On Reading

An old-school book lover in praise of the audiobook

Brian Howe admits, “I don’t always take easily to new technology.” He still doesn’t use an e-reader—not, he explains, as an ethical matter but because texts for his obscure reading tastes, like small-press poetry, are generally not available as e-books.

But, Howe says, he has become a fan of audiobooks. He started when a new job required a long commute. He started with genre fiction and with books he’d already read in print. Gillian Flynn’s “_Gone Girl_ was the turning point when audiobooks began to shed their guilty pleasure status.” He found the actors who read the parts of Nick and Amy so captivating that when he saw what he calls “the horridly miscast movie, I hated it, because those voice actors were Nick and Amy to me.”

I had a similar concern with the Harry Potter series. I’ve never read any of the books in print. I came to all of them through the captivating audio versions narrated by Jim Dale. Although Dale read the whole book himself, he used several voices for the various characters. When the first Harry Potter movie was set to debut, I wondered if Jim Dale’s reading would spoil the experience of hearing different voices by the actors in the movie. But it didn’t, even though I loved Dale’s reading.

For Howe, “The best audiobooks transcend mere recitations to become dramatic productions, somewhere between novels and plays.” Although I loved Jim Dale’s variety of voices, I prefer that approach of a single reader to more dramatic audio representations in which different actors voice the various characters. I find such representations slightly annoying because they break for me the feeling that I’m still “reading” a work of literature. Plays are good things, but I also love the fact of having a novel’s world build up in my head as I read. Audiobooks with multiple readers break that illusion for me by making a book seem more like a theatrical presentation than a novel.

But I am glad to read Howe’s admission that “Audiobooks will never replace reading for me, but they have become a unique, enriching annex of it.” I’ve never understood why many readers are so eager to think in dichotomies, forcing us to choose between print and e-books, and between reading and listening. Why do we have to choose just one? I have room in my own life for print books, e-books, and audiobooks. One isn’t inherently better than the others. They’re just different choices available to allow us to experience literature under different circumstances.

Is Literary Adaptation Better on Film or on Television?

M. King Adkins addresses a different question: Which is better, a film or a television adaptation of a book? Adkins cites the statistic that “between 1994 and 2013, 58 percent of the top grossing movies produced were some sort of adaptation (Novels into Films: The Metamorphosis of Fiction into Cinema, George Bluestone, 2003).”

When we read a novel, Adkins writes, we know the end is coming as the stack of pages under our right hand becomes thinner and thinner.

Television series, on the other hand just don’t resolve, at least not until they must. Instead, they actively avoid resolution, delaying it to the last possible moment: the finalé (and how many of those have turned out to be satisfying?)

And, Adkins continues, video games go television even one better by allowing us to participate in the acting out, and thereby the writing, of the narrative. This brings him to the following conclusion:

I doubt very much we will stop pushing the generic boundaries until it’s possible to plug our brains directly into the computer and live out an alternative existence. Mark my words: one of these days, you’ll notice, in fine print at the bottom of your vision, “This life is based on the book by…”

‘Writing America’ identifies our literary landmarks

In “Writing America,” Stanford professor Shelley Fisher Fishkin surveys the literary landscape, exploring the ways American writers have influenced, and been influenced by, their surroundings. Published on the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Historic Preservation Act, the book traces the footsteps of William Faulkner, Allen Ginsberg, Zora Neale Hurston, Herman Melville, Harriet Beecher Stowe and many others.

4 Steps to Read Like a Writer

The Write Practice is a web site aimed at helping fiction writers get better at their craft. To be a good writer one must also be a good reader, and in this article Ruthanne Reid explains how to read like a writer. But even if you don’t aspire to write fiction, you can become a better reader.

According to Reid, there are four steps to reading like a writer:

(1) Marking passages that you find particularly moving while reading. You can’t analyze effective passages unless you can find them. For this Reid recommends—no surprise here—the use of sticky notes.

(2) Asking three big questions:

  • What was powerful?
  • Why was it powerful?
  • How did it achieve that power?

