On Reading

35 books everyone should read at least once in their lifetime

Cover: To Kill a MockingbirdThis article arose from a question posed on Reddit: “What is a book that everyone needs to read at least once in their life?”

Of the top 35 books listed here from the Reddit responses, I have read the following:

  1. Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance by Robert M. Pirsig
  2. Man’s Search for Meaning by Viktor Frankl
  3. Bartleby The Scrivener: A Story of Wall-Street by Herman Melville
  4. East of Eden by John Steinbeck
  5. How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie (hey, it was a requirement of my psych 101 course in college)
  6. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  7. The Stranger by Albert Camus
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale by Margaret Atwood
  9. Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery
    Fahrenheit 451 by Ray Bradbury
  10. To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee
  11. Animal Farm by George Orwell
  12. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque
    Catch–22 by Joseph Heller
  13. Slaughterhouse Five by Kurt Vonnegut
  14. The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams
  15. Flowers for Algernon by Daniel Keyes
  16. 1984 by George Orwell

That’s fewer than half. How depressing.

In my defense, though, I do have several of the others on my personal to-be-read list:

  • Watership Down by Richard Adams
  • For Whom the Bell Tolls by Ernest Hemingway
  • One Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcia Marquez
  • The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
  • Dune by Frank Herbert (I have resisted this one for years but have finally decided I should give it a try)
  • Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? by Philip K. Dick (can’t believe I haven’t read this yet)

So many books, so little time…

Romanticizing the Reader

Writer Diane Ackerman looks at the relationship between writers and their readers:

Nearly every author I know imagines one or more readers while writing a book. It’s a bloom of creative telepathy. The reader is a part of yourself, held at a distance, and becomes an important sounding board for the tone and language of the pages, an intimate ally.

And how do readers react when meeting authors, for example at a book signing? “Having read your books, readers know you far better than you know them — except that authors aren’t always their books.” She continues, “And just as the author romanticizes the reader, so does the reader romanticize the author.”

In the end, both the writer and the reader—and the interaction between the two—are necessary for a book to be successful:

As an author and reader, I like the idea of reading as an indelible spice that transforms a book while the book transforms you.

Literary Idol: Amelia Gray on Shirley Jackson

In conjunction with the recent Los Angeles Festival of Books, the Los Angeles Times asked five participants to comment on the writers who had influenced them. Here author Amelia Gray pays tribute to Shirley Jackson:

The loners in her books appealed to me, the fragile and friendless women in worlds built to appear ordinary that always revealed a more sinister nature.

This article contains links to lots of related coverage of the Festival of Books.

The eeriness of the English countryside

Writers and artists have long been fascinated by the idea of an English eerie – ‘the skull beneath the skin of the countryside’. But for a new generation this has nothing to do with hokey supernaturalism – it’s a cultural and political response to contemporary crises and fears

Robert Macfarlane has written a fascinating look at how the English landscape continues to be used artistically to represent the eerie:

that form of fear that is felt first as unease, then as dread, and which is incited by glimpses and tremors rather than outright attack. Horror specialises in confrontation and aggression; the eerie in intimation and aggregation. Its physical consequences tend to be gradual and compound: swarming in the stomach’s pit, the tell-tale prickle of the skin. I find the eerie far more alarming than the horrific…

He finds evidence of this eerie use of landscape in many artistic areas:

In music, literature, art, music, film and photography, as well as in new and hybrid forms and media, the English eerie is on the rise. A loose but substantial body of work is emerging that explores the English landscape in terms of its anomalies rather than its continuities, that is sceptical of comfortable notions of “dwelling” and “belonging”, and of the packagings of the past as “heritage”, and that locates itself within a spectred rather than a sceptred isle.

Although some of his references may be lost on those unfamiliar with both the English countryside and English history, his explanations make his meaning clear. He cites examples of such eerie works across literature, film, and art. Many of the current works call up earlier art and artists, from the 19th century forward. Many of these earlier works employed ghosts and corpses as symbolic of the decay underlying the seemingly tranquil pastoral landscape.

