Giving the gift of information this holiday season | Columns

No political talk at our respective Thanksgiving dinners this year. Rather, we quizzed friends and family about their favorite websites.

We excluded the obvious ones — Facebook, Wikipedia, LinkedIn and Twitter — and asked for websites most often consulted for fun or information. After exploring these websites ourselves (some which have become new favorites), we have selected a few to share with you in the spirit of the holiday season. In no particular order, here are our picks.

For the best-of-everything connoisseurs who want to find the best soundbar, the best carry-on luggage, the best Chromebook, the best mattress topper, it’s WireCutter (thewirecutter.com). Started seven years ago and recently acquired by the New York Times, this website is dedicated to picking the “things that will fit best into the lives of everyday people who are shopping for it.”

For car aficionados, Bring A Trailer (bringatrailer.com) is an online auction site for new and classic cars. No purchases required. You can simply enjoy ogling the cars and the prices they sell for. How about a 1965 Sunbeam Tiger or a 1966 Mercury S-55 Super Maurauder Convertible or a 1953 Lincoln Cosmopolitan? This is the not-to-be-missed "pinup" gallery for car enthusiasts.

For list makers, don’t pass up List Challenges (listchallenges.com). This website provides an endless set of lists on travel, books, food to name but a few of the myriad lists. A niece confided that she not only enjoys the satisfaction of checking off places on the travel lists (her current favorite is “Inspirational But Less Visited Places”), but also enjoys learning about new places to travel. There are a wide variety of lists, and you can compile and submit a list of your own.

For beauty seekers who want to know if that expensive night moisturizer really delivers on its promise or who want to be sure their cosmetics are not tested on animals, Beautypedia (beautypedia.com) is for you. This website offers expert and user opinions on a wide array of cosmetics — from low-priced drug store varieties to high-priced cosmetic counter name brands. This website pulls back the curtain of mystique and provides interesting insight that may have you asking questions.

For the cooking crowd — novices and experts alike — Epicurious (epicurious.com) is waiting for you. Have an ingredient you need to use? Want to experiment with a new cuisine? Looking to prepare a vegan meal? Craving something new for breakfast? No problem. Epicurious gives you multiple search features, rates the recipes and lets you compare recipes. And that is just a taste of this full featured website.

For new indie music lovers, Bandcamp.com is a treasure trove of lyrics, sound files, news and even merchandise. The New York Times described it as “one of the greatest underground-culture bazaars of our time.” Most of the material is provided by the artists themselves as a way to share their music with a wider audience. Viewing and streaming is mostly free, and artists receive a whopping 80 to 85 percent of any fee-based products or services.

For beer enthusiasts, BeerAdvocate.com offers a keg full of goodies — articles, reviews, a user forum and a directory of breweries and pubs worldwide. If you want to shout out your opinions, a free registration enables you to post to the forum and also contribute ratings for an extensive variety of beers. BeerAdvocate publishes a monthly magazine and has an online store offering a variety of BA merchandise.

For anyone curious about the stories and meanings behind the music, Genius.com reveals all. Originally a site to annotate (i.e. explain) rap lyrics, it has grown to a community of 2 million contributors, editors and musicians who “discuss and deconstruct their favorite songs with fans all around the world.” As its About Us page states, “Every song has a story that needs to be told, and the biggest names in music ... come to Genius to give the world insight into their art.”

For perpetual knowledge seekers, OpenCulture.com is a virtual library of fascinating resources. In addition to aggregating free books, films, courses and much more, OpenCulture offers original articles that cleverly combine text and media on topics from the whimsical to the deep. “The Social Lives of Trees: Science Reveals How Trees Mysteriously Talk to Each Other, Work Together & Form Nurturing Families” is but one example.

Lights are everywhere this time of year and new beginnings are around the corner. We hope this array of not common websites provides you with a bit of illumination and encourages you to find other new websites. And if you stumble on websites you think are worthy of sharing, please send them along as your gift to us.

Cerise Oberman, SUNY Distinguished Librarian Emeritus, retired as dean of Library & Information Services at SUNY Plattsburgh. She can be reached at [email protected] Tim Hartnett is associate librarian at SUNY Plattsburgh, Reach him at [email protected]

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