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Judging a Book by Its... Well, You Know

Do you like books for more than just the words inside? Here, thanks to MeFi's own Jason Kottke, are four and a half lists of the best book covers of 2014.
posted by Etrigan on Dec 16, 2014 - 8 comments

César Aira

“I‘ve realized that the perfect length for what I do is 100 pages. In my brevity there may be an element of insecurity. I wouldn‘t dare give a 1,000-page novel to a reader […] My novels became shorter as I became more renowned. People now allow me to do whatever I want. At any rate, publishers prefer thick books. But with books, the thicker they are, the less literature they have.””—César Aira [more inside]
posted by misteraitch on Dec 15, 2014 - 24 comments

Electric Literature's 25 Best Novels of 2014

"Year-end lists are always subjective and incomplete, but they are especially tricky for books. A dedicated film critic can watch every wide release film and a theater critic can go to most every play, but the book critic is faced with an insurmountable mountain of books each year. The sheer number of books is inspiring as a reader, but it can make 'best of' lists laughably subjective when the critic has only read a fraction of the hundreds of thousands of novels published each year. With that in mind, I decided to crowd source Electric Literature’s year-end lists. First up: novels."
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Dec 10, 2014 - 31 comments

Book-selling on Mutanabbi Street: texts from vital sidewalks

Al-Mutanabbi is an open book, bearing symbols that are deeply etched into the body of today’s Baghdad. The street has no endpoint. [more inside]
posted by standardasparagus on Dec 9, 2014 - 4 comments

anxieties about lurid voyeurism, unwholesome interest: In Cold Blood

"Much has been said about the storytelling techniques of 'Serial,' which comes out in weekly installments even as the show’s host, Sarah Koenig, reinvestigates the conviction of a Baltimore-area teenager for the murder of his ex-girlfriend. The serialized approach teases its audience with cliffhangers, prompts its listeners to construct their own theories and invites outsiders to glimpse the tricky winnowing process of reporting. But 'Serial' also testifies to how much the criminal justice system itself is founded on storytelling." (Laura Miller, Salon: The new "In Cold Blood" revisionism: Why it doesn't matter if Capote’s classic wasn't fully true) [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Dec 8, 2014 - 29 comments

The crash team entering the delivery room was the first sign

The specialists began to use terms such as "quality of life" to describe all the things she was likely to be without. My husband, Michael, realized it was going to be nearly impossible to pry me away from her bedside. He asked what he could bring me from home: a change of clothes, sweater, food, or something to read? I asked him to bring me anything by Anne McCaffrey.
"Changes Without Notice" is one reader's personal essay about discovering a book at just the right moment. An afterword in Dragonwriter says a little more about how things turned out. [Via and previously.]
posted by Monsieur Caution on Dec 5, 2014 - 12 comments

Into the indestructible realm of mystery and dream

Steven Millhauser is an American Pulitzer Prize-winning fiction author known for his erudite, witty and surreal writing style that blends the magical and the real. Enjoy the full text of Eisenheim The Illusionist (pdf, 20 pages), the story that inspired the 2006 film The Illusionist. [more inside]
posted by quiet earth on Dec 5, 2014 - 5 comments

sweating metaphorical bullets daily in front of my Hermes 2000

William Gibson: how I wrote Neuromancer
posted by fearfulsymmetry on Dec 2, 2014 - 66 comments

“If you can read you can cook. You can always feed yourselves..."