(3) Mimicking your favorite books. Practice writing in other writers’ styles so that you can discover your own.

(4) Practicing.

Read Reid’s explanations of how to perform these four steps to help you read like a writer.

Related material: Reading Like a Writer by Francine Prose. See especially the first chapter, entitled “Close Reading.”

How Fiction Works

Vanishing Point

This piece is a translation of a speech given by Swedish novelist Karl Ove Knausgaard on receiving a German literary award. Here the writer explains how reading fiction helps us to understand humanity in general by focusing our awareness on individual people.

What characterizes our age is “the sheer volume of images of the world” that allow us to see, almost instantly, an event that occurs anywhere on the planet: natural disasters, plane crashes, acts of terrorism. We see these images as we go about our day-to-day lives, and usually “we keep these different levels of reality apart:

Even the worst disasters are something I merely register, with varying degrees of horror, as if the world outside were a film, a play, a performance, of concern to me only in the most superficial manner.

Our lives are so bound up with the media:

which by its very nature creates remoteness, its narrative structures rendering every event equal, every occurrence identical, thereby dissolving the particular, the singular, the unique, in that way lying to us, or, put differently, fictionalizing our reality.

But occasionally “the two levels of reality converge and become one.”

And in our humanity, “there is a vanishing point.” It’s the point at which our perspective of the world shifts from definite to indefinite and back again. We see images of the mass of humanity, not of individual people. But novels provide the opportunity for the opposite movement:

if there is an ethics of the novel, then it is here, in the zone that lies between the one and the all, that it comes into force and takes its basis. The instant a novel is opened and a reader begins to read, the remoteness between writer and reader dissolves. The other that thereby emerges does so in the reader’s imagination, assimilating at once into his or her mind. This establishing of proximity to another self is characteristic of the novel.

The way in which the world of a novel takes shape in the reader’s mind “is special to the form.” In showing us “value of the particular and the singular,” novels act differently than the media, which push us to see humanity as a whole rather than as a collection of individual people.

Lorin Stein on the Power of Ambiguity in Fiction

woman readingLorin Stein is editor at The Paris Review, one of the world’s most respected literary journals. He has compiled an anthology, The Unprofessionals, of short fiction from the magazine that focuses on the work of a “new generation of writers under 40.” Most of these writers’ names will be unfamiliar to readers, but, according to Stein, their work represents “the best new writing he’s seeing today,” work that “locates a role for literary writing in our media-saturated 21st century.”

In this interview with Joe Fassler for The Atlantic, Stein describes this new kind of writing:

The stories that excite me most tend to have three qualities. First there’s a voice, a narrator who urgently needs to speak. Even if they never say “I.” Second, the narrator tries to persuade you that he or she is telling the truth. The third thing is, for lack of a better word, wisdom. A kind of moral authority, or at least the effort to settle a troubled conscience.

As an example of this new kind of writing Stein cites Denis Johnson’s story “Car Crash While Hitchhiking,” which was published in The Paris Review in 1989. In this kind of fiction, “the payoff here is emotional, not intellectual—I can feel it even if I can’t articulate it.” The story carries a meaning “that evades logical understanding but hits us in the heart.”

The key to the effectiveness of this type of writing, Stein says, is “you have to believe in the voice itself. The narrator has to exist as a steady reliable fact.” More specifically:

we’ve become interested in the fiction of the speaker. Interested, suspicious, aware. We might ask—in a way that our grandparents wouldn’t have asked—why someone is sitting down at the keyboard at a Starbucks and doing this? It’s no longer given why someone would tell a story on paper, or onscreen. It’s become a troubling question.

This type of fictional narrator has a dual nature:

When it’s done right, fiction provides the authority to speak about deep things; at the same time, it provides a shield, a mask. The mask lets you say things, talk about things, that you couldn’t ordinarily talk about. You don’t have to make sense in quite the same way.

In the works in the anthology Stein sees a new realism, “the truths we can’t tell except when we put on the mantle of this authority.”

