Oprah Winfrey started her book club in 1996 and, for the last twenty years, millions of books have been sold and read because of her recommendations and her dedication to promoting brilliant writers. Here are just some of the bestselling, award-winning, and truly life-changing books that she has selected for her book club.
These are articles from around the web that caught my eye over the last week.
Who among us who love reading fiction have not asked ourselves these questions:
At some point we must ask ourselves if fiction is junk food for our souls. Too much of my lifetime has been consumed in make-believe. My friends talk about what they do, I talked about books, movies and television shows. I even prefer hanging out with other addicts, by being in four book clubs. When I die, and my life flashes in front of my eyes, a huge chunk of what I see will be me staring at a book, television, or movie screen. Is that good or bad? I don’t know. Is it an addiction? I think it is.
James Wallace Harris arrives at what is possible a rationalized conclusion, but one most of us probably understand and even agree with:
I believe fiction is a negative addiction when we use it as a substitute for living, but a positive addition when its a communication tool for comprehending each other.
It’s hard to go wrong with a good long list of advice from books. Dig in!
Back in the good old days, before the demise of Borders, I belonged to two book clubs at my local Borders stores. But my first book club was held at the local public library.
This article examines the question of how important book clubs are now that many people download ebooks instead of purchasing hardcover books.
According to Ann Berlin of the Ivy Bookshop in Baltimore, which hosts quarterly parties for its approximately 60 external book clubs, “a lot of [book club members] are regular customers, and they’re ordering backlist.” She added, “What’s important to us is our relationship with our customers. We give people what they want, when they want it.”
I loved Caleb Carr’s novel The Alienist when I read it many years ago. And one of my favorite current authors is mystery writer Michael Connelly. So this review by Connelly of Carr’s new book, Surrender, New York, in the New York Times was right up my alley.
Carr is best known for “The Alienist,” a beautifully wrought novel set more than a century ago at the dawn of behavioral profiling and other detective sciences. In “Surrender, New York,” he has written an addictive contemporary crime procedural stuffed with observations on the manipulations of science and the particular societal ills of the moment. Call it mystery with multiple messages.
© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown
From Jane E. Brody, long-time health writer for the New York Times:
A recently published book, “70 Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade,” inspired me to take a closer look at how I’m doing as I approach 75 and how I might make the most of the years to come. It would be a good idea for women in my age cohort to do likewise. With a quarter of American women age 65 expected to live into their 90s, there could be quite a few years to think about.
About the book 70 Candles! Women Thriving in Their 8th Decade, Brody writes:
What are the most important issues facing these women as they age, and how might society help ease their way into the future? Leading topics the women chose to explore included work and retirement, ageism, coping with functional changes, caretaking, living arrangements, social connections, grandparenting and adjusting to loss and death.
Curtis Sittenfeld’s latest book, Eligible, is a modern retelling of Jane Austen’s classic novel Pride and Prejudice.
While social rules have changed dramatically in the 200 years since the publication of Pride and Prejudice, Austen’s themes of love, wealth and class are still relevant. Women today can secure financial independence and enjoy intimate relationships without a marriage certificate. Yet societal pressures to marry and bear children persist. And so does the allure of “a single man in possession of a good fortune.”
Book clubs have a reputation as something women do together, but this article focuses on an all-male group in Marin County, CA:
The Man Book Club is going into its ninth year. It has 16 members, a number of whom are lawyers and engineers in their mid–50s. Each month, the host must prepare a meal appropriate to the book under discussion.
There’s also information on other all-male book groups around the country.
Our perspective is how we perceive people, situations, ideas, etc. It’s informed by our personal experience, which makes it as unique as anything could be. Perspective shapes our life by affecting our choices. But the minute our minds become steeped in worry, perspective goes out of the window. We forget about our triumphs. We stop being optimistic as fear takes the wheel.
Sarah Newman explains how fear can cause us to lose sight of all the wisdom we’ve accrued over our lives.
Coming of age is such a common topic for fiction that this type of novel has its own name: Bildungsroman. These novels focus on the psychological growth of the main character from youth into adulthood.