Kent Haruf, ‘a great writer and a great man’, dies aged 71 [The Guardian]
"Pan Macmillan, Haruf’s UK publisher, said that the novelist died on Sunday 30 November, praising his “beautifully restrained, profoundly felt novels” which it said “reflected a man of integrity, honesty and deep thoughtfulness”."

posted by Fizz on Dec 2, 2014 - 5 comments

Very very small numbers

Do you have good eyesight and a steady hand? How about a grown-up dot-to-dot picture to pass the time? Thomas Pavitte is the author of not only the 1000 Dot to Dot Portrait book but the 1000 Dot to Dot Cities Book (video), the 1000 Dot to Dot Animals Book (video), and various others including the Mona Lisa. (free download)
posted by bq on Dec 1, 2014 - 11 comments

Truth is harder to tell than a lie

The habitual liar may be a very honest fellow, and live truly with his wife and friends; while another man who never told a formal falsehood in his life may yet be himself one lie-heart and face, from top to bottom. This is the kind of lie which poisons intimacy. And, vice versa, veracity to sentiment, truth in a relation, truth to your own heart and your friends, never to feign or falsify emotion—that is the truth which makes love possible and mankind happy. Robert Louis Stevenson on truth and writing.
posted by shivohum on Nov 30, 2014 - 5 comments

"Without books the world would be empty, like a bucket without water."

In this interview the splendid eight-year-old Madison makes it clear that she really loves books and the new Little Free Libraries that are in her Cleveland neighborhood of Fairfax. A Little Free Library [previous and ly] is a small, sturdy box full of books that local communities take are of all over the world. The non-profit organization behind it received the 2014 Innovation in Reading Award from the National Book Foundation.
posted by Kattullus on Nov 28, 2014 - 43 comments

You must know thrilling things before you can write about them

I never correct anything and I never go back to what I have written, except to the foot of the last page to see where I have got to. If you once look back, you are lost. How could you have written this drivel? How could you have used "terrible" six times on one page? And so forth. If you interrupt the writing of fast narrative with too much introspection and self-criticism, you will be lucky if you write 500 words a day and you will be disgusted with them into the bargain. A year before his death, James Bond author Ian Fleming explained how to write a thriller.
posted by shivohum on Nov 26, 2014 - 25 comments

"Are we unable to live without a system of walls?"

Racing to Checkpoint Charlie – my memories of the Berlin Wall by Haruki Murakami [The Guardian] The Japanese novelist on why the fall of the Berlin wall has such resonance with his novels.
posted by Fizz on Nov 22, 2014 - 10 comments

The best children's books of 2014

Maria Popova on the story, art, and universal truths of this year's best books for kids. [more inside]
posted by Banknote of the year on Nov 22, 2014 - 6 comments

Position yourself, whenever possible, at the top of a flight of stairs.

Bookish Beauty Tips from the Toast.
posted by Solon and Thanks on Nov 20, 2014 - 9 comments

How To Write A Shitty Young Adult Novel

"Books are dead. It's sad, but it's basically true. Sure, you can eke out a decent living if you dedicate yourself to your craft, spend years researching niche topics, and fleshing out the true human characteristics of your characters–that is, if you're extremely lucky and enormously talented. Or you could write a young adult novel."

posted by Jacqueline on Nov 20, 2014 - 126 comments

Looking at Isaac Asimov's "Foundation" series.

Isaac Asimov's Foundation: The little idea that became science fiction's biggest series [SPOILERS] (io9)
On the planet Terminus, a group of academics struggles to survive as the Galactic Empire crumbles. With no weapons, all they can rely on are the predictions of a dead genius named Hari Seldon. That's right — it's time to discuss Isaac Asimov's Foundation!

Welcome to Foundation Week, a Blogging the Hugos special event. In 1983, Isaac Asimov won the Hugo Award for Best Novel for Foundation's Edge, in which he revisited his groundbreaking Foundation mythos for the first time in over thirty years. Because the Foundation series is such classic, quintessential, and beloved science fiction — the original stories won their own unique Hugo for Best All-Time Series in 1966, and influenced artists from Douglas Adams to George Lucas — Josh Wimmer and Alasdair Wilkins will be discussing each of the seven books between today and Sunday. We begin with Foundation, published in 1951.
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Nov 13, 2014 - 87 comments

"A sure sign of a good book is that you like it more the older you get."

