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Genre picks galore in the 1.4M books now free at the National Emergency Library

Contributed by
Mar 27, 2020

While we certainly wouldn’t want to take away from your streaming comforts during these stressful times, balance is the key to life, and if you aren’t shutting down the boob tube once in a while to feed the mind with the written word, you’re missing out on one of the big perks of self-isolation. Now is the time to be reading, folks, and we’re not just talking about the brilliant prose you’re getting from SYFY WIRE on the daily.

Yes, it’s book time, bigtime, and though libraries, schools, and universities around the world are closed, the National Emergency Library is open for business. And by business, we mean some 1.4 million titles are all free for the digital taking, including a whole treasure trove of genre fare.

This week, the Internet Archive — an always-open non-profit library of free books, movies, video games, music, and more — announced the digital opening of the NEL (not sure if anyone else is calling it that yet, but we are). In an effort to service displaced learners affected by the spread of coronavirus COVID-19, the Internet Archive is suspending waitlists on 1.4 million books in their lending library, and they expect that number to grow.

“The library system, because of our national emergency, is coming to aid those that are forced to learn at home, ” said Brewster Kahle, Digital Librarian of the Internet Archive, in the announcement. “This was our dream for the original Internet coming to life: the Library at everyone’s fingertips.”

Which is pretty incredible, but also pretty intimidating. Just how do you begin to choose among 1.4 million titles spanning myriad collections and languages? Well, let us help you with a couple of recs …

With the ease of a quick “science fiction” search, you’ll uncover this alluring little gem, Vintage Science Fiction by Peter Haining, which includes short stories and novellas from genre superstars including “It Came From Outer Space” by Ray Bradbury, “Total Recall” by Philip K. Dick, and even the The Twilight Zone novelette by Rod Serling.

Or how about a Star Trek novel to dive into? There’s a bevy of ‘em, including Dreams of the Raven by Carmen Carter, where a “mysterious alien attack cripples both the Enterprise and Dr. McCoy!”, according to the dramatic cover. Sure, let’s dive in to the canon there!

Of course, we’d be remiss if we didn’t also mention all the hot Star Wars action going on at the NEL, including a ton of novelizations, at least one sticker book, and this gem, The Visual Dictionary of Star Wars from 1998, which gives an in-depth look at a simpler time in the galaxy far, far away, before prequels.

For those of you who like your science fiction with a little more science, how about Carl Sagan’s Contact, the 1986 book that inspired a 1997 hit film starring Jodie Foster as a SETI scientist who thinks she’s made contact with an alien signal, and also Jake Busey?

Of course, there are a ton of popular classics too, like The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis, The Hobbit, or There and Back Again by J.R.R. Tolkien, Dune by Frank Herbert, The Island of Dr. Moreau by H.G. Wells, At the Mountains of Madness: And Other Tales of Terror by H.P. Lovecraft, and Frankenstein by Mary Shelley, to name just a few.

Honestly, though, don’t take our word for it. In these self-isolating days, you’ve likely got time to kill, so go get lost in the virtual aisles and pick out something that catches your eye, as most of the books are displayed with gorgeous classic covers. You can check out the entire collection here, or find out how to start downloading here.

According to the announcement, the suspension on waitlists will “run through June 30, 2020, or the end of the US national emergency, whichever is later.”

By the old gods and the new, please let the former be later. Until then, though, go catch up on your reading.


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