Here novelist Meg Rosoff discusses these coming-of-age novels:
- A Separate Peace by John Knowles
- Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen
- Henry IV Part I by Shakespeare
- Tess of the D’Urbervilles by Thomas Hardy
- All the Pretty Horses by Cormac McCarthy
A recent research study from the University of British Columbia found that:
Older women are nearly 25 percent more likely than men to be over-prescribed or inappropriately prescribed drugs, with a new study pointing to social dynamics as the explanation for the discrepancy.
This is a common question among avid readers: Should authors’ prejudices affect our reactions to their books?
In this article Imogen Russell Williams asks:
The unsavoury attitudes found in novels from writers such as GK Chesterton and Susan Coolidge have ruined some of the fiction I loved most as a child. But where do you draw the line when you return to tainted classics?
© 2016 by Mary Daniels Brown
A report, recently published in Psychological Science in the Public Interest, on a comprehensive review of the science behind speed reading:
The team behind the research looked at decades of studies focused on all manner of techniques and apps that promise to help you devour words at an incredible clip. Sadly, what they found is that what looks too good to be true almost certainly is.
I don’t think the value of belonging to a book club should be limited to women. However, there are quite a few truths buried in this light-hearted piece. And I met some of my closest friends in book groups.
In honor of Women’s History Month, I offer you this chance to join an online book group, started by Emma Watson (you know, Hermione Granger):
The plan is to select and read a book every month, then discuss the work during the month’s last week (to give everyone time to read it!). I will post some questions/quotes to get things started, but I would love for this to grow into an open discussion with and between you all. Whenever possible I hope to have the author, or another prominent voice on the subject, join the conversation.
According to Roy Peter Clark:
revision is not reserved for authors and editors. It is also a power that belongs to all readers, especially ones who undertake multiple readings of a text over time.
To illustrate, he discusses his own experience of reading The Great Gatsby seven times. For good measure, he talks about how to read like a writer:
This is what X-ray reading does for the writer. It reveals the strategies beneath the surface of the text that create meaning. That meaning can endure for decades and even centuries, or it can be enriched – seen with a stabbing clarity – through the re-visions of a devoted reader.
Inspiring the Artist in Everyone: Writers and Artists Share Handwritten Lists of Their Favorite Influential Books
Some of the hand-written lists are impossible to read here, but if you click on any image, you’ll be taken to another page containing the titles.
Advertising to encourage reading:
Reading, one of the world’s most enduring pastimes, hasn’t historically needed clever ads or flashy marketing campaigns to convince people of its worth. But Coffee Sleeves Conversation, as the Coffee House Press project became known, is one of a number of growing efforts around the world to advertise literature as a whole—by taking the message that reading can be accessible, enjoyable, and life-improving to unexpected places, from vending machines and subway cars to fast-food chains.
18 BOOKS FOR WINTER: A SELECTION OF FEEL-GOOD NOVELS, BIG BOOKS, AND CLASSICS TO ENJOY DURING COLDER WEATHER
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.
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.
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.
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”:
- Make ‘Em Laugh by Debbie Reynolds and Dorian Hannaway
- Soundless by Richelle Mead
- Unstoppable by Bill Nye
- Simply Nigella: Feel Good Food by Nigella Lawson
- Year of Yes by Shonda Rhimes
- Young Elizabeth: The Making of the Queen by Kate Williams
- Boys in the Trees: A Memoir by Carly Simon
- The Grownup by Gillian Flynn
- Dear Mr. You by Mary-Louise Parker
- The Emperor of Sound by Timbaland
- Hello? by Liza Wiemer
- 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.
Way back in January 2010 Time magazine drew up a list of “the 100 best English-language novels published since 1923—the beginning of TIME”: All-TIME 100 Novels:
The parameters: English language novels published anywhere in the world since 1923, the year that TIME Magazine began, which, before you ask, means that Ulysses (1922) doesn’t make the cut.
Richard Lacayo and Lev Grossman used this approach in drawing up the list:
Grossman and I [Lacayo] each began by drawing up inventories of our nominees. Once we traded notes, it turned out that more than 80 of our separately chosen titles matched. (Even some of the less well-known ones, like At-Swim Two Birds.) We decided then that we would more or less divide the remaining slots between us. That would allow each of us to include books that the other might not have chosen. Or might not even have read. (Ubik? What’s an Ubik?) And that would extend the list into places where mere agreement wouldn’t take it.
They end by acknowledging that there are many titles not included “that we’re still anguishing over.”
