Internet reading that caught my eye over the past week.

Megan Abbott’s Bloodthirsty Murderesses

The thriller writer probes the psychological underpinnings of female rage.

Because, Abbott says, “girls are darker than boys.”

New Black Gothic

Sheri-Marie Harrison, associate professor of English at the University of Missouri, explains what she calls the new black Gothic in the novels of Jesmyn Ward and in other popular formats such as television, music video, and film.

Ward’s award-winning novels are among a number of works, literary and otherwise, that rework Gothic traditions for the 21st century… Ward engages specifically the Southern Gothic tradition. In American literature, there is a long tradition of using Gothic tropes to reveal how ideologies of American exceptionalism rely on repressing the nation’s history of slavery, racism, and patriarchy. Such tropes are, as numerous critics have noted, central to the work of Toni Morrison.

The Women Who Write: Michelle Dean’s Sharp

A review of Sharp: The Women Who Made an Art of Having an Opinion by Michelle Dean (Grove Atlantic).

This critical history is a rogues’ gallery of literary femaleness – even though most of the women in it rightly bristled at being defined as “woman writers.” Dean’s exemplars are, in chapter if not birth order, Dorothy Parker; Rebecca West; Hannah Arendt; Mary McCarthy; Susan Sontag; Pauline Kael; Joan Didion; Nora Ephron; Renata Adler; and Janet Malcolm. Most have at least a few things in common. While some doubled as novelists, all are distinguished for their non-fiction, with fully half reaching eminence via The New Yorker.

Amy Adams Explores Her Dark Side

An article about the amazing actor about to appear in the HBO production of Gillian Flynn’s novel Sharp Objects.

For the French Author Édouard Louis, His Books Are His Weapon

Édouard Louis uses literature as a weapon. “I write to shame the dominant class,” said the 25-year-old French writer in a recent interview.

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Last Week’s Links

These are the stories from the internet that piqued my interest over the last week.

Why We Don’t Read, Revisited

Caleb Crain, in a follow-up to a decade-old report on Americans’ reading habits, reports that the time Americans spend reading continues to decline. “Television, rather than the Internet, likely remains the primary force distracting Americans from books.”

And, he points out, “The nation, after all, is now led by a man who doesn’t read.”

The Fairytale Language of the Brothers Grimm

How the Brothers Grimm went hunting for fairytales and accidentally changed the course of historical linguistics and kickstarted a new field of scholarship in folklore.

Truth, Lies, and Literature

Salman Rushdie ponders the role of truth in our disputatious time of unsupported pronouncements and declarations of fake news. How can literature help support current notions of what’s real and what isn’t?

when we read a book we like, or even love, we find ourselves in agreement with its portrait of human life. Yes, we say, this is how we are, this is what we do to one another, this is true. That, perhaps, is where literature can help most. We can make people agree, in this time of radical disagreement, on the truths of the great constant, which is human nature. Let’s start from there.

Our Fiction Addiction: Why Humans Need Stories

A report on scholars “who are asking what exactly makes a good story, and the evolutionary reasons that certain narratives – from Homer’s Odyssey to Harry Potter – have such popular appeal.”

© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

Women’s Prize for Fiction Revealing the 2018 Women’s Prize shortlist… – Women’s Prize for Fiction

Source: Women’s Prize for Fiction Revealing the 2018 Women’s Prize shortlist… – Women’s Prize for Fiction

12 Books You to Read Before Seeing the Movies this Spring | Off the Shelf

A sneak preview of the exciting book-to-film adaptations coming to theaters this spring.

Source: 12 Books You to Read Before Seeing the Movies this Spring | Off the Shelf

Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88 – The New York Times

“If you cannot or will not imagine the results of your actions, there’s no way you can act morally or responsibly.”

–Ursula K. Le Guin

Source: Ursula K. Le Guin, Acclaimed for Her Fantasy Fiction, Is Dead at 88 – The New York Times

My Reading Plan for 2018

I’ve spent the first three days of the new year putting together my reading plan for the next 12 months.

Reading Challenges

I usually only do the Goodreads challenge of reading a certain number of books during the year. After meeting the goal of 40 books for the last several years, I’m increasing my magic number to 45 for 2018.

And this year I’ve also decided to do Off the Shelf’s 18 Reading Resolutions for 2018. I chose this one because 18 seems like a manageable number. Here are the categories:

1. Read more books by women
2. Read more diverse books
3. Read a book more than 500 pages
4. Read a book written by someone under the age of 35
5. Read a book written by someone over the age of 65
6. Read a collection of short stories
7. Read more nonfiction
8. Read a novel based on a real person
9. Read a collection of poetry
10. Read a book about an unfamiliar culture
11. Read a book from a genre you might not normally read
12. Read a book by a local author
13. Read a book about mental health
14. Read a “guilty pleasure” book
15. Read a book with a LGBTQ theme
16. Read a book to learn something new
17. Read an inspirational memoir
18. Read a book you’ve had on your shelf for years but haven’t gotten to yet

Personal Reading Goals

In an effort to read outside of my usual comfort zone (primarily psychological novels), I’ll try to read some of these types of books in 2018:

  • translations
  • science fiction
  • biography
  • fantasy
  • plays
  • poetry

I also need to catch up on the Classics Club list that I drew up some time ago. I haven’t made a dent in it in a LONG time. In fact, a look at my original list reveals that I’ve only read 11 of the 58 titles on that list.

