"Here are some books that will not only make you want to quit doing the thing that is killing you, but also offer an interesting narrative structure for writers because they flout the conventional hero journey template. Instead of a reluctant hero emerging from an ordinary world to delve into the tricky landscape of magic and tests, these heroes begin in chaos and emerge from the grungy ashes of last call and plunge into sober, or at least peaceful, life earned by one’s ability to overcome hurdles associated with addiction." (Antonia Crane at Electric Literature) [more inside]
Our books lived, were killed, and reborn, and released. They were donated, organized, cataloged, seized, destroyed, saved, and became testimony, evidence, burden, and discarded. The Dregs of the Library: Trashing the Occupy Wall Street Library
What books should a critic own? "Each week, the National Book Critics Circle will post a list of five books a critic believes reviewers should have in their libraries." Here are all the lists, from 2007-2011. [more inside]
The 51 Best Fantasy Series Ever Written [Buzzfeed]
Whether you’re a Swords and Sorcery type of fantasy reader, a fan of battles and betrayal, or you just want a few more goddamn elves in your life, there’s something for you here. These are the truly great fantasy series written in the last 50 years.
All over America, people have put small "give one, take one" book exchanges in front of their homes. Then they were told to tear them down.
Living in the Age of Permawar by Mohsin Hamid [The Guardian]
You see from your nook that humanity is afflicted by a great mass murderer about whom we are encouraged not to speak. The name of that murderer is Death. Death comes for everyone. Sometimes Death will pick out a newborn still wet from her aquatic life in her mother’s womb. Sometime Death will pick out a man with the muscles of a superhero, pick him out in repose, perhaps, or in his moment of maximum exertion, when his thighs and shoulders are trembling and he feels most alive. Sometimes Death will pick singly. Sometimes Death will pick by the planeload. Sometimes Death picks the young, sometimes the old, and sometimes Death has an appetite for the in-between. You feel it is strange that humanity does not come together to face this killer, like a silver-flashing baitball of 7 billion fish aware of being hunted by a titanic and ravenous shark. Instead, humanity scatters. We face our killer alone, or in families, or in towns or cities or tribes or countries. But never all together.
Jonathan Franzen 'considered adopting Iraqi orphan to figure out young people'. [The Guardian]
In a setup that would not look out of place in fiction, Jonathan Franzen, the bestselling American novelist, has said he once considered adopting an Iraqi war orphan to help him understand young people better, but was persuaded against it by his editor. Franzen said he was in his late 40s at the time with a thriving career and a good relationship but he felt angry with the younger generation. “Oh, it was insane, the idea that Kathy [his partner] and I were going to adopt an Iraqi war orphan. The whole idea lasted maybe six weeks.”[more inside]
A Mad Hatter’s Mashup Party: Reimagining Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland with public domain and CC-licensed art. [Medium]
The Public Domain Review has invited a dozen Lewis Carroll experts to annotate a special version of the story with lots of fun trivia and facts about the book and its author. You’ll find their comments in the margin notes. We’ll be publishing two new annotated chapters here each week for the next six weeks.[more inside]
You’ve decided on a life of letters. You’ve got that manuscript you workshopped getting your MFA, an agent, and a publisher. Congratulations! You’re well on your way to being a critical darling. Now all you need is a catchy title. Lucky for you, this handy guide will help you title your book, and every book you write in your illustrious career. Janet Potter (previously) at The Millions (previously)
Dutch newspaper uses n-word in headline of review of Ta-Nehisi Coates’s new book On July 31, the Dutch newspaper NRC Handelsblad published a review of several books on race and racism in the United States. The series, written by the paper’s Washington correspondent Guus Valk, leads with a review of Atlantic writer Ta-Nehisi Coates’s latest book, “Between the World And Me.” Somewhere along the editorial process, the editors thought it would be a good idea to headline the article, “Nigger, Are You Crazy?” (Washington Post) [more inside]
Mark Lawson Unpacks President Obama's Summer Reading Picks [The Guardian]
Barack Obama has reached the stage of his administration when plans are being made for the construction in Chicago of the Presidential library that former American leaders get to set up in their memory. But, before that, he – or his aides – have also had to think about a smaller library: the shelf of books that the American people are told their leader plans to read on his summer vacation.[more inside]
From A Curious Hieroglyphick Bible to Our Bodies, Ourselves. In 2012 the United States Library of Congress held an exhibition on what it saw as the most influential books in American history. (via) [more inside]
Patter and Patois by Walter Mosley [New York Times] Walter Mosley writes about his relationship to the literature of Louisiana.
