Category Archives: Gold Star for the Internet

Gold Star for the Internet: KCRW’s “Morning Becomes Eclectic”

On weekday work mornings, I listen to music to focus myself and tune out ambient office noise. There are two things that happen to me quite often:

1. I end up listening to the same bands and records over and over and over again.

2. I feel like a slug from 8 a.m. to about 12:30 p.m., even with coffee.

In the fall, I discovered a solution that has worked for me every morning and puts me in the right headspace. It’s the KCRW Radio app — specifically the Morning Becomes Eclectic show.

KCRW is a National Public Radio member station that operates out of Santa Monica College, and it seems to have a cult following in Los Angeles. Its programming is mainly for the Southern California and Greater Los Angeles area, but anyone can tune in on its website or its app. Their music director, Jason Bentley, hosts the Morning Becomes Eclectic program every weekday from 9 a.m. to noon. For three hours, he plays all kinds of music: new stuff from new artists, genres you don’t hear on mainstream radio and super deep cuts. A few times a week, the last hour will feature realtime live performances with mini-interviews.

I discovered Morning Becomes Eclectic when I saw social media advertising that Iggy Pop had dropped by to play a live set in support of Depression Cherry. I downloaded the app one night to listen and look through the rest of the recordings, and found out they came from a daily program. The next morning I tuned in, and I was instantly hooked.

Bentley plays a lot of my favorite artists — like Spoon, Angel Olsen, Real Estate and Hamilton Leithauser + Rostam — that have stellar tracks I sometimes forget about, and rediscovering those songs through someone else’s set is like experiencing them for the first time. I’ve also been introduced to or further acquainted with so many good artists and bands over the past few months, like Rubblebucket, Ty Segall, Ladysmith Black Mambazo, Cherry Glazerr and Jim James. These new influences spill into my music library, as I have a running list of tracks to buy on Bandcamp or iTunes. Sometimes the show has tracks I don’t really care for, but I never consider it boring. The artist/song variety is the stimulation I need to focus and get my work done, and I’m simultaneously exploring what’s happening in the music world.

The other thing that I’ve come to appreciate about Morning Becomes Eclectic is its place in both Los Angeles and public radio culture. The programming is a reflection of the best of the LA music scene. That’s partly because some of the the track picks for the day often coincide with the artists being in LA that night for a show, but mostly because Bentley is attuned to what Angelenos like. The music is diverse in origin but always refined in tastes, just like the people who live here. I also love that Bentley’s daily sets are ephemeral, and the latest show disappears from the app and website after a day. It’s refreshing in a world where everything else is always on-demand, and to know that the only people who have had that particular listening experience are you and the others that happened to tune in too.

People often think about the news, traffic alerts or programs like This American Life when they think about NPR, and I’ll admit that I didn’t know there was anything like Morning Becomes Eclectic before I discovered it. Both types of programming are equally important when it comes to public access and community building. When politicians want to defund the public agencies that support the arts, it makes me angry. It’s crucial that we support those public agencies by both listening and donating, so that everyone continues to enjoy them. The producers, journalists and creative professionals behind KCRW and other public radio stations deserve more recognition for the work they do, and I’m giving them a huge gold star.

Do you listen to Morning Becomes Eclectic, or other public radio programs? Let’s talk about it in the comments.




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Gold Star for the Internet: Gustavo Dudamel on YouTube

It’s kinda weird to say in 2017 that I have a favorite conductor, but I have a favorite conductor. His name is Gustavo Dudamel, and he’s the conductor for the Los Angeles Philharmonic. If you live in Los Angeles, you’ve probably heard of him or seen his photo on lightpole banners around the city. I’ve seen him at the Hollywood Bowl, and next week I’m going to go see him conduct Schoenberg and Mozart at the Walt Disney Concert Hall.

I’m looking forward to it a lot, and not just because I get to cross off one of my L.A. to-do list and not just because I get to go with my grandma. Once I started college, I got more and more interested in learning about classical music appreciation, and I found that I really love that classical music tells stories without needing words.