Therefore, in 2018 I plan to cross at least six items off that list.

How About You?

Do you set annual reading goals, or do you prefer to pick up the books that call to you during the year? There’s something to be said for either approach.

If you’d like to give the reading-challenge approach a try, Google “2018 reading challenges” and you’ll find a LONG list. And if you’d like to set up your 2018 reading plan by constructing your own challenge, here’s a good place to start:


© 2018 by Mary Daniels Brown

The 15 Best Books I Read in 2017

Since I’m choosy about what I read and mostly read only books I’m interested in, it’s often difficult to choose the titles that belong on my year-end “best books I read this year” list.

And this year the task was particularly difficult. After much adding and subtracting, I’ve finally hit on this list of the 10 best plus 5 honorable mention.

The Best

Backman, Fredrik. A Man Called Ove
Connelly, Michael. Two Kinds Of Truth
Crouch, Blake. Dark Matter
Harper, Jane. The Dry
Honeyman, Gail. Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine
Jenkins, Reid Taylor. The Seven Husbands of Evelyn Hugo
Macdonald, Helen. H Is for Hawk
Ng, Celeste. Everything I Never Told You
Rooney, Kathleen. Lillian Boxfish Takes a Walk
Sternbergh, Adam. The Blinds

Honorable Mention

Cahalan, Susannah. Brain on Fire: My Month of Madness
Dolan-Leach, Caite. Dead Letters
du Maurier, Daphne. My Cousin Rachel
Eskens, Allen. The Life We Bury
Fuller, Claire. Swimming Lessons

How About You?

What books made your list this year?

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

Thanks to Goodreads for the following statistics:

I read 16,335 pages across 48 books.

SHORTEST BOOK: 135 pages. So Long, See You Tomorrow by William Maxwell

LONGEST BOOK: 894 pages. Dune by Frank Herbert


MY AVERAGE RATING FOR 2017: really liked it: 4.0 stars

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown

In Memoriam: Literary Folks We Lost in 2017

This is always my least favorite post of the year.

Here’s a list of people the literary world lost in 2017, including, where available, a link to an obituary and the date of death.

John Berger, 1/2

Nat Hentoff, 1/7

Clare Hollingworth, 1/10

William Peter Blatty, 1/12

William A. Hilliard, 1/16

Peter Abrahams, 1/18

Byron Dobell, 1/21

Emma Tennant, 1/21

Buchi Emecheta, 1/25

Harry Mathews, 1/25

Bharati Mukherjee, 1/28

Barbara Harlow, 1/28

Howard Frank Mosher, 1/29

William Melvin Kelley, 2/1

Thomas Lux, 2/5

Barbara Gelb, 2/9

Dick Bruna, 2/16

Nancy Willard, 2/19

Frank Delaney, 2/21

Gary Cartwright, 2/22

Edith Shiffert, 3/1

Robert James Waller, 3/10

Amy Krouse Rosenthal, 3/13

George Braziller, 3/16

Derek Walcott, 3/17

Jimmy Breslin, 3/19

Robert Silvers, 3/20

Colin Dexter, 3/21

Joanne Kyger, 3/22

David Storey, 3/26

William McPherson, 3/28

Yevgeny Yevtushenko, 4/1

Glenn O’Brien, 4/7

Patricia McKissack, 4/7

Robert M. Pirsig, 4/24

Anne R. Dick, 4/28

Jean Fritz, 5/14

Neil Gordon, 5/19

Denys Johnson-Davies, 5/22

Denis Johnson, 5/24

Ann Birstein, 5/24

Frank Deford, 5/28

Charles Simmons, 6/1

Juan Goytisolo, 6/4

Helen Dunmore, 6/5

Margaux Fragoso, 6/23

Michael Bond, 6/27

Heathcote Williams, 7/1

Spencer Johnson, 7/3

Kenneth Silverman, 7/7

Clancy Sigal, 7/16

Sam Shepard, 7/27

Judith Jones, 8/2

Janusz Glowacki, 8/19

Brian Aldiss, 8/19

Susan Vreeland, 8/23

Howard Kaminsky, 8/26

Bernard Pomerance, 8/26

Rachel Kranz, 8/28

Elaine Ford, 8/27

Louise Hay, 8/30

Katherine M. Bonniwell, 8/31

John Ashbery, 9/3

Kate Millett, 9/6

Jerry Pournelle, 9/8

J.P. Donleavy, 9/11

Myrna Lamb, 9/15

Lillian Ross, 9/20

Kit Reed, 9/24

Si Newhouse, 10/1

Richard Wilbur, 10/14

Donald Bain, 10/14

Fay Chiang, 10/20

Gilbert Rogin, 11/4

Nancy Friday, 11/5

Pat Hutchins, 11/8

Jeremy Hutchinson, 11/13

Les Whitten, 12/2

William Gass, 12/6

Kathleen Karr, 12/6

Bette Howland, 12/13

Clifford Irving, 12/19

Sue Grafton, 12/28

Some Best Books Lists for 2017

Announcing the Winners of the 2017 Goodreads Choice Awards

The Best Books of 2017

From Amazon

The Best Books of 2017

From Esquire.

© 2017 by Mary Daniels Brown