First editions, second thoughts: [New York Times] "On December 2, Christie's will auction 75 first-edition books, each of which is a unique object that has been annotated with words and/or illustrations by its author. Proceeds from the auction will benefit PEN American Center."
posted by Fizz on Nov 6, 2014 - 6 comments

Literature - good God y'all - what is it good for? Absolutely something.

What is Literature for? [SLVimeo]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Nov 3, 2014 - 6 comments

The internal threats of Stephen King's books

The closest a film has ever come to adapting King’s internal-horror aesthetic is a film King himself has publicly lambasted: Kubrick’s version of The Shining. It’s the most artful, scary, and beautifully directed of the King adaptations, and even excludes some of the novel’s more overt (and potentially silly) visual elements, such as the hedge animals that come to life and stalk the family in the yard. Yet, the film never tackles the serious human horrors that infect Jack Torrance throughout the novel, specifically his alcoholism, along with the themes of cyclical abuse and mounting financial pressure. King’s criticism of the film is that Torrance, as played by Jack Nicholson, is portrayed as unhinged right from the start, whereas the novel slowly unravels the man’s sanity, the haunted house he occupies pushing him deeper into madness and violence. [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 28, 2014 - 87 comments

“I wanted this to be the saddest thing I’d ever written,”

Closing a Chapter of a Literary Life [New York Times] Ahead of the American publication of his latest work, “The Book of Strange New Things,” Michel Faber discusses it and why it will be his last novel.
posted by Fizz on Oct 26, 2014 - 10 comments

Once outsold Dickens - now called "the other Dickens"

As the nights are beginning to draw in and Halloween approaches, how about something to make the flesh creep and send a shiver down the spine? Charles Dickens was a master of the macabre, whether it’s in his Christmas ghost stories such as A Christmas Carol, in the chilling Gothic emptiness of Satis House in Great Expectations or the dirty squalor of London in Oliver Twist. But there was another novelist who most people have never heard of, whose books also offered the Victorian reading public a good helping of horror. At the height of his career, he sold more copies of his work than Dickens, who is widely thought to have been the bestselling novelist of the age. This other writer’s name was George W. M. Reynolds, and he has recently been called ‘the other Dickens’. 2014 marks the bicentenary of his birth.
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 26, 2014 - 7 comments

What to read when pressed for time.

17 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read in a Sitting by Lincoln Michel at Electric Literature:
This week author Ian McEwan expressed his love of short novels, saying “very few [long] novels earn their length.” Certainly it seems like a novel has to be a minimum of 500 pages to win a major literary award these days, and many genre novels have ballooned to absurd sizes.

I love a good tome, but like McEwan many of my favorite novels are sharpened little gems. It’s immensely satisfying to finish a book in a single day, so in the spirit of celebrating quick reads here are some of my favorite short novels. I’ve tried to avoid the most obvious titles that are regularly assigned in school (The Stranger, Heart of Darkness, Mrs Dalloway, Of Mice and Men, Frankenstein, The Crying of Lot 49, etc.). Hopefully you’ll find some titles here you haven’t read before.
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 23, 2014 - 51 comments

Far beyond "every good boy does fine"

Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People Toby W. Rush's "Music Theory for Musicians and Normal People" covers a massive range of topics like pitch, rhythm, scales, intervals, and harmonics. The online book itself is arranged as a collection of about 50 PDFs that offer diagrams, notes, and tips for everything music theory related. [more inside]
posted by Lexica on Oct 23, 2014 - 26 comments

"Would the cook were of my mind!" ~ William Shakespeare

Cooking the Books
"Cooking the Books is an internet cooking show hosted by Emily Gould in which she invites famous authors into her kitchen to make food inspired by their books."
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Oct 21, 2014 - 8 comments

