I am a creature of habit; even in the boundless spaces of the internet, I march a well-beaten path between the New York Times, Salon, the Millions, assorted publishing sites and a familiar assortment of blogs. Last night, in an effort to shake up my routine, I decided to explore some new sites. I began with Brain Pickings, which bills itself as “a discovery engine for interestingness, culling and curating cross-disciplinary curiosity-quenchers, and separating the signal from the noise to bring you things you didn’t know you were interested in until you are.” Although I found the description somewhat twee, the brains behind Brain did a good job engaging mine. Smart stuff, including the ambitious if not slightly ridiculous “Everything you need to know about culture in 10 books.”
From there, I poked around at The Atavist, one of the new on-line homes for long form journalism, the meaty, painstakingly researched magazine pieces that occupy the interstices of my life. Philip Gourevich’s article “Climbers” in last week’s New Yorker about the Rwandan Cycling Team is a perfect example. I read it on line at the grocery store. (If you write in this vein, query me.) The Atavist, bless them, is also looking to monetize their content; they sell original long form pieces, complete with cool multimedia imbeds for the the iPad and iPhone for $2.99. $1.99 buys you a version suitable for Kindle.
I moved on to Byliner, another safe space for the embattled long-form, where I could binge on the collected works of any of scores of established writers and acquaint myself with some new ones. At that point, relieved that long form journalism is being collected (the “curated” tag bothers me a bit: are these stories museum pieces?) I headed to a source for another endangered species, investigative journalism. I finally checked out Propublica, and felt reassured that the practice of muckraking is not so dated as the word that describes it.
I concluded my tour feeling pleased and slightly overwhelmed—as ever, so much to read, so little time. Until, of course, it occurred to me that during this whole exercise (ostensibly a departure from routine), I simply discovered more of the kind of stuff I like. It’s hard to argue that any of the above, worthy as they are, were substantially broadening my horizons, prying open my mind. Plenty of thinkers have pointed out that the internet can allow us to spend time exclusively with others who reflect back our tastes and opinions. So in the interests of a more mind-blowing detour, can anyone recommend some good sites?