5 Under 35 Honorees Announced

BuzzFeed Books is honored to celebrate the fantastic young writers of the National Book Foundation’s 9th annual 5 Under 35, chosen by past winners and finalists of the National Book Awards. “The National Book Foundation’s 5 under 35 program is about supporting a rising generation of talented authors,” said Leslie Shipman, Assistant Director of the National Book Foundation.

via 5 Under 35 Honorees Announced.


What I particularly like about this list is its international flavor.

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AP News : Bestselling book banned from middle schools

RIVERSIDE, Calif. AP – The bestselling book “The Fault in Our Stars,” narrated by a 16-year-old cancer patient, has been banned from Riverside Unified School District middle schools over sexual content, but it is still allowed in high schools.

via AP News : Bestselling book banned from middle schools.

Some news appropriate for Banned Books Week.

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Celebrate Banned Books Week!

Banned Books Week pin

September 21–27, 2014

Celebrate Banned Books Week!

Read something outrageous!


Buzzfeed has some suggestions for you here.

Read more about Banned Books Week from the American Library Association.

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Monday Miscellany

INFOGRAPHIC: How Long Does It Take to Read Popular Books?

infographicFor visually oriented readers:

Ever wondered how long it takes to read The Great Gatsby (2.62 hours) compared to Atlas Shrugged (31.22 hours)? If so, you’ll like this infographic by Personal Creations.

William Golding Flies classic holds true 60 years on

It’s 60 years this month since the publication of William Golding’s novel Lord of the Flies. To mark the anniversary his family are giving his literary archive on loan to the University of Exeter – including the very different original version of his famous tale of boys fending for themselves on a tropical island.

The BBC looks back at the significance of Lord of the Flies, originally published in September 1954 after rejections from 10 publishers and one literary agent. Golding’s daughter says that her father’s original title for the novel was “Strangers from Within.” An editor at Faber, the house that agreed to publish the novel, had Golding remove much material explicitly about the atomic war the children had survived. The editor also cut material about Simon to make him less a religious figure than in Golding’s manuscript.

Ms Carver [Golding’s daughter] believes the book has remained in demand for six decades for two main reasons.

”Firstly of course it’s so well written. But also it deals with moral questions which were current after World War Two and which I’m afraid are still relevant today.

Century-old Provo literary club holds its final meeting

A sad story about the demise of the Utah Sorosis women’s group:

The literary group, whose unusual name means aggregation, has been meeting since 1897, a year before the Provo Tabernacle (soon to be City Center Temple) was finished. After 117 years this was the farewell meeting of Utah Sorosis. The nearly 20 women who RSVP’d to Van Orman for the weekday luncheon at Provo’s La Jolla Groves did so with “sadness in your voices,” said Van Orman, age 65.

Group members who attended the luncheon that marked the group’s final meeting ranged in age from 60 to more than 90. Several of them said that they couldn’t get younger women to join to keep the group going.

The “serious intent” of the 18 charter members in 1897, all wives of university professors, was to work toward the highest development of its members through study and work.

Perhaps the group is a victim of changing times, now that women no longer need to join a special group in order to study and work.

9 Marquez e-books coming out in English

The Associated Press (AP) is reporting that Penguin Random House imprints Vintage Books and Vintage Espanol have announced the ebook publication on October 15 of English translations of several of Marquez’s works:

Besides “Love in the Time of Cholera,” the releases include the novella “Chronicle of a Death Foretold” and the memoir “Living to Tell the Tale.” Marquez’s classic novel “One Hundred Years of Solitude” is published in the U.S. by HarperCollins and remains unavailable as an English-language e-book.

Gabriel Garcia Marquez, who won the Nobel Prize for literature in 1982, died in April at age 87.

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Nonfiction longlist for the National Book Award – The Washington Post

Walter Isaacson’s study of digital innovators and E.O. Wilson’s reflections on human existence are among the books on the longlist for the National Book Award in nonfiction, announced this morning.

Given the elastic dimensions of the category (anything nonfiction) and the number of submissions (almost 500), the NBA judges still managed to come up with a group of 10 contenders that includes only one woman: New Yorker cartoonist Roz Chast. (She’s also the first cartoonist to come this close to a National Book Award in one of the adult categories.)

via Nonfiction longlist for the National Book Award – The Washington Post.