If you’re wondering what a conductor does, the two main things they do are providing an interpretation of the music (believe it or not, there’s a lot of variation in different performances of the same piece) and leading the orchestra in both tempo and organization. There’s a lot I love about Dudamel, but to sum it up I find his charismatic, youthful and kinetic interpretations enthrall me. Plus, the sheer talents of the L.A. Philharmonic or the Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela are both visual and aural treats. I feel extremely lucky that I have the chance to experience the art while it’s unfolding in front of us, and that as a culture we’ve preserved classical music. Just because it’s old doesn’t mean it’s not good or inspiring.

Whenever I need a creative boost, I always watch and listen to Gustavo Dudamel videos on YouTube. I have a few favorites that I want to share with you, and I have Opinions on all of them.

Dvořák’s “Symphony No. 9, 4th movement.”

Okay, so there are several things I really love about this video — which is just a tiny section from the Czech composer’s “From The New World” symphony performed for Pope Benedict XVI’s 80th birthday — that comes up in some of the first Dudamel hits on YouTube. First, this is a beautiful piece of music that I really enjoy listening to and without YouTube I never would have found it. It’s happy and sad and brave and anxious all at the same time.

Secondly, I love that you can tell Dudamel is so into it, and I greatly appreciate that — he channels the performance and becomes the physical embodiment of the piece. (My favorite moment is at 10:35. My heart drops.) Watching him is as emotional of an experience as listening to the music is, because you can tell that this man believes in the power of classical music with all of his being. Thirdly, the fact that after the piece is over that Dudamel goes and commends the members of the orchestra is a testament to his professionalism and his humility. And last but not least, I love that in the few frames you see him in, the pope seems so disinterested that it makes you want to laugh. Lemme just say — Francis would never.


Marquez’s “Danzón No. 2.”

Cuban, Mexican and other Latin-American contemporary music is supremely, supremely underrated in the corners of the mainstream music world I frequent, and I need to listen to more of it. I love this particular arrangement so much that I actually ripped the audio from this YouTube video and put it in my iTunes so that I could listen to it on my phone in the car and at work. Arturo Marquez is actually a contemporary composer from Mexico, and he premiered this piece in 1994. “Danzón No. 2” actually became popular because Dudamel included it on the programme for the 2007 Simón Bolívar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela world tour. A recording performed by that group is what you’re watching here.

The fact that this piece is almost as old as me is incredible, because it defies the notion that good and entertaining classical music has to have centuries-old timestamps. It makes you want to get up and dance, or at the very least move your shoulders to the beat while watching it in bed (which is what I’m doing as I write this.) In the frames where you can see Dudamel, watch his hands — they’re mesmerizing. He is as youthful as his musicians and the piece itself, which elevates the entire performance.

Gershwin’s “An American in Paris.”

The Wikipedia page for the orchestral music says that George Gershwin wrote “An American in Paris” as a “symphonic poem.” That phrase is my new favorite two-word combo in the English language, because that’s so apt for what this is. Gershwin is one of my favorite composers because his music tells intricate stories without words, and it often leaves me feeling more buoyant. I often wonder what American music would look and sound like if we had his talent and creativity for much longer than we did. The orchestral composition came way before the movie, but if you haven’t seen An American in Paris you should slot that into your weekend plans. It’s very good, and the fact that they made the movie in 1951 is amazing.

Anyway, if you look up Gershwin’s music you’ll find that Leonard Bernstein’s recordings are considered the end-all, be-all, and I’m sure it was phenomenal to hear them conducted in-person. But I like Dudamel’s better, because I think it sounds fresher. Compare the two and tell me what you think.

Bernstein’s “Mambo” and Pérez-Prado’s “Mambos.”

I saved the best for last. I’m not 100 percent sure on what specific mambos this video showcases, but I know it’s both Dámaso Pérez Prado and Bernstein’s composition for West Side Story.

My favorite, favorite, favorite thing about this video is that the overall enthusiasm and joy of this music — from Dudamel, the orchestra and the audience — is infectious even on the other side of the computer screen. His smile when the musicians get up out of their chairs and the standing ovation from the crowd makes me believe that the world is beautiful and good and pure. Bookmark this video — and all the others, while you’re at it — for when you need a pick-me-up. You can thank me later.

Do you love Dudamel too, or have other similar music videos to share? Leave effusive praise + links in the comments.