But engaging with the eerie emphatically doesn’t mean believing in ghosts. Few of the practitioners named here would endorse earth mysteries or ectoplasm. What is under way, across a broad spectrum of culture, is an attempt to account for the turbulence of England in the era of late capitalism. The supernatural and paranormal have always been means of figuring powers that cannot otherwise find visible expression. Contemporary anxieties and dissents are here being reassembled and re-presented as spectres, shadows or monsters…

As a Daughter Becomes a Teenager, a Mother Becomes a Vampire Novelist

Heather K. Gerken, the J. Skelly Wright professor of law at Yale Law School, has written eight novels, and is working on the ninth, that only one person will read:

My daughter is growing up, which means I’m losing her. Anna is 12, all eyes, cheekbones and imagination. Every now and then I catch a glimpse of the glorious 17-year-old just around the corner, and it makes my heart ache with the anticipation of loss.

Gerken started writing the books for her daughter because

I hope to encase Anna in the only form of armor that I trust — stories. I have written Anna as a heroine in the hope that she will feel the tug of her own heroism inside her.

Even though Anna hasn’t yet grown up, she’s now writing her own story, which Gerken takes as a good sign.

Her Stinging Critiques Propel Young Adult Best Sellers

You may have never heard of Julie Strauss-Gabel, but you’ve almost certainly heard of one example of her work, the novel The Fault in Our Stars by John Green. Strauss-Gabel is publisher of Dutton Children’s Books.

Amidst all the chest-thumping about the decline of the publishing industry, children’s books have been the bright exception: “In 2014, revenue from young adult and children’s books rose by 21 percent over the previous year, while adult fiction and nonfiction fell by 1.4 percent, according to the Association of American Publishers.”

Strauss-Gable has contributed significantly to the rise of YA (young adult) literature:

Ms. Strauss-Gabel’s unconventional taste and eye for idiosyncratic literary voices have helped her identify and build up some of young adult fiction’s biggest breakout stars.

Many adults now buy and read YA literature:

Adults aged 18 to 44 made up 65 percent of young adult book buyers in 2014, according to a recent Nielsen Books & Consumer survey, and men accounted for 44 percent of young adult book buyers in 2014, up from 31 percent in 2012. And 65 percent of adults buying young adult books reported that they were purchasing the books for themselves rather than for children.

Alabama Officials Find Harper Lee in Control of Decision to Publish Second Novel – NYTimes.com

The lawyer for the author Harper Lee, Tonja B. Carter, received notice on Friday that an investigation by Alabama officials into whether Ms. Lee, 88, and confined to an assisted living facility, was manipulated into publishing a second novel has been closed and no evidence of abuse or neglect had been found.

via Alabama Officials Find Harper Lee in Control of Decision to Publish Second Novel – NYTimes.com.

Cover Reveal: Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’

One of the most talked-about books of the summer, Harper Lee’s Go Set a Watchman, has an official cover. HarperCollins unveiled the jacket of the book, with president and publisher of general books Michael Morrison noting that the design “draws on the style of the decade the book was written, but with a modern twist.”

via Cover Reveal: Harper Lee’s ‘Go Set a Watchman’.

Book News

Q&A: Northwest is the new frontier for science fiction fanatics

Puget Sound seems to be a center of fandom for what’s often called speculative fiction. For one thing, Tacoma was the home of Frank Herbert, author of the 1965 science fiction classic “Dune.”

In 2015, the calendar is filled with fan functions devoted to science fiction and fantasy from Emerald City Comicon, in Seattle from Friday through Sunday, to Tacoma’s Jet City Comic Show in October

In the Tacoma newspaper The News Tribune, Craig Sailor interviews Brett Rogers, assistant professor of classics at the University of Puget Sound in Tacoma. Rogers “pursues a wide range of subjects that include Homer and classical drama, superhero narratives and ‘Buffy the Vampire Slayer.’”