I never did anything with this list when it first came out, but I come across references to it often enough that I thought it time to do the math.
This is the key to my list:
Books I’ve read: 45
Books that are on my classics reading list: 3
A – B
The Adventures of Augie March by Saul Bellow
I read this in college in a course on the contemporary novel.
All the King’s Men by Robert Penn Warren
This is one of my all-time favorite books. I read it as either a junior or senior high school. It was the book that made me realize how all the pieces of a well-crafted novel fall together.
American Pastoral by Philip Roth
An American Tragedy by Theodore Dreiser
I read this in graduate school.
Animal Farm by George Orwell
Like just about every other American kid, I read this in high school.
Appointment in Samarra by John O’Hara
Are You There God? It’s Me, Margaret by Judy Blume
I read this when my daughter was young. It’s more of her generation than mine, but I wanted to be able to talk about it with her.
The Assistant by Bernard Malamud
At Swim-Two-Birds by Flann O’Brien
Atonement by Ian McEwan
I read this with a book group when the paperback edition came out.
Beloved by Toni Morrison
The Berlin Stories by Christopher Isherwood
The Big Sleep by Raymond Chandler
I can’t believe I still haven’t gotten to this one.
The Blind Assassin by Margaret Atwood
I’ve read this one twice: It’s that good. (The first time was for a book group; the second time was on my own.)
Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy
Brideshead Revisited by Evelyn Waugh
The Bridge of San Luis Rey by Thornton Wilder
I read this one for my in-person classics book group.
C – D
Call It Sleep by Henry Roth
Catch–22 by Joseph Heller
I read this on my own early in my college years.
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger
I’ve read this several times, most recently about a year ago for my in-person classics book group.
A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess
The Confessions of Nat Turner by William Styron
The Corrections by Jonathan Franzen
One of my book groups read this not long after it came out.
The Crying of Lot 49 by Thomas Pynchon
This one’s on my personal to-be-read list.
A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell
The Day of the Locust by Nathaneal West
Death Comes for the Archbishop by Willa Cather
I can’t remember if we read this in high school or if I just think we did because I’ve heard of it so much.
A Death in the Family by James Agee
The Death of the Heart by Elizabeth Bowen
Deliverance by James Dickey
I read this one after seeing the movie.
Dog Soldiers by Robert Stone
F – G
Falconer by John Cheever
The French Lieutenant’s Woman by John Fowles
I read this one on my own soon after college.
The Golden Notebook by Doris Lessing
Go Tell it on the Mountain by James Baldwin
Gone With the Wind by Margaret Mitchell
The Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
I read this in college.
Gravity’s Rainbow by Thomas Pynchon
The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
I read this in college, again in graduate school, and again a few years ago before the movie with Leonardo DiCaprio was released.
H – I
A Handful of Dust by Evelyn Waugh
The Heart is A Lonely Hunter by Carson McCullers
I read this one several years ago in an attempt to fill in some of the gaps in my knowledge of American literature.
The Heart of the Matter by Graham Greene
Herzog by Saul Bellow
I read this one in a course on contemporary literature in college.
Housekeeping by Marilynne Robinson
A House for Mr. Biswas by V. S. Naipaul
I, Claudius by Robert Graves
I read this after seeing the PBS version starring Derek Jacobi.
Infinite Jest by David Foster Wallace
Invisible Man by Ralph Ellison
I read this in a college course.
L – N
Light in August by William Faulkner
The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe by C.S. Lewis
Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov
I’ve read this twice, once in a college course and again later on my own.
Lord of the Flies by William Golding
We also read this one in high school.
The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkein
I devoured this one on my own soon after graduating from college.
Loving by Henry Green
Although I haven’t read this, it looks like one I would enjoy.
The Moviegoer by Walker Percy
I read this one in college in a course on the history of the novel. I reread it on my own many years later.
Lucky Jim by Kingsley Amis
The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead
Midnight’s Children by Salman Rushdie
Money by Martin Amis
Mrs. Dalloway by Virginia Woolf
This one is on my TBR list.
Naked Lunch by William Burroughs
Native Son by Richard Wright
I read this in an introductory literature course in college.
Neuromancer by William Gibson
I read this one quite a few years ago when I decided that I should become at least a little familiar with current science fiction. I was delightfully surprised by how much I enjoyed it as a modern quest story.