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Gold Star for the Internet: Google Art Project

Except for bits and pieces of information in high school and one class in college, the breadth of my art history knowledge has been self-taught. I love reading about art history, and if you started reading this blog way back when, you know I love visiting museums. I’m over the moon when I find online resources that help me expand on this knowledge and think more critically about art. The Google Art Project is an example of an online resource that takes me on a virtual trip around the world, and one that I think everyone should know about.

Tons and tons and tons to explore.

Tons and tons and tons to explore.

Back in 2011, Google partnered with museums to host very high-resolution images of artwork, including photographs, architecture, sculptures and installations, and has worked to add even more pieces. In the same way that you can use Google Maps to see a street view of an address, you can also walk through museums and see what they look like. The main purpose of the Google Art Project is to be an educational tool, giving people more access to art than ever before. In addition to the image, each piece has metadata on the artist, when it was made and what it’s made out of. The art comes from all across the globe, so you can visit museums without leaving your house.

I have been to the Musee d'Orsay and can confirm this is what it looks like. I didn't even have to leave my room to visit again.

I have been to the Musee d’Orsay and can confirm this is what it looks like. I didn’t even have to leave my room to visit again.

You can search by collections, artists or pieces. The website also hosts a cool feature where you can save entries, which comes in handy if you’re working on a project or just want to keep an online list of all of your favorite pieces. It’s also fun to look at the featured collections the museums put together, and other users that are also playing curator.

You could totally get lost for hours looking at different artists and collections.

You could totally get lost for hours looking at different artists and collections.

My favorite thing is the zoom feature. If you pick a painting like The Starry Night, you can zoom so far in you see the brushstroke details. There’s something so satisfyingly zen about being able to see this artistry  at a micro-level. Plus, as a visitor you’d never get to go up that close to a piece in a museum, and you’d probably never see that kind of detail with the naked eye.

A screenshot does not do it justice. Go look.

A screenshot does not do it justice. Go look.

In a cultural moment where so much of the Internet is noise, it’s refreshing to discover or go back to these kinds of projects that have real educational value. Now that so many classrooms across the United States are outfitted with laptops and smart devices, teachers can build whole units around the access to these visuals they would once have had to pay for, either in an expensive art history textbook or students’ admission. These museum partners have been extremely generous to make their collections available without demanding extra money from the online visitors. When you can have this kind of content available to people who would maybe never see these pieces or be interested in art history otherwise — and keep it free — that’s really extraordinary. This kind of project makes me love the Internet, and think higher of companies like Google who use their wealth for all kinds of community service initiatives.

Looking at a print in a book is great for reference and initial research, but there’s really nothing quite like the emotional experience of standing in front of a piece of art that resonates with you. The Google Art Project is a good compromise — at least until teleportation becomes a real thing. For that, I give it a huge gold star.

Do you have any art resources to share, or know of other cool Internet projects? Share them in the comments.



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Gold Star For The Internet: NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts

In my travels across the Internet, I stumble upon many gems that when I see them, I wonder where they’ve been the whole time. One of these gems I want to share is NPR’s Tiny Desk Concerts.

Back when I had a much longer commute, I loaded my phone up with as many podcasts about art and pop culture as I could to pass time that was otherwise dead. In trying to find more shows about music, I discovered Tiny Desk Concerts on my phone’s podcast app. Bob Boilen, the guy who started NPR’s All Songs Considered, hosts a range of musical performances at his desk at the NPR offices. You can read more about Boilen here.

The first Tiny Desk concert I watched was its 500th episode a few months ago. It happened to feature one of my favorite bands, The Arcs, which initially hooked me — if the program was featuring an act I really liked, there was probably more where that came from. I don’t watch every episode that pops up on the feed, but if it sounds like something I’d be interested in I usually end up loving it. The standard set seems to be about three songs, which ends up being a 11-20 minute video. I like that I have to sit down and carve out time to keep up with the episodes.

I’m a big believer in the power of the live music experience, and highly suggest that if you love a band you need to go see it perform — recordings are incredible, but you can’t replace the emotional experience of going to a concert. The only exception to my suggestion is now Tiny Desk, mostly because of how high the production values are. In my honest and humble opinion, the cinematography rivals Oscar-winning movies. The cinematography is varied enough so that you see shots like close ups of hands on pianos — which are always beautiful — as well as the overall configuration, as if you were standing right in front of the artists along with the office audience. Even though these performances are shot in an office space and sometimes unplugged, the sound is great. And when you go to look up a band to find their recordings, you’ll have how they looked in the back of your mind.  These videos add to the overall experience of a particular band’s music, and I think that’s wonderful.