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National Book Award fiction long list arrives early – LA Times

The National Book Foundation’s plan to release the news of its fiction long list Thursday morning was foiled by news outlets that posted the list Wednesday afternoon. With the embargo broken, we bring you the list now; it includes a National Book Award winner, two National Book Award finalists, and a debut novelist who happens to be a popular musician.

via National Book Award fiction long list arrives early – LA Times.

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“The Door,” E.B. White

Literature & Psychology

White, E.B. “The Door” (1939)
In The World Within: Fiction Illuminating Neuroses of Our Time
Edited by Mary Louise Aswell
Notes and Introduction by Frederic Wertham, M.D.
New York: Whittlesey House, 1947

Related Posts:

Cover: The World Within“The Door” originally appeared in The New Yorker in 1939. If you have a subscription with access to that magazine’s digital archives, you can read the story here. The text of “The Door” is available for free here.


If you know E.B. White primarily as the author of the children’s classics Stuart Little and Charlotte’s Web, “The Door” will surprise you. In just a few short pages this story presents a picture of a man thinking about the upsetting novelty and inscrutability of an era marked by the political, societal, and philosophical upheavals of global war, an era that Aswell labeled “this age of freedom from certainty” (p. vii) in her introduction to The World Within.

The opening few sentences set the scene:

Everything (he kept saying) is something it isn’t. And everybody is always somewhere else. Maybe it was the city, being in the city, that made him feel how queer everything was and that it was something else. Maybe (he kept thinking) it was the names of the things. The names were tex and frequently koid. Or they were flex and oid or they were duroid (sani) or flexsan (duro)… . (p. 261).

The meaningless words (which have become much more common to today’s consumers than they were to White’s original audience) reinforce the sense of incomprehensibility of everything being something it isn’t and everybody always being somewhere else. The parenthetical phrases “(he kept saying)” and “(he kept thinking)” make us wonder who he is and who exactly is telling us about him.

Anyone who has ever taken an introductory psychology course will recognize the story’s dominant image: an experiment in which rats are trained to open a marked door behind which they have learned they’ll find food. It’s hard not to see this experiment as an allusion to modern life as a rat race (a term my dictionary tells me first appeared in 1939). After the rats have learned to jump at the marked door to obtain food, the experimenters remove the food to find out how long it will take the rats to unlearn what they had previously learned:

but then one day it would be a trick played on the rat, and the card would be changed, and the rat would jump but the card wouldn’t give way, and it was an impossible situation (for a rat) and the rat would go insane and into its eyes would come the unspeakable bright imploring look of the frustrated, and after the convulsions were over and the frantic racing around, then the passive stage would set in and the willingness to let anything be done to it, even if it was something else. (p. 262)

The result of this experimental manipulation is madness:

More and more (he kept saying) I am confronted by a problem which is incapable of solution (for this time even if he chose the right door, there would be no food behind it) and that is what madness is, and things seeming different from what they are. (pp. 262–263)

The life of the story’s anonymous subject has been a series of such manipulations. First the world taught him that religion was the appropriate approach:

First they would teach you the prayers and the Psalms, and that would be the right door… . Then one day you jumped and it didn’t give way, so that all you got was the bump on the nose, and the first bewilderment, the first young bewilderment. (pp. 263–264)

But he continued to follow society’s directives, turning next to love and marriage as the proper way, “the door with the picture of the girl on it … her arms outstretched in loveliness” (p. 265). For a while that door “was the way,” until they also changed that door on him:

although my heart has followed all my days something I cannot name, I am tired of the jumping and I do not know which way to go, Madam, and I am not even sure that I am not tried beyond the endurance of man (rat, if you will) and have taken leave of sanity. (p. 265)

Now this man-rat has “taken leave of sanity” and is facing “an impossible situation” (p. 262), “a problem which is incapable of solution” (p. 263). But he has no choice other than to keep on jumping:

and the thing is to get used to it and not let it unsettle the mind. But that would mean not jumping, and you can’t. Nobody can not jump. There will be no not-jumping. Among rats, perhaps, but among people never. Everybody has to keep jumping at a door (the one with the circle on it) because that is the way everybody is, specially some people. (pp. 264–265)

In addition to this image of the manipulative experiment, White uses changing point of view to communicate the protagonist’s fragmenting sense of self and loss of personal identity. The story begins in third person, “(he kept saying),” which then morphs into first person, “More and more (he kept saying) I am confronted by a problem which is incapable of solution” (pp. 262). This shift in point of view and the lack of quotation marks here in the text make readers begin to lose a sense of difference between the character—“he”—in the story and the narrator who is supposedly observing the character and telling readers about him. And the shift to second person—“they would always wait till you had learned to jump at the certain card (or door)—the one with the circle—and then they would change it on you” (p. 263)—creates the sense of universal inclusiveness. (We often use you like this in common speech, for example, “You have to walk before you can run.”) I, you, he: we’re all in this together.

