Back in 2015, I wrote about how I visited a brick-and-mortar bookstore after ages and spent more money on books in two hours than I had in the past year online. I chalked it up to the serendipitous experience of wandering between shelves of haphazardly stacked titles and discovering books I never knew I wanted until I actually laid eyes on them.
The trouble with online shopping, I inferred, was that ecommerce prediction engines suck when it comes to surprising you with something you might like. Thankfully, there’s a clever new Chrome extension for bibliophiles that brings back a little bit of the magic of stumbling upon a random – but totally interesting – book for your next read.
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Every time you open a new tab, 100 Million Books surfaces a randomly selected book and displays its cover and a hand-selected snippet from it, to give you just a taste of what its pages contain. It’s a great way to find something to read without having to bother entering keywords or looking up authors similar to the ones you’re familiar with.
It’s worth noting that, according to developer Steve Jain, the extension’s suggestions aren’t automated. As such, the number of books that it can display is presently limited to how many entries Jain adds to it. Lucky for us, he’s accepting submissions (though it’d be good to have a way to verify them).
I’d also love to see more features added to the extension, such as a link to buy the book from your local Amazon store and another to find more information about the author on, say, Wikipedia. But even without them, it’s nice to be able to spot a book you haven’t heard of before, right in your browser.
So far, I’ve enjoyed recommendations like this one from neurologist Oliver Sacks about how music influences the brain, a collection of sketches by celebrated humorist SJ Perelman and this deep look into the connection between culture and human evolution by Joseph Henrich.