As much as I have tried, I’ve never been an NPR groupie. I promise you don’t have to be one to enjoy Tiny Desk Concerts.

My favorite episodes have been the Arcs, Benjamin Clementine, Monsieur Periné, Timber Timbre, Reggie Watts and the Bots. I had seen the Bots in concert before watching their episode, and thought they did an incredible job translating the power and layers of their music into an intimate setting. When I saw the Arcs last week in a crowded and tiny venue, I was extra hyped because of their Tiny Desk performance. I’ve always wanted to see Timber Timbre, and now I really really want to. Even though these videos were my first introductions to Benjamin Clementine and Monsieur Periné, I had some real “whoa” moments that added them to my must-see list. For whatever episode you decide to watch, I think you’ll have the same reactions. In scrolling through the list of 500+ shows, I’ve found even more that I want to look at.

What I really love about Tiny Desk Concerts is that it celebrates incredible music, and uses the digital platform to share performances that most people wouldn’t get to see elsewhere. When I watch a Tiny Desk concert, I feel like it’s just me, the performer and an audience that just happens to be in the background. That’s a really special experience, even if it is being facilitated by a screen. And most importantly, it has introduced me to new artists and sounds that I wouldn’t have found without it.  And for that, I give it the biggest gold star in the world.

Do you watch Tiny Desk Concerts, or have an Internet gem you want to share with me? Let’s talk about it in the comments.

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Gold Star For The Internet: theSkimm


When people find out that I have a journalism background, some like to inform me that they don’t like watching or reading the news. They think the everyday news is depressing or ultra-politicized, or they don’t like the clickbait stories. If this is also your sentiment, or even if you are just a news junkie like me, you’ll like what I’m about to share. It gives you the news you need to know for the day, straight to your inbox. It’s called theSkimm.

theSkimm is a daily email newsletter that shows up in your email on weekday mornings. The content of the newsletter varies from international news and entertainment to sports and technology, but it does have heavy political coverage. The tone of the newsletter is also conversational, which I appreciate — It’s like you’re getting your news from a very well-informed (and occasionally snarky) friend. Each item is about 150 words or less, so you don’t have to read full-length stories if that’s not your thing. If you really want to know more, there is usually at least one link to an exterior source. The newsletter’s writers are just skimming what you really need to know from the endless sea of news content, hence its name. 

My friend Kelly told me about theSkimm, and I’ve been subscribing to the newsletter for about a month now. I’m impressed with how the writers never seem to miss an important item, and admire how they can distill complicated stories in 100 words. In particular, I’ve really liked how the newsletter has covered the 2016 elections, and it’s a great place to get general information about the candidates and the election calendar.

I like reading theSkimm while I’m getting ready for work in the morning, so I can catch up with the east coast and international news cycles. While I love using both Twitter and Feedly to get articles from multiple publications in one place, it’s really easy for me to lose track of my timeline or let the articles digitally pile up. If I’m busy during the week and know that I’m going to be doing most of my in-depth reading at the end of the week or on the weekend, I know that I’m going to at least know the basics of what happened in the news via theSkimm. Staying informed about what’s happening in the world around me is important to me, and theSkimm has my back. For that, this newsletter gets a big gold star.

Do you have any email newsletters or publications you get your news from? Let’s talk about it in the comments.








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Gold Star For The Internet: DJ Khaled’s Snapchat

This dude is living his best life. Photo via MTV.

This dude is living his best life. Photo via MTV.

I actively use Snapchat, but up until recently I only used it to see updates from my friends. That all changed when I read a story a few months ago about DJ Khaled getting lost at sea on his jet ski, and that he documented the entire experience on his Snapchat account. The videos I saw were pretty funny, and I wanted to see what this guy was up to. Ever since then, I have basked in the good vibes of DJ Khaled’s snapchats.

DJ Khaled is a Miami-based rapper, restauranteur, radio personality and record producer and label executive. He’s worked with some of the biggest names in the hip hop industry, including Kanye West, Jay-Z and Rick Ross. You might know his song, “All I Do Is Win.” While he’s had a storied career in the music business, his popularity has grown in the last year because of his snapchat and his online store Since October, he’s been snapchatting @djkhaled305. This is a great primer on his best snapchats.