Never Let Me Go by Kazuo Ishiguro
I read this one not long after it came out.
1984 by George Orwell
Again, this is one that I read, probably along with every other American kid, in high school.
O – R
On the Road by Jack Kerouac
I read this one on my own when I was filling in the gaps in my reading of American classics.
One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest by Ken Kesey
I read this one on my own while in college during the 1960s.
The Painted Bird Jerzy Kosiński
Pale Fire by Vladimir Nabokov
I read this one while on a Nabokov reading kick between my junior and senior years of college.
A Passage to India by E.M. Forster
I read this one in college.
Play It As It Lays by Joan Didion
Portnoy’s Complaint by Philip Roth
Another one that I read while in college in the 1960s.
Possession by A.S. Byatt
I’ve read this one twice, on my own both times.
The Power and the Glory by Graham Greene
The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie by Muriel Spark
Rabbit, Run by John Updike
I’ve read this one at least three times, the latest time within the last year or so for my in-person classics book group.
Ragtime by E.L. Doctorow
This one I read soon after publication. A friend gave me a hardcover copy for Christmas.
The Recognitions by William Gaddis
Red Harvest by Dashiell Hammett
This one is waiting on my TBR shelf.
Revolutionary Road by Richard Yates
I read this one recently for the online Classics Club.
S – T
The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles
Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Here’s yet another classic that I read on my own during college in the 1960s.
Snow Crash by Neal Stephenson
I also read this one during my mid-life attempt to introduce myself to contemporary science fiction. I liked this one, but I liked The Diamond AGe even more.
The Sot-Weed Factor by John Barth
The Sound and the Fury by William Faulkner
I read this once in college and once again much later.
The Sportswriter by Richard Ford
This is one I read not long after it came out.
The Spy Who Came in From the Cold by John le Carré
The Sun Also Rises by Ernest Hemingway
I read this several years ago for a book group.
Their Eyes Were Watching God by Zora Neale Hurston
One of my book groups read this quite a few years ago.
Things Fall Apart by Chinua Achebe
To Kill a Mockingbird by Harper Lee
I don’t remember when I first read this, but I’ve reread it many times over.
To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf
I read this in a college course.
Tropic of Cancer by Henry Miller
U – W
Ubik by Philip K. Dick
Under the Net by Iris Murdoch
Under the Volcano by Malcolm Lowry
Watchmen by Alan Moore,
White Noise by Don DeLillo
I haven’t yet read this one, but it’s on my TBR shelf.
White Teeth by Zadie Smith
Wide Sargasso Sea by Jeanne Rhys
This is the August selection for my in-person classics book group, so I’m counting it as read because I’ll be reading it in the next couple of week.
And what have I learned from doing this assessment?
First, I’ve read fewer than half (45) of these “all-time best” novels. Even if I read and add to the total the titles on my classics club reading list, I’ll still be under half (48).
Second, of the listed novels that I have read, I read most of them in my high school, college, and early adult years. Maybe I had better radar then for good books. But I suspect that the real reason is that many newer books haven’t yet had time to prove themselves as classic novels and therefore are not included in this list. (One notable exception to this speculation is Marilynne Robinson’s Housekeeping.)
Third, however I look at the situation, one thing is clear: I have A LOT more reading to do.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Because I am currently in the process of leaving my heart in San Francisco, this week’s Monday Miscellany is short.
Barnes & Noble will always be there with a stack of bestsellers, and Half Price Books is likely to have the novel you’re looking for in a pinch. But for travelers, little will beat the act of stepping inside a small, local bookstore, being greeted by the owner and guided through the collection by an employee who actually loves literature as much as you do. Maybe it’s their independent spirit (reading, after all, is a form of freedom), or maybe it’s that they’re connected with local authors, but the independent bookstore manages to live on in an era of Kindles and chain resellers. So, if you’re like us, and agree that a good trip deserves a good book, then just for you, here are 10 of our editors’ favorite independently owned bookstores throughout the United States.
Are you lucky enough to have one of these stores nearby?
- The Booksmith, San Francisco, CA
- Elliott Bay Book Company, Seattle, WA
- Harvard Book Store, Cambridge, MA
- Kramerbooks & Afterwords Café & Grill, Washington, D.C.