Rogers and colleague Ben Stevens recently published The Once and Future Antiquity: Classical Traditions in Science Fiction and Fantasy, a book of essays about the links between the ancient classics and present day science fiction and fantasy.

This Friday and Saturday the University of Puget Sound will host a conference that focuses on “all things related to speculative fiction.”

Asked how he defines science fiction, Rogers replied that it’s not just about robots and space travel:

We’re more interested in how science fiction is not product oriented, cyborgs (for example), but process oriented — the way it gets people to think differently and imaginatively about their interaction with the world.

Rogers says he doesn’t believe in rigid definitions for terms such as science fiction, fantasy, and speculative fiction. To Sailor’s question of what science fiction and fantasy allow us to do that regular fiction does not, Rogers replied that many people say they allow us to run thought experiments: If you have different starting premises, how might things turn out differently? Mystery and wonder, a way to explore the unknown, are other aspects of the power of speculative fiction, according to Rogers.

This year is the 50th anniversary of Tacoma writer Frank Herbert’s Dune. Rogers praised Herbert’s ability at creating a complete world: “What Tolkien does with elves and dwarves and dragons, Herbert does with prophetic powers and spice that is mined from the desert planet of Arrakis.” Rogers also says that Herbert plays with narrative structure in the novel in a way that challenges readers’ expectations. By presenting various parts of the narrative from different characters’ points of view, Herbert requires readers to put the various pieces of the story together.

In addition to this weekend’s conference at UPS in Tacoma, the Emerald City Comicon will take place Friday through Sunday at the Washington State Convention Center in Seattle. Tickets for Comicon are sold out.

30 books we recommend for spring reading

Mary Ann Gwinn reports that spring used to be a quiet time for publishing, but not any more. Here she lists notable books to be published between March and June, including the following:

  • Fiction by Kazuo Ishiguro, Sara Gruen, Toni Morrison, Kate Atkinson, Jane Smiley, Neal Stephenson, Judy Blume, Stephanie Kallos, and Stephen King
  • Nonfiction by Robert Putnam, Tony Angell, David Brooks, David McCullough, Val McDermid, Willie Nelson, and Oliver Sacks

4 African authors among Man Booker International finalists

The finalists for the prestigious literary award the Man Booker International Prize were announced on Tuesday by the chair of judges, Marina Warner, in South Africa at the University of Cape Town. The Man Booker International Prize recognizes an author’s achievement through a body of work covering the writer’s career. Previous winners include American novelist Philip Roth, Canadian writer Alice Munro, and the late Chinua Achebe.

Here is the list of finalists:

  • Mia Couto of Mozambique
  • Marlene van Niekerk of South Africa
  • Ibrahim al-Koni of Libya
  • Alain Mabanckou of the Republic of Congo
  • Cesar Aira of Argentina
  • Maryse Conde of Guadeloupe
  • Amitav Ghosh of India
  • Fanny Howe of the United States of America
  • Laszlo Krasznahorkai of Hungary
  • Hoda Barakat of Lebanon

“This is a most interesting and enlightening list of finalists,” said Jonathan Taylor, chairman of the Booker Prize Foundation. “It brings attention to writers from far and wide, so many of whom are in translation. As a result, our reading lists will surely be hugely expanded.”

The prize is 60,000 pounds, or about $90,000. The winner will be announced in London on May 19.

Harper Lee’s Condition Debated by Friends, Fans and Now State of Alabama – NYTimes.com

Now the State of Alabama has been drawn into the debate. Responding to at least one complaint of potential elder abuse related to the publication of “Watchman,” investigators interviewed Ms. Lee last month at the assisted living facility where she resides. They have also interviewed employees at the facility, called the Meadows, as well as several friends and acquaintances.

via Harper Lee’s Condition Debated by Friends, Fans and Now State of Alabama – NYTimes.com.

The debate over whether Harper Lee is capable of consenting to the publication of her first novel, the forerunner of To Kill a Mockingbird, has intensified.