In his endnote the psychiatrist Frederic Wertham calls this story “a tour de force in free association. I would rather call it ‘free dissociation’” (p. 268). He adds that the significance of the story lies “not in the description of a specific disease, not in the description of thought, but in the picture of thinking” (p. 268). E.B. White’s style, with its run-on sentences and seemingly random juxtapositions of wildly unrelated thoughts, underscores the picture of disjointed, illogical thought processes. As Wertham writes in his introduction to The World Within, “Great writers know how to give a unified picture of a whole personality through minute observation of a meaningful expression, a characteristic mannerism, or an unconscious habit” (p. xvi).

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Monday Miscellany

Open Library

Open Library is an open, editable library catalog with an attractive facade and a lofty mission. The mission? To build an online catalog with a web page for every book ever published. The best part? You can help. From the homepage, click Sign Up, then create a free Open Library account in two simple steps. From there, add new books, write descriptions, manage lists, and generally enjoy contributing to one of the most exciting library projects on the web. Of course, you don’t need an account to browse the site, with its 20 million records (and counting). Simply click Authors, Subjects, Recently, or Lists to search the site by category, or type a keyword into the general search function.

From The Scout Report, Copyright Internet Scout 1994–2014. https://www.scout.wisc.edu

How Dennis Lehane’s ‘Drop’ screenplay became a novel

Cover: The Drop, Dennis LehandDennis Lehane, a master of the contemporary crime novel, has seen many of his books brought to the screen: “Mystic River,” “Shutter Island,” “Gone Baby Gone,” the upcoming “Live By Night.” But none have had such adventurous a transformation as “The Drop” (now in theaters), which began life as an opening chapter of a novel, then became a short story, then a screenplay … and now, finally, a novel.

Seattle Times movie critic Moira Macdonald describes the strange story of how a group of characters continued to haunt writer Dennis Lehane until, in a reversal of the usual order of things, the film became a novel.


From The Los Angeles Times, a look at cardiologist Douglas Lyle, who divides time between seeing patients in his cardiology clinic, writing crime novels, and answering “other crime writers’ questions about how to end their characters’ lives in weird — but scientifically plausible — ways.”

Tana French’s Favorite Books About Secrets

In her Dublin Murder Squad series, Irish writer Tana French reveals how secrets haunt the “the tumultuous inner lives of her characters, both cops and culprits.” Her latest novel, The Secret Place, is the fifth in the series.

“Big secrets transform everything and everyone around them—often in unpredictable, uncontrollable ways—and I’ve always been fascinated by books that explore that ripple effect,” French says. Here she recommends five novels that fit that description.

Finding our Literary Mothers and Sisters in Time

This post is from April 2014, but I just found it.

Sharan Newman, a medieval historian and author of both nonfiction and fiction, describes efforts to place women in their proper place in literary history and in the literary canon:

Today we might say that female authors have a secure place in literary history. But one thing I know as an historian is that the pendulum always swings. We need to leave a legacy not only as skilled writers but as accurate observers of aspects of life that are too often ignored. Looking back at my own long and somewhat checkered career, I realize that the desire to return women to their rightful place in history was what impelled both my fiction and non-fiction. Oddly, perhaps, I’ve found that a more honest portrayal can be created through fiction. This is due to the lack of solid information on the lives of ordinary women and men throughout time.

The ‘sexiest meal’: what a character’s breakfast reveals about them

And this piece is from February 2013, but I just found it.

Seb Emina, coauthor with Malcolm Eggs, (yes, really) of The Breakfast Bible, discusses breakfast in literature:

breakfast is the ideal barometer of normalcy, the meal that tells us who a person really is. An example: in the fifth chapter of Moby Dick (simply called “Breakfast”), Melville offers a morning scene at a bar-room in a whaling town, as a way of painting us a picture of Queequeg, a Pacific islander who “eschewed coffee and hot rolls” – savagery! – and “applied his undivided attention to beefsteaks, done rare”. And in The Hobbit, Tolkein reveals much about the implicitly decadent nature of Hobbithood when he has Bilbo Baggins consume a second breakfast – an occurrence that has somehow become one of the most recounted parts of the entire book.