When I first started watching Khaled’s snaps, I thought that it was just going to be another source of entertainment. Like any other social media outlet, Snapchat is a way to present a very curated view of someone’s life and cultivate one’s Internet identity. For all we know, DJ Khaled stages his Snapchat stories to get more publicity for his growing business and music. But the more I watch it, the more I am certain that DJ Khaled fully believes in his ethos and in some way, he’s validated by the amount of people that watch it. The dude is living or purporting to live his best life, and I think there’s something we can all learn from that.

If you’re a new viewer, these Snapchats can be a little confusing and hard to keep up with — Khaled has a lot of -isms. Plus, his popularity has led to people using these -isms in other capacities elsewhere on the Internet. To help you fully understand and keep you in the loop, I’ve compiled a short dictionary. I think DJ Khaled deserves a huge gold star, and I think you will feel that too.

“Another one”: The phrase originated in this video for “How Many Times,” where DJ Khaled is kissing a woman and keeps asking her for “another one.” It has become a meme in itself. Khaled uses it all the time, seemingly as a nod to his popularity.

Another one. Another one. Via Fusion's Snapchat channel.

Another one. Another one. Via Fusion’s Snapchat channel.

“Bless up”: This is just a greeting / general statement of well wishes that Khaled likes to use.

“Business is booming”: I haven’t figured out who Ben is, but there’s occasionally this kid named Ben in the videos. DJ Khaled always asks him how business is, and Ben replies, “Booming!”

Chef Dee: Khaled has a personal chef named Chef Dee, who makes daily appearances in his snapchats. Khaled always greets her with “What’s good?” A DJ Khaled breakfast is almost always egg whites, turkey bacon or sausage and water, and Chef Dee makes it all.

Chef Dee /is/ bae. Via Fusion's Snapchat channel.

Chef Dee /is/ bae. Graphic via Fusion’s Snapchat channel.

“Don’t ever play yourself”: This is DJ Khaled’s wise, wise advice to always be on top of your game. The phrase originated in this interview for Complex.

Elliptical talk: Khaled is very invested in his personal fitness. He likes to give his viewers pep talks while he’s working out on an elliptical, and calls these speeches elliptical talks.

Fan love: Fan love is very, very important to DJ Khaled. It’s a reciprocal thing: he snapchats about where he’s going to be and that he wants to meet his fans, and his fans show up to both get in the Snapchat videos and show him some love. They make regular appearances in the videos, and are always screaming about how much they love him and various Khaled -isms.

“I’m up to something”: Khaled says this when he’s with someone famous or working in the studio, presumably to get you hyped about forthcoming projects. When he’s with another celebrity, like Drake or Jay-Z, he’ll snapchat them with this caption.

The key emoji: Khaled has made the key emoji ultra-popular, because they almost always show up in the caption when he’s talking about a major key alert. If you see someone using the key emoji elsewhere on the Internet, this is probably why.

Lion Order: When he’s talking about Lion Order, he’s talking about an elite group of people who are ultra successful and are kings of the jungle — a nickname for lions. You should be striving to be part of the Lion Order. DJ Khaled has a lion statue in his yard, and he goes out and waters it and his plants every day. As a Leo who loves plants, I am on board with this.

“Major key”: Khaled has many things he calls “keys to success.” These things include cocoa butter; coconut and normal water; regular manicures, pedicures and haircuts; Dove products; plants; and much, much more. Sometimes he’ll say “major key alert” if he really wants you to pay attention.

I love plants too, DJ Khaled. Via Fusion's Snapchat channel.

I love plants too, DJ Khaled. Graphic via Fusion’s Snapchat channel.

Mogul talk: Pay attention when Khaled says “mogul talk.” He’s about to impart some incredible wisdom.

“Ride with me through the journey of more success”: This is exactly what it sounds like.

The slide sandals: When he’s not wearing sneakers, DJ Khaled wears slide sandals with various -isms printed on them: We The Best, Bless Up, and more. He wears the ones he sells in his store and a pair of Miami Heat slides, especially when there’s a game on television. You can buy DJ Khaled sandals for $65.

The sneaker closet: Khaled loves his sneakers, and he has an epic closet solely for his shoes. Sometimes he’ll give us a glimpse of his favorite kicks. Recently, the “Daily Show” toured the sneaker closet.