On Reading

The universe within.

This is not an example of outstanding writing. But I can’t help but warm to someone who can write this:

While reading you create a universe within you where your characters talk and move through breathtaking landscapes and everything is as unique as you and your imagination are.

You become the container of that universe where the book comes to life. You give life to something bigger than you, you become THE LIFE for your characters which exist only as long as you keep imagining them.

Read what else Daniel Scott has to say about reading, including why he’s never read an e-book and why he prefers to buy new rather than used books.

Nonfiction can appeal to youngsters who appear to be nonreaders

kid with booksI’m not trained in teaching children how to read, but I do usually hear about kids’ graduation to chapter books as a milestone in their process of learning to read. And my impression is that most of those chapter books are fiction. In this article Susie Wilde proclaims:

Children who appear to be nonreaders are often nonfiction readers. While fiction demands the sequential flow, factual books permit stop-and-go reading.

It makes sense to me that some children may in fact prefer reading nonfiction rather than fiction, just as some adults do. According to Wilde, there are now many books available for those children. Read her recommendations for children in the following age groups: 3–5, 4–8, 8–11, 9 and up.

Reading with your ears: do audiobooks harm or help literature?

I have been a big fan of audiobooks since they first became available. My husband and I started by renting titles that came in boxes of several cassette tapes from Books on Tape. Now we’ve upgraded to downloadable books from Audible. It’s now also possible to borrow audiobooks electronically from many public libraries.

I’ve always believed that listening to an audiobook “counts” as having read the book as long as I listened to the unabridged version.

In this article in The Guardian Claire Armitstead wonders “if the oft-maligned rise of spoken word recordings isn’t actually improving our understanding.” She writes that hearing a recorded version of Colm Tóibín’s novel Nora Webster after she had read the book made her understand how the author “weaves a manner of thinking into a manner of speech, so that a whole era and society are contained in the narrator’s broken reporting of spoken sentences.”

Armitstead quotes from critic Harold Bloom, who believes that listening to audiobooks does not allow the whole cognitive process that reading from printed pages does, and from writer Neil Gaiman, who says that dismissing audiobooks is “just snobbery and foolishness.”

On this page you can listen to some audio versions of stories.

I continue to love audiobooks because they make me feel that I’m not wasting precious time when I listen while, driving, folding clothes, or plodding on the treadmill. However, I usually choose mysteries or thrillers to listen to rather than literary fiction. If I know I’m going to want to savor a writer’s style, I’ll read the book on either printed or ebook format.

And speaking of ebooks…


KindleI recently discovered this site, which deals with all things pertaining to e-books:

TeleRead is for technogeeks who love books—and booklovers who love gadgets. We write about Kindle-type ereaders, phones, tablets, other devices and apps in a practical way. TeleRead runs book news and reviews and keeps up with other media appealing to smart booklovers. Along the way, we strive to help narrow the digital and reading divides.

You’ll find all kinds of articles here, including reviews of specific books and of e-reading gadgets as well as a list of sources for free e-books. There’s also information aimed at librarians and at authors interested in producing e-books of their work.

On Novels and Novelists


On Tolstoy Therapy, Lucy discusses books that she has loved and “ snippets of literary interestingness.” In this post she offers some reading choices for your winter reading in the categories of big books, feel-good novels, and literary classics.

Lucy also has a lot of information about bibliotherapy on her blog. Keep in mind, though, that she is not a therapist and that reading cannot replace professional attention for mental health issues.

How One Author Turned the Internet into a Giant Book Club

All authors dream of having a huge readership. And all authors whose last name isn’t King, Patterson, or Rowling know that they have to participate in marketing their work to gain that readership. In this article Nomi Eve describes a plan she launched after publication of her second novel, Henna House:

Grand gestures set you apart from the rest of the world. So I came up with my grand gesture. I challenged myself to personally meet with 100 book clubs. I called it my 100 Book Club Challenge and put the word out on Facebook that I would meet with any book club (either in person or by Skype) that invited me. I asked people to help me reach a goal and to become part of a community of readers.