“Louisiana flowed in that blood and across those tongues. Louisiana — a state made famous by Walt Whitman and Tennessee Williams, Ernest Gaines and Arna Bontemps, Kate Chopin and Anne Rice. These writers, from many eras, races and genres, took the voices of the people and distilled them into the passionate, almost desperate, stories that opened readers to a new kind of suffering and exultation.”
A Passion for the Void: Understanding Clarice Lispector’s Strange and Surreal Fiction. [The New Republic]
Plenty of writers inspire fierce devotion in their readers—the David Foster Wallace acolytes, with their duct-taped copies of Infinite Jest, come to mind, as do the smug objectivists dressed in tech-world casual who owe their entire world view to Ayn Rand. But no one converts the uninitiated into devout believers as suddenly and as vertiginously as Clarice Lispector, the Latin-American visionary, Ukranian-Jewish mystic, and middle-class housewife and mother so revered by her Brazilian fans that she's known by a single name: "Clarice."[more inside]
"When women win literary awards for fiction it’s usually for writing from a male perspective and/or about men. The more prestigious the award, the more likely the subject of the narrative will be male. I analysed the last 15 years’ results for half a dozen book-length fiction awards: Pulitzer Prize, Man Booker Prize, National Book Award, National Book Critics’ Circle Award, Hugo Award, and Newbery Medal." Nicola Griffith notes the absence of stories about women from prize-winning novels--even when those novels are written by women. The Seattle Review of Books adds an interview with Griffith on the writing and aftermath of her original blog post.
The Man Booker Prize Longlist has been announced! This year, it includes more US authors than Brits (per country breakdown), the first Jamaican nominee and three first-time authors. [more inside]
"Maybe the story is the difference between the writers on the panels and the writers in the audience. That story is the creation of a celebrity class. That story is the fine line between jealousy and envy: I want everything you have versus I want everything I can have. Or is the story simply vanity?" Choire Sicha of the Awl reports on (and attempts to schmooze through) the two-day New Yorker literary festival
If this is a real picture of the Brontës, then I'm Heathcliff! [The Guardian] A collector is convinced that the £15 photograph he snapped up on eBay is of the Brontë sisters. It’s highly unlikely, but the story is a mark of our enduring fascination with the literary family. Plus, a Brontë Society expert gives her verdict. Could this be the only photograph of the three Brontë sisters? asked Seamus Molloy [Daily Mail], who picked the photograph up for 15 quid on eBay.
The Best Books of 2015 (So Far) By Christian Lorentzen at Vulture. "These ten stand out as having made an especially remarkable impression on the past half-year." [more inside]
Obsessively Detailed Map of American Literature's Most Epic Road Trips
"The...map is the result of a painstaking and admittedly quixotic effort to catalog the country as it has been described in the American road-tripping literature. It includes every place-name reference in 12 books about cross-country travel...and maps the authors' routes on top of one another. You can track an individual writer's descriptions of the landscape as they traveled across it, or you can zoom in to see how different authors have written about the same place at different times."[more inside]
From Steinbeck to Cervantes: Confessing Our Literary Gaps by Sarah Galo, Elon Green [Hazlitt] Authors, journalists, and assorted literary stalwarts tell us why they’ve missed the famous books they’ve missed. [more inside]
Books in the films of Wes Anderson - a video essay.
The Book Graphics blog collects thousands of gorgeous covers and illustrations, with special emphases on Russian artists, fairy tales, and antiquarian books.