Special cloth alert: Have you heard of the phrase “cut from a special cloth”? This is Khaled’s interpretation. Anything that is ultra-special gets the special cloth alert designation. This also sometimes means actual clothing, like one of his shirts from

“They don’t want us to win”: This is my favorite, favorite, favorite thing DJ Khaled says. The “they” in question are your haters that don’t want you to be successful or do the things you like to do, so you know what Khaled says when they don’t want you to win? “You know what we’re gonna do? We’re gonna win more.” (I need someone to write an academic philosophy paper about “they”.)

I LOVE IT. Via Fusion's Snapchat channel.

I LOVE IT. Graphic via Fusion’s Snapchat channel.

We the Best: This is the name of his store, but he frequently reminds his Snapchat viewers that “we the best.” This is the core of what makes his Snapchats so great: he believes that he, his crew and his fans are really and truly the best. That kind of positivity is extremely admirable.

What do you think about DJ Khaled? Let’s talk about him in the comments.






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Gold Star for the Internet: Thrift Books

These stickers are on many of my books but I am 100 percent cool with it because a) I got them for basically no money and b) I like to rep the cause.

These stickers are on many of my books but I am 100 percent cool with it because a) I got them for basically no money and b) I like to rep the cause.

The only bad thing about having an appetite for literature is that buying books can get expensive very, very quickly. Taking multiple literature classes at one time left me with a pile of good books to read but a dent in my checking account. Having to buy 10 or 12 books at one time gave me the used-book-is-better mentality, which I’ve also ruminated on here re: the things people leave behind in their books. I started to buy used books partially because of the cost and partially because I felt more environmentally responsible in my paper consumption. I also like to buy from used bookstores, but I don’t always have time to go. is the only place I buy new books for gift-giving or recent releases, but even that can get expensive: walking away with two or three new books for around $20 or $30 can still be hard to justify for an undergrad or post-grad lifestyle. So if you like to read, I’m about to give you a life hack. It’s called Thrift Books.

Thrift Books is an online retailer that sells millions and millions of used and new books. I don’t remember exactly where I found out about this website, but I started using it about a year ago. It is a wonderful Internet gem for several reasons.

You can find a lot of good stuff.

 I usually stick to the Literature and Fiction category for classics and contemporary novels, but Thrift Books has everything from cookbooks to graphic novels to young adult fiction to self-help books — and even stuff that has been out-of-print. While they mostly sell used books, you can sometimes find brand-new copies to add to your cart. If you’re looking for a particular book that they’re out of, you can set up alerts to tell you when it’s back in stock and the price. The wishlist function is also useful too if you want to keep track of books you want to buy. However, they don’t have a lot of used copies of newer titles, so you’ll have to stick to Amazon for that.

It’s cheap. 

Since last winter, I’ve given almost 20 books homes on my bookshelf for less than $75. (I know.) The cheapest book price on Thrift Books is $3.59 — which is slightly less money than Amazon’s lowest price — and you can search for gently used copies that are a little more money. The best part is that you can get free shipping with at least $10 worth of books in your cart, which isn’t hard to get to. And if you sign up for the Reading Rewards program, you can get a $5 coupon when you spend $50. That’s essentially a free book, and everyone loves free books. They’re simultaneously helping you save to buy more books and giving you money for more, and that is one of the most valiant of causes. While it is admittedly hard to find newer titles on Thrift Books, the money you save makes buying them in a bookstore or online easier on your wallet. Sounds A++++.

It’s environmentally and culturally responsible. 

When I buy a used book from Amazon or a bookstore, I know that I’m helping to keep both a business and a culture afloat. And while you’re doing that with Thrift Books, you’re also helping the environment. Giving a used book a new home stretches the use of the paper, which is a form of recycling. Buying classic fiction from a website like this helps to keep not only the copies circulating, but the ideas relevant — especially in a world where we can always stand to learn more from our past. Thrift Books has also donated millions of books to boost literacy around the world, and rescued millions of ex-library books from the landfill. I like knowing that the place I’m buying my books from is giving back to the broader community and making reading accessible. And for that, I’m giving Thrift Books a huge gold star.

Do you know about Thrift Books? Let’s talk about it in the comments.







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