Read the story of how her challenge succeeded in a way much bigger than she had expected. I’m always glad to hear about authors who welcome interaction with readers because they know that, without readers, their books don’t amount to much.

Nomi Eve’s first novel is The Family Orchard.

J.K. Rowling reveals why she created alter ego Robert Galbraith

In the Los Angeles Times Michael Schaub expands on an interview by J.K. Rowling with NPR about why she chose to publish her mystery series under a pseudonym:

“[T]here was a phenomenal amount of pressure that went with being the writer of Harry Potter, and that aspect of publishing those books I do not particularly miss,” Rowling said. “So you can probably understand the appeal of going away and creating something very different, and just letting it stand or fall on its own merits.”

Rowling’s first novel for adults, The Casual Vacancy, published under her own name, received mediocre reviews.

Her most recent novel, Career of Evil, published as Robert Galbraith, is the third in the mystery series that features Cormoran Strike, an army veteran with a prosthetic leg who is the son of a rock star. The two earlier novels in the series are The Cuckoo’s Calling and The Silkworm.

You can hear hear the NPR interview here.

11 Must-Read Books Coming This Month

My own TBR (to be read) list is so long that any suggestions of new books to add makes me scream and tear out my hair. But if you need some additions to your own list or suggestions of books to gift this holiday season, this article is for you.

Read why Diana Le describes these as “November’s must-read books”:

  1. Make ‘Em Laugh by Debbie Reynolds and Dorian Hannaway
  2. Soundless by Richelle Mead
  3. Unstoppable by Bill Nye
  4. Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food by Nigella Lawson
  5. Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
  6. Young Elizabeth: The Making of the Queen by Kate Williams
  7. Boys in the Trees: A Memoir by Carly Simon
  8. The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
  9. Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker
  10. The Emperor of Sound by Timbaland
  11. Hello? by Liza Wiemer
  12. The Japanese Lover by Isabel Allende

I have reproduced this list exactly as it appears on the internet, which means that observant readers will find a dozen books here, not just 11.

A cookbook, biography, memoir, adult and YA fiction: there’s something for everybody here.

2 News Tidbits for Today

I was excited to read that CBS is bringing to life yet another Star Trek series. When I stopped in at Twitter, I was surprised to see that lots of other people were excited about it, too.

My husband and I were avid fans of the original series Star Trek. We watched the reruns so many times that as soon as the episode began, we’d tell each other the plot and recite the episode’s most memorable lines. I wrote earlier that we had visited Star Trek: The Exhibition at the Washington State Fair.

Star Trek: The Next GenerationDespite our love for the original series, we had not kept up with all the subsequent related TV shows, although we did see all the movies. Our visit to the exhibition got us started watching Star Trek: The Next Generation on Netflix, although we’re still in the first season.

So yes, I was excited to read about a new installment of the Star Trek franchise. The Atlantic covers the announcement of the new show here. According to this article, “Come January 2017, CBS says, the new show will be the backbone of its subscription-only ‘All Access’ service.”

And that’s the catch: The show will be available only on CBS All Access, the network’s subscription streaming service. All Access currently allows access to more than 7,500 episodes of CBS shows, both past and present, including the various Star Trek series. The service now costs $5.99 a month.

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I love mystery novels because the best of them probe the depths of the human heart and mind. And one of my favorite mystery novelists is Michael Connelly.

Amazon Series: BOSCHWhen Amazon Prime developed a series around Connelly’s most famous character, L.A. homicide detective Harry Bosch, I was reservedly excited. If the shows were well done, they could be great; but if they weren’t well done, I’d be terribly disappointed to see one of my favorite literary characters trashed. I’m delighted to report that the first season of Amazon’s series Bosch succeeded in presenting Bosch as he is in Connelly’s books. The choice of Titus Welliver to portray the detective was a stroke of genius: He truly channelled Harry Bosch.