Harper Lee Lawyer Offers More Details on Discovery of New Book – NYTimes.com

Harper Lee Lawyer Offers More Details on Discovery of New Book – NYTimes.com.

Last week’s announcement that another novel by Harper Lee, author of the beloved classic To Kill a Mockingbird, had been discovered and would be published in July stirred up a lot of controversy and questions. The recently discovered novel is titled Go Set a Watchman. Lee wrote this novel, set 20 years after the events in Mockingbird, first, but her publisher suggested that she rework the flashback sections into a new novel set at the time of the crucial events and narrated from the perspective of the young girl. That reworking became Mockingbird, narrated by the young Jean Louise “Scout” Finch.

Much of the uproar about news of the new novel involved questions of whether Harper Lee, now 88 years old, reportedly nearly blind and deaf, and living in an assisted-care facility, was mentally competent to participate in the decision to publish the discovered manuscript. Over the years Lee has repeatedly told people that she had said all she had to say in that book and would not be publishing another novel.  The questioning was exacerbated when Tonja Carter, Lee’s attorney and the reported discoverer of the old manuscript, refused to answer inquiries or furnish more information.

This article reports that yesterday (Saturday) Carter finally answered questions through text messages and email:

 Answering questions on Saturday through both emails and text messages, Ms. Carter said that Ms. Lee is “extremely hurt and humiliated” at the suggestion that she had been duped.

“She is a very strong, independent and wise woman who should be enjoying the discovery of her long lost novel,” Ms. Carter said. “Instead, she is having to defend her own credibility and decision making.”

Much of the concern over the sudden announcement of the discovery of the manuscript was over Carter herself, who has become the gatekeeper over all issues involving Harper Lee, including who is allowed to visit her. Many sources have reported that Carter is really no johnny-come-lately to the scene. She worked at the law firm run by Alice Lee, Harper’s older sister who died last fall, and handled the settlement of Alice Lee’s will. But her initial refusal to provide more information about the discovery and planned publication of Harper Lee’s old manuscript raised questions:

 Asked why she had not provided more detail about the discovery, which might have quelled suspicions, she said: “I am a lawyer, not a celebrity. The focus should be on the gift Harper Lee is giving the world.”

While some acquaintances of Harper Lee remain concerned over possible exploitation, others report that Lee is aware of and supports the publication of the novel that she thought had been lost.

Further:

When Ms. Carter revealed her discovery to Ms. Lee in August, the author was shocked, Ms. Carter recalled. Ms. Lee immediately asked her friend to repeat herself. Ms. Carter reiterated that she had found a novel, calling the book “Go Set the Watchman.” She was swiftly corrected: “It’s ‘Go Set a Watchman,’ ” Ms. Lee said.

Harper Lee to Publish Second Novel

Cover: To Kill a MockingbirdYesterday’s announcement that Harper Lee, author of To Kill a Mockingbird, would publish a second novel this July rocked the literary world. Here’s a collection of articles on the significance of the news.

Harper Lee, Author of ‘To Kill a Mockingbird,’ Is to Publish a Second Novel

Alexandra Alter reports in the books section of The New York Times that Harper Lee, now 88, “wrote another novel after all — a sequel of sorts to “To Kill a Mockingbird,” featuring an aging Atticus Finch and his grown daughter, Scout.”

This 304-page novel, Go Set a Watchman, takes place 20 years after the events depicted in To Kill a Mockingbird in the same fictional town of Maycomb, Alabama. In this follow-up novel an adult Jean Louise Finch, Scout from Mockingbird, returns to visit her father. The novel “tackles the racial tensions brewing in the South in the 1950s and delves into the complex relationship between father and daughter.”

Lee wrote Watchman first, but her publisher liked the flashbacks featuring the younger Scout and told Lee to rewrite the book as a tale of the events narrated from the point of view of the young girl. The rewritten version became Mockingbird.

