One breezy afternoon in 2001, two friends of mine, Richard and Dido, were mooching around a building site in Cambridge when they came across a battered yellow skip. Inside were 148 handwritten notebooks. Some were crammed into an old bottle box that had jaunty green print on the side: "Ribena! 5d!" Most were scattered across the bricks exultantly. A few had royal emblems from George VI's time. Others were bright, bubblegum colours, tangerine and mushy-pea green. A chalky jotter that Dido picked up broke like chocolate. Inside, the rotted pages were filled with urgent handwriting. Running up one of the margins were the words, "Hope my diaries aren't blown up before people can read them – they have immortal value." There was no name or return address on the books. The diarist was simply "I" who had lived, and then died, and been pitched in a skip.– Diary of a somebody: could I solve the mystery of 148 lost notebooks? is an essay by Alexander Masters about the writing of his new book, A Life Discarded.
Why Five Friends Stopped Watching the NFL and Started a Book Club
Instead of watching the NFL, we’re launching Football Book Club. And you know what: No one ever got concussed reading The Goldfinch. No one ever suffered a career-ending cervical spine injury curling up with his Kindle. No one’s mind was every slowly destroyed by books — the effect is really quite the opposite — despite what some social conservatives would have you believe. And, best of all: There is no way Roger Goodell can ruin this — he’s not even invited. Every week, we’re exchanging one love for another: Instead of turning on the TV, we’ll read a new book — great works of fiction and nonfiction, poetry and graphic novels — and then we’ll share our thoughts about the current title and what our lives are like without the NFL.[more inside]
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]
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."
The Millions has finished its Year In Reading for 2013. Sixty-eight people, including Metafilter's own Stephen Dodson, write about the books they read in 2013. Highlights include Choire Sicha, editor at The Awl, Sergio de la Pava, who wrote A Naked Singularity, and Rachel Kushner, who wrote The Flamethrowers. Full list here.
"During his days as Harvard’s influential president, Dr. Charles W. Eliot made a frequent assertion: If you were to spend just 15 minutes a day reading the right books, a quantity that could fit on a five-foot shelf, you could give yourself a proper liberal education. Publisher P. F. Collier and Son loved the idea and asked Eliot to compile and edit the right collection of works. The result: a 51-volume series of classic works from world literature published in 1909 called Dr. Eliot’s Five Foot Shelf, which would later be called The Harvard Classics." (Via) [more inside]
"De Villiers has spent most of his life cultivating spies and diplomats, who seem to enjoy seeing themselves and their secrets transfigured into pop fiction (with their own names carefully disguised), and his books regularly contain information about terror plots, espionage and wars that has never appeared elsewhere. Other pop novelists, like John le Carré and Tom Clancy, may flavor their work with a few real-world scenarios and some spy lingo, but de Villiers’s books are ahead of the news and sometimes even ahead of events themselves." (SLNYT)
My 6,128 Favorite Books - "Joe Queenan on how a harmless juvenile pastime turned into a lifelong personality disorder."
Karyn Reeves collects Penguin paperbacks. She reads and reviews a Penguin a week. She also blogs about Penguins (such as the elusive green Penguins) and showcases classic Penguin book covers. Nonfiction fans may want to check out her list of Pelicans - or visit the Pelican Project at Things Magazine (previously).
"Book TV's After Words features the author of a recently published hardback non-fiction book interviewed by a guest host with some knowledge, background, or connection to the subject matter of the book." There's also a podcast version (link goes to XML feed), for those who'd rather listen. Many more non-fiction author interviews can be found at Booknotes (transcripts and streaming video). If your tastes run to interviews with authors of fiction, check out the BBC's Modern Writers archive. (BookTV (but not specifically After Words) previously, Booknotes (but before the series ended) previously.)
The 100 greatest non-fiction books: [Via: The Guardian] After keen debate at the Guardian's books desk, this is our list of the very best factual writing, organised by category, and then by date.
The Page 69 Test --inspired by Marshall McLuhan's suggestion to readers for choosing a novel, a new blog, inviting authors to describe what's on page 69. One says: Not the best, but not the worst. If my pages were presidents, I’d put page 69 somewhere in the James K. Polk range.
Booktribes is a new site from the creators of writing site Abctales where bibliophiles can compile lists of every book they've ever read. Replete with a simple, intuitive interface, compiling your life's reading list becomes strangely addictive, and for the whole of March, the best comment of the day on this as-yet underpopulated site wins a copy of David Mitchell's Black Swan Green, with the best comment of the month winning the entire 21 volume Sceptre Collection. And if you're worried your reading list isn't up to scratch, don't panic - you can always cheat.
"When I read his work, I forgive him all his sins". Edmund Wilson disliked being called a critic. He thought of himself as a journalist, and nearly all his work was done for commercial magazines, principally Vanity Fair, in the nineteen-twenties; The New Republic, in the nineteen-twenties and thirties; The New Yorker, beginning in the nineteen-forties; and The New York Review of Books, in the nineteen-sixties. He was exceptionally well read: he had had a first-class education in English, French, and Italian literature, and he kept adding languages all his life. He learned to read German, Russian, and Hebrew; when he died, in 1972, he was working on Hungarian. Edmund Wilson and American culture. (more inside)
Showing Off a Little (Inner) Cleavage. Author Geralyn Lucas wore bright, red lipstick to her mastectomy. "It was my way of saying I knew I would still be a woman when I woke up with a blood-soaked bandage where my breast used to be... women have sacrificed breasts and hair to try to save their lives. We have traded in our beauty for some kind of cure. But something strange often happens when we lose the bling — the big boobs and big hair — of womanhood. We're left with what I call 'inner cleavage,' and no plastic surgeon can sculpt it. It is the beauty that exists when everything else has been stripped away". Lauren Greenfield photographs here. More inside.
Has anyone read "Swimming Across" by Andy Grove? It appears to be pretty far from the traditional "look-at-me, revel in my vision, I'm an uber-CEO," self-promotional book; he never even gets into his Intel career, apparently. Instead it's an account of Grove's childhood in Hitler and Stalin's Hungary and the story of how he came to America. The book has been getting great reviews, from people as diverse as Tom Brokaw, Elie Wiesel and Monica Seles. Still, the cynic in me says that no matter how dramatic the tale, when you're a Fotune 500 CEO, you always have other motives. Perhaps I'm just too cynical. So again, has anyone read it? What did you think?