- Mercer Street Books & Records, New York
- Powell’s, Portland, OR
- Skylight Books, Los Angeles, CA
- Square Books, Oxford, MS
- Strand Book Store, New York
- Women & Children First, Chicago, IL
Then there is the Young Men’s Literary Club of Cheyenne, still going after an incredible 112 years.
Established in 1902, the capital city’s organization is something of a relic and only one of a handful of literary clubs from that era that survive today.
It is an elite men-only organization with 30 active members who must be invited to join.
The rules of the club state that its purpose is “to provide benefits from the training of the mind in literary pursuits and the advantage to be gained by the interchange of ideas and discussion of topics of public interest.”
But isn’t it too bad that no one has realized, during those 112 years, that women read and discuss literature, too? See how the exclusive members reacted to a couple of different attempts to incorporate women into the group.
Shel Silverstein—the late cartoonist, singer, songwriter, playwright, and mega-selling author of such classics as The Giving Tree and Where the Sidewalk Ends—didn’t like children’s literature. Spoon-feeding kids sugar-sweet stories just wasn’t his style. Fortunately for generations of young readers, someone convinced him to do something about it—namely, break the mold himself. Using edgy humor, clever rhymes, and tripped-out drawings, Silverstein achieved the impossible. He bridged the worlds of adult and children’s art, while becoming wildly popular in the process.
More of the usual good stuff from Metal Floss.
The Conclusion of Women’s History Month
Though many truly badass women authors are alive and working today, their stories aren’t yet finished. So as Women’s History Month draws to a close, we wanted to look back on some of the incredible literary women from history and remember how both their work and their lives broke new ground.
Read why Huffington Post thinks these female authors were totally badass:
- Louisa May Alcott
- Mary McCarthy
- Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz
- Nellie Bly
- Edith Wharton
- Zora Neale Hurston
- Edna St. Vincent Millay
- George Eliot
- Mary Wollstonecraft
- Carson McCullers
- George Sand
- Hannah Arendt
- Harriet Ann Jacobs
- Katherine Anne Porter
Though James Patterson might be the one getting 17-book deals for millions, some of the best writers of crime, thrillers, and mysteries have been women. Here are some of the best examples of these genres from the past century that will keep you reading past your bedtime (and possibly unable to sleep forever).
Among the authors Jessica Grose recommends here are Agatha Christie, Ann Rule, Edna Buchanan, and Patricia Highsmith.
“WHAT’S your book group reading?” I say to a friend encountered on the street. Not: “Are you in a book group?” I have no idea whether Clara is in a book group. We’ve never talked about it. All the same, I just know. Why? Because it’s a safe assumption to make these days.
By some estimates, five million Americans gather every few weeks in someone’s living room or in a bar or bookstore or local library to discuss the finer points of “Middlemarch” or “The Brothers Karamazov.” (A perfect number is hard to pin down because some people belong to two or three clubs, and of course, there’s no central registry of members.) Among them is Clara, whose book group even has a name: the Oracles. They’re reading “The Flamethrowers,” by Rachel Kushner.
James Atlas learns why book groups aren’t just a fixture of New York City.
What determines a city as ‘literary?’ It’s not enough to have a large library, unique bookstores, or be the birthplace of a famous writer. Nor is it enough to be one of the top literate cities in the United States Most literary cities have a strong writing program at one of their numerous colleges and universities, as well as bookstores and institutions hosting event after event. If anything, a literary city is a blend of the historical, cultural, and modern parts of literature, encouraging and inspiring future generations to appreciate and take part in the literary world.
See what cities (other than New York City) Gabriella Tutino has chosen for this article in Highbrow Magazine.
In this unusual take on literary criticism, Allison K. Gibson describes her literary cravings during pregnancy:
While I was pregnant, I learned to follow my instincts — my hunger — to lead me to stories that would nourish me. And, as I learned from that first 3 a.m. craving for “The Night of the Curlews,” certain stories are meant to be savored so that the words continue to nourish long after the last sentence has been swallowed. The best stories leave an aftertaste.
Writers are terrible procrastinators, and I’m pretty sure that’s because writing, although it can be exhilarating, is also just plain hard. Here author Bill Cotter, who has his own love-hate relationship with his profession, offers some (comforting?) remarks from writers including Kurt Vonnegut, Flannery O’Connor, and Virginia Woolf.