“I was a first-time writer, so I did as I was told,” Ms. Lee said in a statement released by her publisher.

Reportedly, Harper Lee thought that her original manuscript for Watchman had been destroyed. But last fall her friend and attorney, Tonja Carter, discovered it hidden among Lee’s papers.

Charles J. Shields, the author of a biography of Ms. Lee that was published by Henry Holt in 2006, said he had come across references to “Go Set a Watchman” in Ms. Lee’s early correspondence with her literary agent. “’I figured it was an early draft of To Kill a Mockingbird.’ ” Mr. Shields said. He also saw references from Ms. Lee’s editor to repeated revisions of “To Kill A Mockingbird,” as she tried telling the story from three different perspectives.

Alter quotes Shields as wondering whether Lee’s original writing in Watchman will hold up against Mockingbird, which was the product of heavy editing.

Literary critics and historians have long wondered why Lee never published another novel. Lee has shunned public appearances for decades, saying that the publicity surrounding her famous novel overwhelmed her and that she had said all she has to say in that novel.

Harper Lee issued a statement expressing her delight at the upcoming publication at the time of the announcement. But many people were surprised by the recent announcement and question whether the author had much say in it. Harper Lee has always been protective of the legacy of her famous novel. She suffered a stroke in 2007 and has been living in an assisted-living facility. Her older sister, Alice Lee, previously acted as her attorney and has handled legal issues involving unlicensed infringements on the novel. Alice Lee died last year.

Jonathan Burnham, senior vice president and publisher of Harper, the company that will publish Watchman, says that he never spoke about the deal with Harper Lee directly but communicated with her through Carter, her current attorney, and Andrew Nurnberg, her literary agent. “The statement Ms. Lee provided expressing her delight that the new novel will finally be published was delivered through her lawyer, Mr. Burnham said.”

How Harper Lee’s Long-Lost Sequel Was Found

Russell Berman interviewed Harper publisher Jonathan Burnham about the discovery and publication of Harper Lee’s new novel. This edited version of their discussion appears on The Atlantic’s web site.

When asked about how the manuscript of Go Set a Watchman was found, Burnham replied:

It was found in this safe location near Harper Lee’s home. It was attached to an original copy of the manuscript of To Kill A Mockingbird. Harper Lee’s lawyer and friend, Tonja Carter, discovered it, sort of picked up the manuscript and flipped through it and then saw that some of the scenes and characters in the book had no relation to Mockingbird and realized it was actually two different books. This was the first time the manuscript had been found since heaven-knows-when. Harper Lee lost track of it in the ’60s.

Here’s what Burnham said when asked about Harper Lee’s reaction to the discovery of the manuscript she thought had been lost:

She was thrilled. She believed it to have been lost. She was delighted it was found. She’s always been a self-critical writer, so she shared it with some close friends and advisers, and they told her that it was extremely and eminently publishable. So she was thrilled. She’s very much engaged in the process, and she’s happy that it’s coming out. She knows that today’s the announcement date. She won’t be doing publicity for the book. She never has done—well, she hasn’t done any interviews since 1964, so that probably won’t change.

And here’s what Burnham had to say when asked about Harper Lee’s health, including reports that she is now blind and deaf:

Well I can only report that her agent spent a couple of days with her in January down in Alabama and described her to us as feisty and full of good spirits. She’s a fanatical reader. She reads all the time. She just started reading a biography of Queen Victoria by A.N. Wilson—just embarked on. So, no, she’s in fine fettle, by reports.

In answer to the question about how much editing the manuscript needs, Burnham replied that it’s a finished and polished work that will need only light copy editing. “So it’s not going to go through any extensive editorial process,” he added.

Harper Lee’s hometown excited, perplexed by ‘Mockingbird’ sequel

Jay Reeves reports for the Associated Press on the reaction in Harper Lee’s hometown of Monroeville, Alabama, to the announcement of the upcoming publication of a new novel.

In the small Alabama town author Harper Lee made famous with “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the Southern classic novel can be seen and felt everywhere.

