwise might never have a chance to enjoy. Moreover, if you have a PDA or a laptop computer, you can use it as a portable library, taking books with you wherever you go.

A second advantage of electronic books is that, because they are stored on your computer, it is easy to search for a particular word or phrase within the text. Consider the following true-to-life scenario.

You are an intelligent, talented young woman with naturally wavy hair and above average dancing skills. You live in a large city where you work at a high-tech company, creating multimedia presentations for clients. One day you meet a nice young man, a programmer, to whom you are attracted. He's a bit of a nerd, but you have always found that appealing, and at least he's not a jerk like your old boyfriend.

After a few dates, you invite the young man over for dinner, hoping that a pleasant home-cooked meal and an evening of intelligent conversation will help move things along in the relationship department. After dinner, the two of you are talking about fate, and the young man says he is reminded of something he once read in the Sherlock Holmes novel Hound of the Baskervilles. There is a passage, he says, near the beginning of the book, in which Sherlock Holmes is talking to Dr. Watson and says something about "a dramatic moment of fate". It was hot stuff, the young man tells you, but he can't for the life of him remember the exact quotation.

This is your chance. It is the work of a moment for you to run to your computer, download a copy of Hound of the Baskervilles, and search Chapter 1 for the words "dramatic moment". In an instant, you have the quotation you want:

"Now is the dramatic moment of fate, Watson, when you hear a step upon the stair which is walking into your life, and you know not whether for good or ill."
— Sherlock Holmes

The young man's eyes widen like two saucers and, for the first time, he looks at you with a respect that borders on awe. That night you fall asleep with a big smile on your face, dreaming of bridesmaids, honeymoons and electronic books.

(If only life were that simple.)

Below you will find links to two sections in the Yellow Pages book that contain resources related to electronic books. My hope is that you will use the convenience of the Net to sample some books or stories, find something you like, and then go to the library to get a real copy.

Literature Online: Books   Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages

  • Age of Innocence
  • Arabian Nights
  • Around the World in Eighty Days
  • Art of War
  • Canterbury Tales
  • Christmas Carol
  • Civil Disobedience
  • Communist Manifesto
  • Don Quixote
  • Dracula
  • Frankenstein
  • Great Expectations
  • Gulliver's Travels
  • Heart of Darkness
  • Jane Eyre
  • Lady Chatterley's Lover
  • Little Women
  • Moby Dick
  • O. Henry Short Stories
  • Oedipus Trilogy
  • Paradise Lost
  • Picture of Dorian Gray
  • Pride and Prejudice
  • Robinson Crusoe
  • Sherlock Holmes Stories
  • Tarzan
  • Time Machine
  • War of the Worlds
  • Wuthering Heights

Literature Online: Collections   Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages

  • Ancient Greek Literature
  • Anglo-Saxon Tales
  • British Authors
  • Chinese Literature
  • English Server
  • French Literature
  • German Stories
  • Literature Collection Talk and General Discussion
  • Middle English Literature
  • Online Books
  • Secular Web
  • Short Stories
  • Victorian Literature
  • Western European Literature
  • Women and Literature

Aside from online books and stories, there is one more type of reading material I want you to know about: zines.

A zine is a small, privately published magazine. Most zines reach only a tiny audience and are low-budget affairs, produced by devoted writers and artists as a labor of love. The first zines were printed and distributed by mail or in small, independent bookstores. In the 1990s, however, as the Internet became popular, people started to publish zines electronically. In fact, the first major interview I did was in 1993 for an electronic zine called "Voices from the Net".

As you know, one of my goals is to inspire you to read books that require a lot of thinking. However, I understand that if you are not used to reading complex books, it can be difficult to pick up, say, Lady Chatterley's Lover and jump right in. For that reason, I encourage you to take a look at some zines as a pleasant way to build your reading habit.

In general, zines are fun and interesting. Although the writing is not always high-quality, most zines are created by passionate people, who write provocative stories and articles that will make you think.

Zines   Harley Hahn's Internet Yellow Pages

  • American Folk
  • Bad Girl Zines
  • Bad Subjects
  • Fray
  • Glassdog
  • Mad Dog Weekly
  • Pigdog Journal
  • Popular Culture Zines
  • Zine Lists
  • Zine Talk and General Discussion

Finally, in case you would like to read the interview I mentioned:

Harley Hahn Interviews

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Books and Stories for Kids

One of the best gifts you can give to your children is the lifetime habit of reading.

Being able to read well will give your children a huge advantage in life, opening doors that would otherwise be closed forever. For example, good reading skills makes it much easier for your kids to do well in school.

As your children grow into adulthood, being able to read well allows them to develop the ability to teach themselves, the most important skill an adult can have.

The earlier children start, the better. While the little ones are still babies, you can read out loud to them. As they get older, you can encourage them to participate by choosing stories they think are fun.

Children respond well to routine, so one thing you can do is read to your kids at the same time every day. For example, you might have a regular reading time every evening, just before bedtime. (Imagine how much healthier that will be for the kids than letting them go right from the TV to bed.)

The goal is to have your children see reading as a natural, enjoyable, everyday part of life, and the best way to ensure that this happens is to make reading a family activity. When the kids are young, start by reading them simple picture books. Later, you can move to more advanced stories that your children can read out loud to you and to one other.

When you spend time with your kids in this way, you help them develop their vocabulary and their thinking skills at a comfortable speed. You also show them that reading is something you do to have fun. What a lesson that is to learn at such a young age!