This article is worth reading just for the description of Hunter S. Thompson’s preferred meal.

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Ursula K. Le Guin to Receive NBF Lifetime Achievement Award

The National Book Foundation, presenter of the National Book Awards, announced that it will award its 2014 Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters to Ursula K. Le Guin. Neil Gaiman will present the award to Le Guin at the 65th National Book Awards Ceremony on November 19, in New York City.

via Ursula K. Le Guin to Receive NBF Lifetime Achievement Award.

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Monday Miscellany


Cover: The Bone ClocksIt’s fall—the start of a new school year and the time for a new reading list. Morgan Ribera’s got you covered with a list of a dozen books to be published during September that will keep you reading at least until winter break.

My own copy of one of the books on her list, The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell, just arrived yesterday. I’m also looking forward to another of her recommendations, The Secret Place by Tana French.

Celebrity writers pack the shelves as shops predict an autumn bonanza

The Guardian offers the U.K. outlook on this fall’s bonanza of novel publications.

A back-to-school reading list of classic literature

I expected a simple list of books from the folks at Oxford University Press, publisher of the Oxford World’s Classic series.

But they surprised me by using an “If you liked …, you might like …” Format. See what works of classic literature they recommend if you liked these books:

  • Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee by Dee Brown
  • Slaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  • The Lord of the Flies by William Golding
  • The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey

N.Y.C. Chancellor Pushes for Schools to Reinstate Independent-Reading Time

Education Week, the go-to source for information about teaching, reports that “Carmen Fariña, the new schools chancellor in New York City, is bringing the specifics of classroom reading instruction back into the public eye.”

At issue is the inclusion of independent reading, also known as sustained silent reading (SSR), in the school day. Writer Liana Heitin here reports that there has been little research into and little media attention on the question of whether SSR is effective in improving reading achievement since a 2000 report by a national panel. This article includes a short history of the issue and links to other online resources.

The Inspiring Stories Behind 15 Classic Novels

According to Jack London, “You can’t wait for inspiration, you have to go after it with a club.” London himself took the inspiration for The Call of the Wild (1903) from his time spent living in Canada and Alaska during the Klondike Gold Rush when high-quality sled dogs – like those that feature in the book – were in impossibly high demand. The stories and inspirations behind fifteen more of literature’s most memorable titles are explained here:

An interesting list, ranging from Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina to Daphne Du Maurier’s The Birds.

46 Brilliant Short Novels You Can Read In A Day

The end of the year is approaching. If you’re worried about meeting your GoodReads challenge, BuzzFeed has a list of books that weigh in at around 200 or fewer pages each that will allow you to pad your stats.

Cut it out, Ian McEwan: there are plenty of great long novels

Author Ian McEwan caused some consternation with a recent statement that “”very few really long novels earn their length.” In The Guardian Alison Flood points out:

It’s the Americans McEwan appears mainly to be blaming for this – our friends on the other side of the Atlantic “still pursue the notion of a great American novel and it has to be a real brick of an object”, he says …

Flood disagrees with McEwan and offers her list of “novels that might weigh as much as a brick, but to which I’d never take a blue pencil”:

  • The Crimson Petal and the White by Michel Faber. 864 page
  • The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood. 656 pages
  • A Dance with Dragons by George RR Martin. 1016 pages
  • The Stand by Stephen King. 1,200 pages
  • Gone with the Wind by Margaret Mitchell, 992 pages
  • The Bone Clocks by David Mitchell. 608 pages

Here are some I’d add to her list:

  • Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell. 514 pages (paperback)
  • Special Topics in Calamity Physics by Marisha Pessl. 514 pages
  • Middlemarch by George Eliot. 794 pages (paperback)
  • Ulysses by James Joyce. 732 pages (paperback)
  • The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing. 568 pages
  • The Brothers K by David James Duncan. 645 pages (paperback)
  • Underworld by Don DeLillo. 827 pages

I don’t mind a long book just because it’s long, but I do get annoyed by a book that’s longer than it needs to be. Moo by Jane Smiley is my illustration of this category. The hardcover weighted in at only 414 pages, but it should have been cut by about one-third.

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