Paper Chasing by Jake Bittle On the subject of why we collect books as opposed to simply read them. [more inside]
The Internet History Sourcebooks Project is a collection of public domain and copy-permitted historical texts presented cleanly (without advertising or excessive layout) for educational use. The main sourcebooks cover ancient, medieval, and modern history. Subsidiary sourcebooks cover African, East Asian, Global, Indian, Islamic, Jewish, Lesbian and Gay, Science, and Women's history.
Ernest Cline’s Armada is everything wrong with gaming culture wrapped up in one soon-to-be–best-selling novel
Authors as breakfast cereal mascots by Kate Gavino, creator of last night's reading, which is a collection of drawings and quotes from readings she attends in New York.
Most Anticipated: The Great Second-Half 2015 Book Preview [The Millions]
If you like to read, we’ve got some news for you. The second-half of 2015 is straight-up, stunningly chock-full of amazing books. The list that follows isn’t exhaustive — no book preview could be — but, at 9,100 words strong and encompassing 82 titles, this is the only second-half 2015 book preview you will ever need. Scroll down and get started.[more inside]
"Although it has been said that every person is the hero of their own life story, it is more accurate to say that every person is the underdog of their own life story." Why southern gothic rules the world [SLGuardian], MO Walsh
Well before Netflix, there was the circulating library. Although circulating libraries large and small were well-established in Britain by the middle of the eighteenth century--some of them, perhaps most (in)famously the Minerva Press, becoming publishing houses themselves--the most powerful circulating libraries came into being during the Victorian era. [more inside]
Summer Reading Guide [LA Times]
Another summer, another chance to draw up the perfect reading list to see you through those languid, sun-drenched days. Whether you’re stretched out by the pool or nestled in a coffee shop, clutching a hardcover, paperback or e-book, we’ve got more than enough titles to keep you reading through Labor Day.[more inside]
In more innocent days, you could write about cocks and not be misunderstood. Unintentional double entendres.
JK Rowling reveals why the Dursleys dislike Harry Potter so much. [The Guardian]
Some readers, Rowling writes, “wanted more from Aunt Petunia during this farewell”. At the start of Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Harry leaves his family behind for good - his cousin Dudley shakes his hand, his uncle Vernon roars “I thought we were on a tight schedule”, and his aunt gives him a final look. Rowling writes in the novel that “for a moment Harry had the strangest feeling that she wanted to say something to him: she gave him an odd, tremulous look and seemed to teeter on the edge of speech, but then, with a little jerk of her head, she bustled out of the room after her husband and son.”Previously. [more inside]
"In keeping with James Joyce’s own love of lists, here’s a terribly subjective list of ten books published in this century that are in different ways as inventive as Ulysses was in 1922. These novels aren’t necessarily inspired by Ulysses, except insofar as it has affected every subsequent novel, but like Joyce’s masterpiece they challenge us in ways we never knew to expect. If nothing else, Bloomsday should remind us to pick up some books not despite their difficulty but because of it." (Electric Literature) [more inside]
James Salter, a ‘Writer’s Writer’ Short on Sales but Long on Acclaim, Dies at 90 [New York Times]
James Salter, whose intimately detailed novels and short stories kept a small but devoted audience in his thrall for more than half a century, died on Friday in Sag Harbor, N.Y. He was 90. His wife, Kay Eldredge, confirmed his death, saying he had been at a physical therapy session. He lived in Bridgehampton, N.Y. Mr. Salter wrote slowly, exactingly and, by almost every critic’s estimation, beautifully. Michael Dirda once observed in The Washington Post that “he can, when he wants, break your heart with a sentence.”Previously. Previously.