This morning in my daily journey around the social media universe I came across this article on the web site of Michael Koryta. Koryta says he has known Michael Connelly for many years, since an editor to whom Koryta had submitted a novel manuscript gave him this advice on plotting:

“Re-read Michael Connelly to see how it’s done right.” I re-read them and I’d urge any would-be crime writer to do the same. I’d urge anyone who simply enjoys reading good fiction to try Michael’s work.

Embedded in this article I found this bit of good news: “Season 2 of BOSCH is coming off a smashing success of a debut season.” Now I’m eagerly awaiting the announcement that the new episodes are available for streaming. I hope Amazon puts them all up at once, because this is one series that deserves binge streaming.

Cover: The Crossing by Michael ConnellyBosch is a cop with a complex moral compass, the crux of which is the mantra “everybody matters or nobody matters.” One of Connelly’s other recurring characters is Mickey Haller, the Lincoln Lawyer, who defends the sleaziest criminals as long as they can afford to pay him. Bosch and Haller happen to be half-brothers, a fact that Bosch didn’t find out until well into his adult life.

In Connelly’s latest novel, The Crossing, Harry Bosch has retired from the police force; he teams up with Haller in defense of Haller’s client, but not without feeling that he has crossed over to the dark side. The Crossing has already been released in the U.K. Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand, and will be released in the U.S.A. and Canada tomorrow (November 3, 2015). I’ve already preordered my copy.

(Photo of BOSCH production studio at top of post
from michaelconnelly.com)

On Novels and Novelists

Think “The Exorcist” Was Just a Horror Movie? The Author Says You’re Wrong.

Here’s an outstanding piece of creative nonfiction about William Peter Blatty, author of the 1971 bestseller The Exorcist, made into a blockbuster movie that remains on most lists of quintessential horror movies.

I remember hearing back when the book came out that it was based on an actual exorcism performed by a Catholic priest in Georgetown in Washington, D.C. But for me, like most other people caught up in the book/movie mania, the supernatural aspects of the story supplanted any religious meaning or significance. This article documents Blatty’s deep Catholic faith, burnished during his attendance at the Jesuit institution Georgetown University in the late 1940s.

In this piece Eddie Dean looks at Blatty’s life story, including his time at Georgetown and later as a Hollywood writer. But all of that is background for Blatty’s latest book, Finding Peter: A True Story of the Hand of Providence and Evidence of Life After Death, released earlier this year by “the conservative publisher Regnery.” In a book that Dean describes as “part memoir and part argument,” Blatty, now 87, describes reassuring and welcome messages that he and his wife periodically receive from their son, Peter, who died in 2006 at age 19. As Blatty explains:

“For so many people of faith,” he says, “our belief in life after death is often a very intense hope—more than a full knowledge of fact—and this book gives them some tangible evidence. My task was to prove to readers that they could trust my word that these things happened. If I wanted to make stuff up, it’d be light years more dramatic than most of the things I’ve experienced.”

This is a great story that demonstrates, Dean says, “Much of what you thought you knew about The Exorcist is wrong.”

The Next Joan Didion?

Ruth Galm, author of the novel Into the Valley, has been compared to Joan Didion, whose early pieces contain “an almost uncanny sense of place that she brings alive” in writing.

In this informative she reveals much about her writing experience and interests. Read, among other facts, why and how the following writers have influenced her work:

  • William Faulkner
  • Jean Rhys
  • Joan Didion

John Irving wrestles with memory in ’Avenue of Mysteries’

Writer Graydon Royce reports on an interview with novelist John Irving, 73, for the Minneapolis Star Tribune. The discussion centers on Irving’s latest novel, Avenue of Mysteries:

It is a book about the strength of memory, the mystery of faith, the weariness of age and the caprice of fate. He has spliced together two stories: the present-day trip of writer Juan Diego to the Philippines to carry out a favor to a lost friend, and Juan Diego’s dreams and memories of his childhood, living on the dumps of Oaxaca, Mexico, with a cast of characters that includes his sister, Lupe, who reads minds.