This past week was particularly rich in literary-related stories. Here’s a selection chosen for its variety.
Some characters just have to exist in pairs: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, Don Quixote and Sancho Panza, Thing 1 and Thing 2.
Elizabeth Wein’s excellent novel Code Name Verity features a pair of female protagonists who think of themselves as a Sensational Team. In this article Wein introduces us to some of her favorite literary duos:
it was hard work narrowing down my teams, so I had to make myself some rules for a fair elimination process. Here’s the system I decided to follow. Each team would have to be a Dynamic Duo rather than a fellowship of three or more (that ruled out the Swallows and the Pevensies), and the pair’s involvement with each other had to further a plot unconnected with any potential romance between them (that ruled out Romeo and Juliet). I also decided that for the purposes of this list each pair of favourites needed to be the main characters in their own stories (that ruled out Fred and George Weasley).
I brainstormed a much longer list than I needed. When I looked it over to choose my top ten, I was amazed and also somewhat disgusted. There wasn’t a single pair of girls on the list. There were more stuffed animals than girls on the list. . . . I feel sure there are other pairs of girls out there besides my own, doing Sensational Literary Teamwork, but they don’t appear in any books I’ve read. Maybe that’s exactly why I make them up.”
Discussion continues over whether reading literature somehow makes us better people. This article reports on recent research out of the University of Toronto:
“Exposure to literature,” the researchers write in the Creativity Research Journal, “may offer a (way for people) to become more likely to open their minds.”
In other words, exposure to literature may make people more tolerant of ambiguity, a trait that in turn can help them avoid snap judgments, stereotypical thinking, and bad decisions.
Their results should give people “pause to think about the effect of current cutbacks of education in the arts and humanities,” Djikic and her colleagues add. After all, they note, while success in most fields demands the sort of knowledge gained by reading non-fiction, it also “requires people to become insightful about others and their perspectives.”
I’m usually skeptical of anyone who begins with a comment something like “I haven’t had this experience myself, but here’s what I think about it.” However, in this case I’ll give the writer, Evan Gottlieb, Associate Professor of English at Oregon State University, a pass. As he explains, since his professional life involves discussing literature with others, he feels he should spend the rest of his time attending to other interests.
Gottlieb may never have attended any book club sessions, but I have: countless book club gatherings over more than 20 years. And I can testify that the seven points he makes here are spot on. I especially like his second point, about keeping the discussion on topic:
2. Plot, character, setting, and style are the four basic formal elements of any novel. . . . As long as you are describing, considering, analyzing, or asking questions about one or more of these elements, you can be sure you are staying focused on the book that everyone (presumably) has read and gathered to discuss.
What do you think of Gottlieb’s advice?
The manor house in which DH Lawrence set Lady Chatterley’s Lover is among a number of homes with literary connections currently on the market.
This article discusses several English properties with a literary connection currently for sale. There’s also an interesting discussion about whether a literary connection makes a property more or less valuable.
Even if you can’t afford one of these places, the pictures are lovely.
Dysfunctional families in literature run the gamut from amusing to chilling, but they all have one thing in common: they keep the reader glued to the page. After all, as readers, we may like the occasional dose of normal, but it doesn’t take long before we’re craving a touch of betrayal or a hint of deceit. Dysfunctional families in literature let us peek into the dark shadows of the psyche while keeping a safe distance.
Novelist Ingrid Thoft offers a slideshow of 10 such families.
When Gogol died in 1852, Ivan Turgenev, the man whom many in Russia were calling his successor, was arrested for writing an obituary in praise of the great writer. In fact, the official reason was a pretext. Turgenev had already displeased the tsarist authorities with his series of sketches of rural Russian life, published in the journal the Contemporary between 1847 and 1851, and collected in 1852 as Sketches from a Hunter’s Album.
This book, which it is claimed influenced Tsar Alexander II’s decision to emancipate the serfs in 1861, comprises vignettes of peasant life as observed by a landowning hunter much like Turgenev. Not even Gogol had presented such rounded portrayals of serfs before.
I’m embarrassed that I am just now, with installment #50, discovering this series in The Guardian. Fortunately, there are arrows at the bottom for navigating to “previous” and “next” articles.