No, this isn’t a quiz about the five books you’d want if you were stranded on a desert island, although that would be interesting! Rather it is about a book website I just came across that has apparently been around for a while. Five Books takes its name from the basic idea of the site: to interview authors, publishers, academics and others for their recommendations of five books they think are the best on a topic about which they are knowledgeable.
For example, as I write, the current featured interview is with author Laura Wood on Coming-of-Age novels. Recent interviews were with Mark Sereze on Ice Books, Jane Kamensky on Boston Books, and Georgina Adams on the Art Market. Each interview page has cover images at the top and links to Amazon embedded to allow you to buy the books (they are an Amazon affiliatee, one of their ways of monetizing the site–the other is donations).
The site indicates they have over 1000 interviews and that they publish two new ones each week. That is a treasure trove! There are at least four ways to mine it. If you are looking for a particular topic you can search for it by clicking the search icon in the upper right of any page. Across the top of the home page is a topic or category listing. Or you could just start with their most popular interviews, found by scrolling down the page. The final is the random interview on the top right. Clicking it took me to an interview with Mark Tully, a journalist who has lived in India for most of his life, on the Best Books on India. It most likely will take you somewhere else.
You can also see a list of those books most often recommended. On Liberty, by John Stuart Mill tops the list. Clicking on the link takes you to a page where you can see all the lists (nine in Mill’s case) where the book was recommended
One other feature, labelled “new,” allows readers to submit their own list of five books on any topic. I was surprised several people posted about books on Belgium! The home page features recent lists. Scott Meadows offers a fascinating list on Classical Education.
One of the strengths of the site is that they get interesting people who are knowledgeable about their subject. Some of the names, in addition to those already named, that I came across include Simon Winchester, Jerry Coyne, Nigel Warburton, Daniel Goleman, Diarmaid Macculloch, and Simon Blackburn.
The website is easy to navigate and rich in resources. With a thousand interviews you won’t soon run out of interviews. You may also sign up to receive emails of the latest list. Enjoy!