I spent 10 years doing New York all wrong

Adelle Waldman, author of The Love Affairs of Nathaniel P., was a lonely aspiring writer in New York, generally unhappy. Then she moved to Brooklyn and found that community made all the difference.
posted by shivohum on Oct 13, 2014 - 16 comments

the dangerous precision worship

Among a rising chorus of folks speaking out about problems caused by America's obsession with football at every level, author (and fan) Steve Almond's voice stands out the loudest. His new book Against Football argues that "our allegiance to football legitimizes and even fosters within us a tolerance for violence, greed, racism, and homophobia." In a nutshell "Fans should stop watching." Needless to say the book has provoked a strong reaction in fans (and defensive sportswriters), most notably in New York Mag, with Jonathan Chait's personal story of how football made him a better person: "In Defense of Male Aggression: What Liberals Get Wrong About Football". [more inside]
posted by Potomac Avenue on Oct 13, 2014 - 170 comments

“Not everybody wants to read about vampires and dystopia,”

To Lure Young Readers, Nonfiction Writers Sanitize and Simplify: [New York Times]
"Inspired by the booming market for young adult novels, a growing number of biographers and historians are retrofitting their works to make them palatable for younger readers."

posted by Fizz on Oct 9, 2014 - 24 comments

Philosophical science fiction - suggested reading lists

A collection of philosophical science/speculative fiction reading lists, (with decent amount of short fiction and some media thrown in) with short "why you should read this " blurbs. The suggestions are made by professional philosophers and philosophy-trained SF writers, and curated by Eric Schwitzgebel, Professor of Philosophy at UC Riverside. Part 2, Part 3 With more suggestions promised to come. (Previously, a course on Science Fiction and Political Science , previouslier - curated lists of anarchist and socialist science fiction
posted by Another Fine Product From The Nonsense Factory on Oct 8, 2014 - 21 comments

If it ain't broke, break it: the unspoken motto of The Kinks

"HH [Henry Hauser]: Ryan and Nina are right on target. The Ray-Dave sibling rivalry sparked many of The Kinks' most spontaneous (and brilliant) musical moments. The Storyteller, Ray's riveting account of early life in the Davies household and his band’s rise to prominence, has him describing how he and Dave exchanged scornful looks while recording "You Really Got Me". The elder Davies swears that if you listen closely, you can actually hear Dave yelling "Fuckkkoffff" right before his guitar solo. Ray salvaged the track by covering up Dave's profane exclamation with his own unscripted outburst ("Owwwww noooooo!"), and the impromptu rock scream turned into one of the most memorable quirks in Kinks history. It perfectly captures the animalistic agony that accompanies hopeless infatuation. Without the Ray-Dave rivalry, it would never have happened."

Henry Hauser, Ryan Bray, Nina Corcoran, and Stevie Dunbar at Consequence of Sound hold a round-table discussion in "Dusting 'Em Off: The Kinks – The Kinks". [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 7, 2014 - 28 comments

Germany's 2014 Africa Prize for rescuing Timbuktu manuscripts

Abdel Kader Haidara awarded Germany's 2014 Africa Prize for rescuing Timbuktu manuscripts. Under his direction centuries' worth of texts were smuggled out when the city was taken by book-burning religious conservatives in 2012. The collection is currently in Mali's capital Bamako where it is being preserved and digitized. More text, slideshow, video, previously previously previously [more inside]
posted by XMLicious on Oct 6, 2014 - 18 comments

"Once there was a tree . . . "

‘The Giving Tree’: Tender Story of Unconditional Love or Disturbing Tale of Selfishness?
Anna Holmes and Rivka Galchen reconsider Shel Silverstein’s classic, published 50 years ago.

posted by Fizz on Oct 6, 2014 - 130 comments

"Author jumps up and down with joy when book does arrive"

A charming infographic on how publishing works (according to Floris Books). Via. [more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Oct 3, 2014 - 25 comments

“There is such a thing as the courage in remaining baffled.”