Although this story is different from his others, Royce says, it deals with the same themes that Irving has presented during his more than 40-year career. According to Royce, Irving “sees himself as a 19th-century novelist, dedicated to plot, characters, narrative. He has griped for many years about modern writers who consciously construct wordplays that can be understood only by other writers.”

Here’s my favorite Irving quotation from this article:

“The most autobiographical element in any of my novels is psychological. I do not write about what’s happened to me. I write about what I’m afraid of.”

Visit Ramona Quimby’s Portland

Beverly Cleary grew up in an old farmhouse about 50 miles southwest of Portland, OR. She translated her knowledge of Portland into fictional settings in her books about Ramona Quimby, Beezus, and Henry Huggins.

Here’s a list of real places from the books that you can visit the next time you find yourself in Portland.

On Reading

Is Google Books Leading Researchers Astray?

Google Books, “a searchable digital archive of millions of texts spanning the history of the printed word,” can allow scholars to analyze the history of language and culture. But a recent published paper by three data scientists from the University of Vermont claims that the basic design of Google Books makes mapping such cultural trends impossible.

One problem with Google Book’s approach to indexing works is that it archives only one copy of a book. Finding a book listed only once obscures the popularity of best sellers, which libraries characteristically own a large number of to reflect the public’s high demand.

In this article several scholars contribute their own additional concerns about Google Books, at least when its used as a sole source of information. See why the author of the article concludes, “ Ultimately, we might have to recognize that Google Books simply isn’t a great research tool, however appealing it might be.”

The Work of Fiction and the Fiction of Work

The habit of reading fiction is training for friendship and responsible citizenship. A healthy society requires its members to utilize the novel’s three gifts: empathy, imagination, and knowledge. Reading fiction puts us in the habit of wanting to know more about people, treating people as people rather than just as statistics with reductive labels slapped on them. In a world where workers are treated like machines and corporations are treated like humans, we need a novelist’s sense of story in order to hold onto our own identity and to respect the common humanity of our fellow workers, all of us struggling for the necessities of life and a dream or two besides.

How 3 New Kids’ Books Help Cope With Traumatic Events

Writing for Time, Sarah Begley looks at how three new books help middle-grade readers learn about and deal with real-world problems:

  • Crenshaw by Katherine Applegate portrays how an imaginary friend helps a boy whose family faces the imminent possibility of homelessness—again.
  • The Thing About Jellyfish by Ali Benjamin presents a girl who obsessively throws herself into research about a specific kind of jellyfish to understand the drowning death of her friend, a strong swimmer.
  • The Nest by Kenneth Oppel features a boy whose baby brother is born with multiple congenital problems.

Begley reports that books like these are important even for children who aren’t facing such problems because the stories model resilient behavior and help kids better understand their peers. “What’s critical for all young readers, whether or not they are struggling, is that they discuss things with their parents after reading,” she writes.

6 Ways Reading And Watching Science Fiction Makes You A More Ethical Person

Science fiction, a type of speculative fiction that imagines what people and their world might be like in the future, is gaining in popularity. This article looks at six ways in which reading and watching science fiction can make us more moral or ethical people:

  1. Sci-Fi Has Always Been Focussed On Moral Messages
  2. It’s Is Made For Taking On Current Issues In A Subversive Way
  3. Imagination And Morality Are Heavily Linked
  4. Sci-Fi Lets Us Talk About Ideas More Freely
  5. The Concept Of Aliens Helps People Push Us Past Prejudice
  6. “What-If” Thinking Is Good For Moral Brains

3 Key Advantages of “Slow Reading” That Turbocharge Your Learning

Productivity drives a lot of what we do—we want to get more done, and we therefore have to work faster to become more productive. This drive is most apparent in our desire to consume as much information as possible. We read quickly so we can move on to the next book or article. Fast reading may work in some circumstances, but real comprehension demands slow reading.