Signs in Monroeville are decorated with mockingbirds. The old courthouse, a model for the movie version of the book, is now a museum that sells souvenirs including coffee cups, aprons and Christmas ornaments. A statue in the town square and a mural decorating the side of a building depict characters who inhabited a fictional version of the town Lee called “Maycomb, Alabama.”

“Monroeville calls itself the “Literary Capital of Alabama,” a designation bestowed by the state Legislature in the late 1990s.” Other literary lights who lived in the city are Truman Capote, most famous for In Cold Blood, and editorialist Cynthia Tucker, winner of the Pulitzer Prize.

Since the closing of the Vanity Fair mill and outlet nearly 20 years ago, tourism based on To Kill a Mockingbird has been Monroeville’s main source of income.

The nonprofit Monroe County Heritage Museum opens the old courthouse to visitors and features a display about Lee’s life in her own words. Fans can sit in the courtroom balcony depicted in the Academy Award-winning screen version of the book.

Area residents put on a play based on the book each spring, holding the first act of sold-out performances on the courthouse lawn, then taking patrons inside for the climactic courtroom scenes. While visitors are few in shops right now, they’ll return once winter is over.

Harper Lee: The Sadness of a Sequel

In another article on The Atlantic web site, Megan Garber looks closely at the issue of why Harper Lee has now changed her mind about the publication of a second novel:

Harper Lee, née and known to those close to her as Nelle, spent the majority of her life not wanting Go Set a Watchman to be published. Or, at least, she has spent the majority of her life telling the media that she didn’t want Go Set a Watchman to be published.

And this:

Lee once told Oprah Winfrey, over a (private) lunch, why she’d never appear on her show: While people tended to compare her to Scout, she explained, “I’m really Boo.”

Boo is Boo Radley, the Finches’ reclusive neighbor in To Kill a Mockingbird.

Garber speculates on why Harper Lee has now changed her mind:

perhaps Lee, alive but ill, is being treated the way so many deceased authors are: as ideas rather than people, as brands and businesses rather than messy collections of doubts and desires.

Amid ‘Mockingbird’ sequel buzz, worries about Lee’s wishes

Finally, another report by Associated Press writer Jay Reeves raises serious questions about Harper Lee’s competence to participate in the decision to publish her other novel, Go Set a Watchman, after all these years. Reeves reports on two friends of the Lee family who observed Harper Lee at the funeral of her older sister, Alice Lee, last November:

Grieving, ill and seated in a wheelchair, Lee talked loudly to herself at awkward times during the service for her beloved older sister and attorney, Alice, according to two family friends who attended the November service. Lee mumbled in a manner that shocked some in attendance, said one of the friends.

Monday Miscellany

The Feud Between Amazon, Hachette Publishing, and Readers Heats Up

It’s difficult to keep up with all the nuances of this issue. Here are a couple of recent articles:

Dispute Between Amazon and Hachette Takes an Orwellian Turn

Kindle

Maybe Amazon really is rattled by the whole Authors United phenomenon organized by Douglas Preston. The writers are encouraging their readers to email Jeff Bezos, the Amazon chief executive, and tell him to stop holding books hostage as the company negotiates with Hachette Book Group.

Late Friday, Amazon unveiled Readers United, and encouraged e-book buyers to email the chief executive of Hachette, whose address was helpfully provided.

In introducing the group, Amazon made the same arguments it has been making in the last few weeks: e-books need to be cheaper and Hachette is robbing readers by preventing this from happening.

And read how, according to this article, Amazon has misrepresented the views of George Orwell.

Amazon vs. Hachette: Soul searching in techie, bookish Seattle

And here’s the view from Amazon’s own hometown newspaper, The Seattle Times:

In this city famous for its independent bookstores and pungent coffee shops — brick-and-mortar institutions that value touch, taste and long, rainy afternoons — a high-profile conflict about the business of selling e-books has left many readers feeling conflicted.

