"Yeah, I'm Brian. I'm the Blinkered Empiricist. (Oh, and I like purple!)"
Science and Maths - thinking, origins, and nature. Key authors: Dennett, Hofstadter, Jaynes, Penrose
Nature - plants, and where they grow; ethnobotany
Photography & Light - how to see and take pictures
Music - the music of the spheres, and some ordinary music as well
Words - words in theory and practice, from Pinker to Safire
This & That - almost all nonfiction; food and fun
As described in the "Commercial" bit, I get a commission from Amazon for any books you buy from them through my website. Apart from that, I have no financial interest in the book business.
Where to look for books...
First and foremost: Your Local Bookshop (or bookstore, or honyasan, or libreria, or whatever.)
They won't be able to compete with Amazon on price or range, but they'll have the real smelly-paper objects, that you can handle. And you'll always find things you weren't looking for. Other than that, here are a few suggestions, particularly aimed at people like me who don't have an English-language bookshop close at hand.
Daedalus books offers many exceptional bargains: high quality books at remaindered prices, and a good range of CDs as well. I recommend getting the paper catalog. I haven't actually used the website, but by all accounts it's not particularly friendly. (Specially recommended for Brits who are unlikely to be able to browse in an American bookstore.)
Strand Bookstore - I believe they have no website. Like Daedalus, they will send you a paper catalog (a copy I have here boasts "8 miles of books"), and as with Daedalus, it keeps coming, whether you order books or not. How do these people stay in business? They have some general bargains, and are good for the arts and collector's books. Email them email@example.com or contact by fax at +1 212 473 2591 to ask for a catalog.
The Good Book Guide has been producing a regular magazine of book reviews for some twenty years, I think. I subscribed for a number of years, until I found I simply had more books to read than time to read them. It costs around 25 pounds a year for twelve issues: this is much more than a catalogue, containing a large number of mini-reviews and some longer articles. It's very rare in my experience for them to recommend a book which turns out a dud. Having some difficulty tracking down their website at the moment ... update later.
Can there be anyone left on the planet who hasn't heard of "Earth's biggest bookstore"?
Want an out-of-print book?
abebooks.com aka ABE. ABE are one of several outfits that act as clearing-houses for independent booksellers, so you can find someone who wants to sell the book, and contact them directly, or buy through ABE. I've now made a number of successful purchases through ABE, though in the end the service you get will depend on the individual bookshop at the other end.
For completeness, here are a couple more used book search sites. My not-very-systematic comparisons, searching for a particular book, suggest that ABE may have the biggest selection. To a certain extent (like dictionaries) they all feed off each other, but for hard-to-find books, you may as well try them all.
What's with all the flags?
The immensely useful MathWorld website by Eric Weisstein mathworld.wolfram.com is at least for the time being unavailable, because of a terrorist lawsuit brought by CRC Press. Basically, having agreed to publish a paper version of his website, without (obviously) mentioning this in advance, they then turned round and claimed the website infringed their copyright. Any links to MathWorld give the same page, where you can read details. I urge you very strongly not to buy any books at all from this publisher.
The MathWorld website is now available again, though it appears that Weisstein has been forced by these dishonest thugs to hand over a copyright of all future contributions to the website, and has also paid them money in order to get his own website back. I see no reason ever to do business with them - it is also a warning never to sign a contract without reading it very carefully.
Just type keywords in the box - usually the main words of the title and the author's surname. At Amazon.com you can also type in the ISBN, if you know it, with or without hyphens.
Shop - jigsaw puzzles and maps from Japan
My digital art - The Artofar-