22 Books by Black Authors to Add to Your Beach Bag this Summer In response to recently published summer reading lists from The New York Times and NPR that featured mostly White authors, Blavity shares a list of 22 summer reads from Black authors. [more inside]
I Read The New “Fifty Shades” Book (SLBuzzfeed) (NSFW)
The Romantic True Story Behind James Joyce’s Bloomsday [TIME]
The day June 16, 1904, was a big one in the romantic life of Leopold Bloom, the protagonist of James Joyces’ Ulysses, at least inside his head. In celebration of that day, and Bloom’s fictional perambulations around Dublin during the course of it, James Joyce fans mark the date each year as “Bloomsday.” It is, as TIME explained in 1982, “a sacred date on the calendar of all Joyceans.”[more inside]
Ulysses and Us by Declan Kiberd [Irish Times]
In some ways the fate of Ulysses reflects this openness, at least in the Dublin of today. It seems a work of high modernism, in the manner of a Proust or a Musil, yet it has become a signature element in the life of the city in which it is set. Each year hundreds, maybe thousands, dress as characters from the book – Stephen Dedalus with his cane, Leopold Bloom with bowler hat, Molly Bloom in her petticoats, Blazes Boylan in straw boater – as if to assert their willingness to become one with the text. They re-enact scenes on Eccles Street, on Ormond Quay and in the martello tower in Sandycove. It is impossible to imagine any other masterpiece of modernism having quite such an effect on the life of a city.[more inside]
Terry Pratchett's daughter declares The Shepherd's Crown will be the last Discworld novel. [The Guardian] [Books]
Terry Pratchett’s daughter Rhianna has brought down the curtain on her father’s Discworld novels, declaring that she will not write any more herself, nor give anyone else permission to do so. The comic novels set in a world balanced on the backs of four elephants standing on a giant turtle are “sacred to dad”, she said. The author, videogame and comics writer told a fan last week that her late father’s forthcoming novel, The Shepherd’s Crown, featuring teenage witch Tiffany Aching, would be the final Discworld book. And asked by a fan if she would be continuing the series herself, she ruled out the possibility. “No. I’ll work on adaptations, spin-offs, maybe tie-ins, but the books are sacred to dad,” she wrote on Twitter. “That’s it. Discworld is his legacy. I shall make my own.” She added: “To reiterate – no I don’t intend on writing more Discworld novels, or giving anyone else permission to do so.”[more inside]
"Bibliotherapy is a very broad term for the ancient practice of encouraging reading for therapeutic effect. ... Today, bibliotherapy takes many different forms, from literature courses run for prison inmates to reading circles for elderly people suffering from dementia. Sometimes it can simply mean one-on-one or group sessions for “lapsed” readers who want to find their way back to an enjoyment of books. [Ella] Berthoud and her longtime friend and fellow bibliotherapist Susan Elderkin mostly practice “affective” bibliotherapy, advocating the restorative power of reading fiction." [more inside]
"Let’s have a year of publishing only women." ~ Kamila Shamsie [The Guardian] [Books]
It is clear that there is a gender bias in publishing houses and the world of books. Well, enough. Why not try something radical? Make 2018 the Year of Publishing Women, in which no new titles should be by men.[more inside]
"If you love old books, you've come to the right place." Quill is a project by Medieval book historian Erik Kwakkel and librarian/photographer Giulio Menna, detailing the laborious process of creating a manuscript before Gutenberg. Learn what a "quire" is, and the origin of the term "watermark." [more inside]
Matt Kahn has read and reviewed every bestselling novel of the last 100 years, starting with The Inside of the Cup (1913), including masterpieces like s like All Quiet on the Western Front (1929) to the surprisingly dark E.T., the Extra-Terrestrial (1982) to a reluctant slog through John Grishham, ending with The Fault in Our Stars (2014). Interview.
From plitter to drabbletail: a few writers choose the words they love. [The Guardian] [Books]
Dialect terms such as yokeymajig or whiffle-whaffle; all-time favourites like cochineal, clot or eschew; antiquated phrases such as ‘playing the giddy ox’ … leading writers on the words they cherish.[more inside]
OK, I actually knew that, although I didn't realize that anonymous authors were still cranking out Hardy Boys (and Nancy Drew) books.