Their dilemma: balancing an addiction to the convenient and wallet-friendly services of the local Internet giant with their devotion to the local literary culture.


A Thousand Years of the Persian Book

When some think of Persian literature, their minds might immediately turn to the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. There’s much more than that, of course, and this online exhibition from the Library of Congress explores over a millennium of Persian printed works. Designed to complement an in situ exhibit, the sections here include The Persian Language, Writing Systems and Scripts, Religion, and Science and Technology. Each section contains a narrative essay, along with examples of illuminated manuscripts and other relevant pieces of historical ephemera. First-time visitors shouldn’t miss The Epic of Shahnameh area. Here, they can learn about this epic poem that recounts the history of pre-Islamic Persia or Iransahr (Greater Iran). All told, it contains 990 chapters with 50,000 rhyming couplets.

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

Val McDermid: Putting the north in Northanger Abbey

Interesting remarks from one of my favorite authors, Val McDermid, on the task of updating Jane Austen’s novel in a modern setting.

J.K. Rowling writes to girl whose family was slain

Harry Potter boxed setA Texas girl who survived a recent attack in which her parents and four siblings were killed has drawn the attention of “Harry Potter” author J.K. Rowling.

Rowling’s publicist, Rebecca Salt, confirmed Friday that the British writer sent a letter and package to 15-year-old Cassidy Stay, but she declined to describe their contents, saying it was a private matter. Rowling spokesman Mark Hutchinson also said the gesture “and how it came about are private and between her and Cassidy.”

A sliver of blue sky in a horrific landscape.

New fiction from the big names

my bookshelvesNews on upcoming publication by authors including James Ellroy, Margaret Atwood, Haruki Murakami, and Hilary Mantel.

But I’m not ready to make up a fall reading list. I’m still woefully behind on my summer list.

And so it goes…

Monday Miscellany

THE STARS OF THESE YOUNG ADULT BOOKS SWEAR, STRUGGLE, AND GENERALLY ACT LIKE REAL TEENS

Cover: AspenIn the new novel Aspen by Rebekah Crane, the teenage title character is an awkward, artsy kid who gets into a car accident that kills the most popular girl at school. The book traces the bizarre fallout in her Boulder, Colorado, community, as well as Aspen’s relationship with her stoner mom. But unlike the typical after school-special YA fare, the drug part of the tale isn’t entirely cautionary.

There’s been a lot of discussion lately about the lack of diversity in books for children and young adults. Here’s a look at publisher In This Together Media of Denver, whose mission is “offering more diverse, realistic, unwhitewashed representations of kids, especially girls, in YA and middle-grade literature.”

8 Actors Who Brought Our Favorite Book Characters to Life

The following list is composed of male characters in literature that have been brought to the screen by some of the greatest actors of all time. While this list represents a group of wildly different men — good guys and bad guys, heroes and antiheroes — all of these compelling characters address complicated issues regarding masculinity while taking on the delicate task of transferring a character from the page to celluloid.

See if you agree with the following choices:

  1. Sam Spade, The Maltese Falcon
  2. Atticus Finch, To Kill a Mockingbird
  3. Tyler Durden, Fight Club
  4. Stanley Kowalski, A Streetcar Named Desire
  5. Randle “Mac” McMurphy, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest
  6. Rhett Butler, Gone With the Wind
  7. Sherlock Holmes
  8. Tom Joad, Grapes of Wrath

22 Strong Female Characters In Literature We All Wanted To Be

The editors at BuzzFeed choose the first strong female characters they related to as illustrating Nora Ephron’s directive “Above all, be the heroine of your life, not the victim.”

How Tom Robbins’ childhood turned him into a storyteller

Tom Robbins, the hyperimaginative author of “Another Roadside Attraction,” “Even Cowgirls Get the Blues” and “Still Life with Woodpecker,” discusses his new memoir, “Tibetan Peach Pie.”

Robbins discusses life’s epiphanies and the influence of his southern childhood.