In this article Gregg Williams, a marriage and family therapist, describes his own experience with realizing how fast reading in fact slowed him down. It takes him a while to get around to the meat of his argument, but he ends up pointing out three advantages of taking time to read a text slowly:

  1. Slow-reading uncovers “hidden” gems.
  2. Stories lead to deeper truths.
  3. Slow-reading adds to your web of knowledge.

He explains that “ slow reading is also a very good idea whenever you are reading to understand any body of knowledge (for example, textbooks and popular nonfiction).” When you’re trying to learn something, slow reading saves you time because you can follow the logical flow of facts and associations.

In many cases fast reading may serve your purpose better than slow reading. “The good news is that you can decide to switch between the two.”

9 Blogs I’ve Discovered Through Literature & Psychology

Because I’m particularly interested in the intersection between literature and psychology, I curate Literature & Psychology, which I update regularly. Through this curation I’ve discovered a number of interesting blogs and web sites.

Classroom as Microcosm

Siobhan Curious describes herself as “a teacher, student and person.” She teaches college English and writes fiction (both novels and short stories). “She holds one undergraduate degree in English, one in second-language education, and a masters degree in English and creative writing. She is currently working on a masters in education.”

On this blog Siobhan Curious discusses not only teaching, but her own experiences as a reader and writer. There are lots of book reviews here, and she also links to her fiction.

I see that she hasn’t updated this blog since August, but I feel certain she’ll get back to work on it when she can. Between teaching, working on that second master’s degree, and writing fiction, I’m sure she has her hands full just now. Her archives go back to August 2007, so there’s plenty of material here to look at while waiting for her to reappear.

The Fiction Reboot and the Daily Dose

Dr. Brandy Schillace is chief editor of this two-pronged web site. I’ll let her describe it for you:

The Fiction Reboot | Daily Dose is a combined blog that promotes the medical humanities and intersections between self and story. Our mission: promote authors (fiction and non-fiction) and share perspectives about narrative, medicine, history, anthropology and sociology across cultures and disciplines. We seek to engage those working at the intersection, intrepid souls adding to our shared knowledge of what it means to be human.

Dr. Schillace is managing editor of Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry and a research associate for the Dittrick Museum of Medical History at Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, OH. She writes both fiction and nonfiction.

Storycraft: Craft-based analysis for fiction writers

This is the blog attached to the main web site of novelist, essayist, and lecturer Tim Weed. He is a frequent presenter at writing workshops, and his blog reads like an ongoing workshop for authors. In clear and unpretentious language he explains topics such as how plot works and how good writers develop fictional character. He’s teaching authors how to write, but as a reader I also learn a lot about how to appreciate the writer’s process as I’m reading a novel.

The Literary Traveler

Francis and Linda McGovern founded Literary Traveler in 1998 with the following purpose in mind:

Literary Traveler is dedicated to the exploration of the literary imagination. We hope to bring you inspiring, informative articles about writers, creative artists, and the places that they lived and traveled.

Their web site features book reviews and general articles about literature, such as “From Page to Picture: The Dilemmas of Adaptation.” They also arrange literary tours. Some of the material here focuses on the relationship between writers and the places where they lived and/or worked.

Psychology And Cognitive Aspects Of Reading

This is a Flipboard collection of articles about “Psychology, cognitive psychology, neuroergonomics and many other research fields which affect a way we read.”

Book Movement

This site is aimed at book groups. Members can join for free and can create a private web page for their group. Other features include listings of top book club choices and book giveaways for book clubs.

Lovely Literature

Two aspiring writers blog about their relationship to all things literary. They post regularly. This is a good site to check if you’re interested in what ordinary people, as opposed to professional literary critics, think about particular books.

Interesting Literature

Welcome to Interesting Literature, an online library of all that is most interesting and captivating about literature. Here you’ll find fun facts, interesting research into writers and their work, and blog posts which seek to capture the most fascinating facets of the literary world.

The site is run by Dr. Oliver Tearle, Lecturer in English at Loughborough University in England.

open culture: The best free cultural & educational media on the web

Open Culture brings together high-quality cultural & educational media for the worldwide lifelong learning community.