Donald Antrim and the Art of Anxiety by John Jeremiah Sullivan [New York Times]
posted by Fizz on Oct 1, 2014 - 10 comments

Stuff in Old Books

Stuff in Old Books, from Brisbane's Bent Books. Bonus: Things Found in Books
posted by turbid dahlia on Sep 25, 2014 - 28 comments

The 50 Year Argument

The New York Review of Books recently celebrated the 50th anniversary of its founding (previously), growing out of an alliance between Harpers editor Robert Silvers and writer Elizabeth Hardwick to find a place for what she called "the unusual, the difficult, the lengthy, the intransigent, and above all, the interesting." Known as the New York Review or the NYRB, it is also known to fans as the best magazine in the world. Next Monday, HBO will air The 50-Year Argument, a documentary by Martin Scorsese about the history of the magazine and what makes it special. [more inside]
posted by grobstein on Sep 24, 2014 - 19 comments

It all comes back to fun

When the champion of adult culture is portrayed, even by himself, as an old curmudgeon yelling at the kids to get off his lawn, it suggests that this adult culture is one of the unfortunate but necessary costs of coming into adulthood. We give up the pleasures of entertainment for the seriousness of art. I just don’t think that this is true. Christopher Beha on Henry James and the Great Young Adult Debate.
posted by shivohum on Sep 21, 2014 - 48 comments

"distinctly queer and contemporary, as if retrofitting a classic car"

"Longings and Desires", a Slate.com book review by Amanda Katz:
[Sarah] Waters, who was born in Wales in 1966, has carved out an unusual spot in fiction. Her six novels, beginning with Tipping the Velvet in 1998, could be called historical fiction, but that doesn’t begin to capture their appeal. It is closer to say that she is creating pitch-perfect popular fiction of an earlier time, but swapping out its original moral engine for a sensibility that is distinctly queer and contemporary, as if retrofitting a classic car.

Her books offer something like an alternate reality—a literary one, if not a historical one. There may have been lesbian male impersonators working the London music halls in the 1890s, as in Tipping the Velvet, but there were certainly not mainstream novels devoted to their inner lives and sexual exploits. Waters gives such characters their say in books that imitate earlier crowd-pleasers in their structure, slang, and atmosphere, but that are powered by queer longing, defiant identity politics, and lusty, occasionally downright kinky sex. (An exception is her last novel, The Little Stranger.) The most masterful of these books so far is Fingersmith, a Wilkie Collins-esque tale full of genuinely shocking twists (thieves, double-crossing, asylums, mistaken identity, just go read it). The saddest is The Night Watch, a tale told in reverse of a group of entwined characters during and after World War II. But among many readers she is still most beloved for Tipping the Velvet, a deliriously paced coming-of-age story that is impossible to read in public without blushing.
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Sep 20, 2014 - 29 comments

“Lovers of print are simply confusing the plate for the food.”

International Read an E-Book Day:
The new holday -- "holiday"? -- is the brainchild of OverDrive, a major e-book distributor. OverDrive is the country's largest provider of e-books to libraries; it handles e-books from 5,000 publishers, including major Penguin Random House, Macmillan, HarperCollins, Perseus, Wiley, and Harlequin. If you've ever checked an e-book out from the L.A. Public Library, it was provided by OverDrive. To celebrate International Read an E-book Day, Overdrive will be giving away tablets and e-reading devices at the readanebookday.com website and through social media. Readers are asked to "tell their story of what eBooks mean to them" and use the hashtag #eBookDay to be eligible.
via: L.A. Times
posted by Fizz on Sep 18, 2014 - 88 comments

Calculus without limits

Hyperreal numbers: infinities and infinitesimals - "In 1976, Jerome Keisler, a student of the famous logician Tarski, published this elementary textbook that teaches calculus using hyperreal numbers. Now it's free, with a Creative Commons copyright!" (pdf—25mb :) [more inside]
posted by kliuless on Sep 17, 2014 - 34 comments

How to become your own Brewmaster, even in a smallish kitchen

How To Home Brew Beer in Your Kitchen, from Drink [Craft] Beer:
Brewing beer in your home can be as simple, or as complicated, as you want to make it. Here, we’re going to present the simple way. There is a lot of science you can get into, but we’re going to skip a lot of that as there are a lot of people who can tell you about it a lot better than we can. And they have books out (John Palmer’s How to Brew (online), and Charlie Papazian’s The Complete Joy of Homebrewing). We’d recommend reading these books at some point. You’ll learn a lot about why everything happens, how brewing really works and just a lot more in-depth information. If you want to make this a serious hobby, those are two can’t miss books.