Journeys into the autistic mind

We’ve hit a turning point in our understanding of autism, but I think it comes from literature, not science. Not to downplay the science: The newest studies on amino acid deficiencies, faulty neurotransmitters, and disruptions in the cortex may shine light on the whys of the disorder. But to find out the whats — what it’s like to be autistic, from the inside — there’s now a critical mass of books written by those on the spectrum. They are extraordinary, moving, and jeweled with epiphanies.

In The Boston Globe, Katharine Whittemore discusses these books:

  • The Reason I Jump: The Inner Voice of a Thirteen-Year-Old Boy with Autism by Naoki Higashida, translated into English by K.A. Yoshida
  • Thinking in Pictures, Expanded Edition: My Life with Autism by Temple Grandin
  • Look Me in the Eye: My Life with Asperger’s by Augusten Burroughs
  • Life, Animated: A Story of Sidekicks, Heroes, and Autism by Ron Suskind
  • The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon
  • The Rosie Project by Graeme Simsion
  • Born on a Blue Day: Inside the Extraordinary Mind of an Autistic Savant by Daniel Tammet

Monday Miscellany

Hunt on to find Cervantes — Spain’s great writer

Cervantes
Cervantes
Source: Wikipedia

Miguel de Cervantes, Spain’s greatest writer, was a soldier of little fortune. He died broke in Madrid, his body riddled with bullets. His burial place was a tiny convent church no larger than the entrance hall of an average house.

No more was heard of the 16th century author until the rediscovery of a novel featuring an eccentric character called Don Quixote rescued him from oblivion.

By then, nobody could remember where his grave was. Four centuries later, Spain intends to do the great man justice.

Diversity, Authenticity, and Literature

Preeti Chhibber, who works in marketing for HarperCollins, writes on BookRiot that “there are inherent racial issues that exist inside publishing a book with multicultural themes written by a person who doesn’t have a historical connection to that culture or race.” For example:

A few weeks ago, the news broke that Simon & Schuster would be publishing a prequel to Gone With the Wind, called Ruth’s Journey. This book is going to be about Mammy. This book is going to be written by a 73-year-old white man named Donald McCraig.

There are, she says, really two issues here: “The first issue is diversity. The second issue is authenticity of voice.”

We want diverse characters written by everyone, and we want enough writers of color that come to mind just as easily as white authors. We have to stop defaulting to white writers, from both the publisher’s and the reader’s perspective. And we have to stop seeing multicultural characters as an anomaly. I want to see those characters in my literary fiction, in my sci-fi, in my historical fiction. And I want stories of their lives and their cultures.

Best sci-fi and fantasy novels of all time

The Telegraph [U.K.] presents the best books from the science fiction and fantasy genres

This is quite a varied list. Since I don’t read a lot of fantasy or science fiction, I was surprised at how many of the books on this list I’ve read.

And be sure to look at the comments, which will suggest many more titles to add to your TBR list.

“Well actually, in the books…” 15 differences from text to TV in Game Of Thrones

No matter what the title under discussion, book lovers almost inevitably say, “The book was better than the movie.”

But visual media—film and television—are very different from books, because our brains process written and visual material differently. Therefore, changes from the book in the film or TV versions are often necessary for a successful adaptation.

Of course there are also times when the film or TV version makes wholesale changes in the book that aren’t necessary for the adaptation between formats. For example, in his film of David Baldacci’s novel Absolute Power, Clint Eastwood changed the whole story line. The reason? Eastwood starred as the lead character, who is killed about midway through the book. This plot change wrecked the whole point of the book. But it’s no surprise that Eastwood would not want the character he portrayed eliminated so early. Hence the change.

I have not read Game of Thrones nor watched the HBO series. Nevertheless, I found this discussion of differences between the books and the TV shows informative. What do you think?

Top Ten Tuesday: Characters who make me rage

Over at Lovely Literature bloggers Ashley and Anne have each compiled a fun list of despicable characters.

Are there any other literary characters you’d add?