Open Culture curates free “intelligent audio and video.” And boy, is there a lot of material here, including the following:

  • 950 free online courses from top universities
  • 675 free online movies
  • 550 free audiobooks
  • 600 free ebooks

Dan Colman, the lead editor, is the Director & Associate Dean of Stanford’s Continuing Studies Program, though the site is not associated with Stanford.

On Novels and Novelists

Out with vampires, in with haunted houses: the ghost story is back

Just in time for Halloween (or shortly thereafter), here are several new ghost stories:

It has been supplanted in recent years by vampires, witches and other monsters, but now the good old-fashioned ghost story is back with a bang, with everyone from debut novelists to established literary stars such as David Mitchell and Gillian Flynn hoping to raise the hairs on readers’ necks this Halloween.

Read here about the following upcoming publications:

  • The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
  • Slade House by David Mitchell
  • Little Sister Death by William Gay
  • Rawblood by Catriona Ward
  • The Watchers by Neil Spring
  • The Loney by Andrew Michael Hurley
  • The Taxidermist’s Daughter by Kate Mosse

“A good ghost story asks the reader to examine the horror within – but it’s in a safe and contained way,” says Catriona Ward. See what the other authors mentioned here have to say about why they have written a ghost story and why they think readers enjoy ghost stories.

Edna O’Brien: from Ireland’s cultural outcast to literary darling

Ed Vulliamy profiles Irish author Edna O’Brien. Now 84, O’Brien has not always been appreciated in her native land. Her “first and great novel,” The Country Girls was hailed in London, where it won the Kingsley Amis award, but banned in Ireland. This difference in the reception of her book, Villiamy writes, “etched the course of O’Brien’s life.”

Vulliamy explains how O’Brien’s relationship to Ireland while living and writing abroad played out. He places her squarely within the context of other Irish writers:

The extent of the Irish domination of literature in English during the 20th century – per capita – is staggering. From a country of its size, consider: Yeats, Joyce, Shaw, Stoker, Wilde, Beckett, Synge, O’Casey, Butler, Flann O’Brien, Heaney, Trevor – and it continues in Mahon, Banville, McGahern and Tóibín.

Jonathan Franzen’s Crackling Genius

In a long article for the New York Times, Rachel Kushner visits Jonathan Franzen in Santa Cruz, CA. Having just finished reading Franzen’s latest novel, Purity, Kushner wanders through a conversation with Franzen about the background of the novel.

Read here how Kushner and Franzen meandered through topics that include Catholicism, Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, Flannery O’Connor, East Germany, Edward Snowden, capitalism, and the death of Franzen’s cousin—“how this cousin made sense of his difficult life.”

Truman Capote’s Brooklyn: Never-Before-Seen Pictures of Truman Capote, Taken by David Attie

Eli Attie, son of photographer David Attie, describes how he found previously unknown photos his father had taken of Truman Capote in Brooklyn, NY.

Eli Attie wrote the afterword for _ Brooklyn: A Personal Memoir_ by Truman Capote, with the lost photographs of David Attie, to be published on November 3, 2015.

Andy Weir on his strange journey from self-publishing to Hollywood

I haven’t read Andy Weir’s novel The Martian, but I loved the movie. (I saw it in 3-D, which I highly recommend.) I knew the general story of how the work had come into being: how Weir did massive amounts of research, published it serially online, then crowdsourced some of the science concepts to make the science part of science fiction incredibly accurate.

Here writer Sara Vilkomerson explains how the main character, botanist Mark Watney, came into existence:

He’s a lovable character who’s part Han Solo, part MacGyver…and one big part Andy Weir. “My theory is that every protagonist is someone the author wants to be or who the author wants to screw,” says Weir, 42. “Just so we’re clear, Mark Watney is who I want to be. He has all the qualities I like about myself magnified without any of the qualities I dislike.”

This article appeared in Entertainment Weekly in November 2014, just as production on the film version of The Martian was commencing.