In this article, though, we’re going to run through step-by-step how to brew in a small kitchen setting. We know many of you live in apartments (we do), and we’ve heard too many people say they can’t brew because of this. You can! We know this, because we do it. We’ll show you how to go about brewing your first batch. Plus, we’re including pictures to really show you how it’s done. So, let’s get brewing!
[more inside]
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Sep 17, 2014 - 64 comments

Artificial Intelligence as an existential threat

If there is one thing we've learned from movies like Terminator and the Matrix, it's that an artificial robotic intelligence will one day force mankind into a seemingly hopeless battle for its survival. Now a new book by Swedish philosopher Nick Bostrom provides detailed arguments in support of your fears of Skynet, and ideas about we might protect ourselves from an A.I. Apocalypse: Superintelligence: Paths, Dangers, Strategies. An excerpt at Slate discusses how intelligence could be related to goals: You Should Be Terrified of Superintelligent Machines. Ron Bailey reviews Bostrom at Reason Magazine. The Chronicle of Higher Education also has a new article that discusses more than Bostrom's book: Is Artificial Intelligence a Threat? [more inside]
posted by dgaicun on Sep 16, 2014 - 92 comments

"How to Keep Your Cat, c. 1470"

If you have a good cat and you don't want to lose it, you must rub its nose and four legs with butter for three days, and it will never leave the house. [more inside]
posted by Quietgal on Sep 13, 2014 - 63 comments

Let’s talk about margins

We’re making a book. The margins are important. Do you know how important? [SLMed]
posted by infini on Sep 12, 2014 - 43 comments

Pratchett's Women

Pratchett's Women: nine essays (by Australian fantasy author Tansy Rayner Roberts) on the portrayal of women in the Discworld books [more inside]
posted by flex on Sep 7, 2014 - 57 comments

Bringing about Armageddon can be dangerous. Especially on the Radio.

The BBC has announced that it will be producing a radio dramatization of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's book, Good Omens. The radio drama will be broadcast as six episodes in December on BBC Radio 4, and will feature Mark Heap and Peter Serafinowicz in the lead roles.
posted by schmod on Sep 7, 2014 - 39 comments

i want the regina dress now

Geeky women's clothing company Her Universe teamed up with Hot Topic and Nerdist to present a fandom couture competition and fashion show. Here are some highlights. [more inside]
posted by divabat on Sep 4, 2014 - 34 comments

Do you ever dream of starting again in a new skin?

Uncomfortable in His Own Skin ‘Your Face in Mine,’ by Jess Row, a Novel About Changing Race: [New York Times]
"When literary fiction dares examine the issue of race at all, it is usually done in an exceedingly tone-deaf way (think William Styron’s Confessions Of Nat Turner or Kathryn Stockett’s The Help) or from a somewhat safe remove (think Chabon’s Telegraph Avenue). It always seems as if the story is accompanied by a blaring announcement that it’s time for this (white) protagonist to learn something. Sometimes the pedantic drum-banging can get so excessive it drowns out everything else, including the inclination to tell a good story. If nothing else, the debut novel from Jess Row, Your Face In Mine, is a refreshing plunge into the deep end of the race conversation." [A.V. Club]
[more inside]
posted by Fizz on Aug 31, 2014 - 6 comments

Leading Ladies

Big list of Games – "An unfiltered list of games featuring a leading lady, because such a list should exist."
Have a suggestion for a game?
Leading Ladies in Media – "Highlighting female protagonists in Film, TV, Comics, and Books."
Bonus link: hardcore gamingFuck Yeah 1990s
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome on Aug 29, 2014 - 27 comments

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