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Book Recommendations Literary Criticism Literary History Monday Miscellany

Monday Miscellany

When the Water’s Too Cold, Something Else to Dive Into: A Critic’s Survey of Summer Books

As for this summer’s brand-new reading, if there’s one overriding motif, it’s this: the crazier, the better.

Here’s a whole long list of recommended summer reading.

Norman Mailer’s A Fire on the Moon: a giant leap for reportage

On the eve of the 45th anniversary of the first man on the moon, Geoff Dyer explains why Mailer’s historic account, written with typical gusto and urgency, is an exemplar of the New Journalism

Rise of the Shelfie

Writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, Elaine Showalter discusses the latest book from literary historian and critic Phyllis Rose:

Rose describes the results in The Shelf: From LEQ to LES: Adventures in Extreme Reading (Farrar, Straus and Giroux), a contribution to the hybrid literary genre of the shelfie—part literary criticism, part memoir. While the combination of books she read was unique and fresh, the genre of reading-memoir is not new, and indeed Rose may have helped invent it, in 1997, with her radiant The Year of Reading Proust: A Memoir in Real Time, along with Lynne Sharon Schwartz’s Ruined by Reading: A Life in Books (1996) and Anna Quindlen’s How Reading Changed My Life (1998). There have been many more, including one of the latest to gain attention, Rebecca Mead’s My Life in Middlemarch (2014).

11 OF THE MOST REALISTIC PORTRAYALS OF MENTAL ILLNESS IN NOVELS

The 11 novels listed below talk candidly of mental illness, too. Sometimes the veil of fiction permits authors to tell even truer stories — they can write without worrying about their own reputations or the reactions from their family members. Their books give us a deeper understanding of mental illness and the way we deal with mental illness in our culture. They also do what all great literature should do — let us get to know and care about the characters as people.

One of my pet peeves about some novels is their careless portrayal of mental illness. See why Rebecca Kelley thinks these 11 novels accurately present mental illness:

  1. MRS. DALLOWAY BY VIRGINIA WOOLF (1925)
  2. TENDER IS THE NIGHT BY F. SCOTT FITZGERALD (1934)
  3. THE CATCHER IN THE RYE BY J.D. SALINGER (1951)
  4. THE BELL JAR BY SYLVIA PLATH (1963)
  5. I NEVER PROMISED YOU A ROSE GARDEN BY JOANNE GREENBERG (PEN NAME: HANNAH GREEN) (1964)
  6. DISTURBING THE PEACE BY RICHARD YATES (1975)
  7. ORDINARY PEOPLE BY JUDITH GUEST (1976)
  8. SHE’S COME UNDONE BY WALLY LAMB (1992)
  9. THE HOURS BY MICHAEL CUNNINGHAM (1998)
  10. THE PASSION OF ALICE BY STEPHANIE GRANT (1998)
  11. THE MARRIAGE PLOT BY JEFFREY EUGENIDES (2011)

‘WE WERE LIARS’ AND 8 OTHER BOOKS YOU’LL LOVE IF YOU WERE SHOCKED BY THE TWIST IN ‘GONE GIRL’

Readers during the summer of 2012 were captivated by the twists and turns of Gillian Flynn’s psychological thriller Gone Girl. As we lead up to the release of the movie adaptation, we’re looking for other books that can give us the same chills and surprises. This summer the surprise ending everyone will be talking about is E. Lockhart’s We Were Liars (Delacorte).

In addition to We Were Liars, Caitlin White suggests eight other novels that will satisfy your craving for a good thriller.

The 10 best (worst) dystopian fictions

It’s still a subset of a subset today (speculative fiction > science fiction > dystopia), but it’s also a buzzword that’s thrown around in conversations about tech, privacy, net neutrality, climate change, politics, and just about any other hot-button topic. That said, with its popularity at an all-time high, instances of people misusing the term “dystopian” are way up, too.

Dystopian literature is specifically a hyperbolic view of a familiar society — one that exaggerates social ills in order to make a point about society’s flaws. It’s also the opposite of utopian literature, creating a world in which the supposed “ideal society” is actually the worst idea possible, ultimately leading humankind to ruin.

In Wired, Devon Maloney provides “a canon of the most influential dystopian texts of the past century — what they contained, who wrote them, what they criticized”:

  1. 1984 (also Brazil) (1948)
  2. The Trial (1925)
  3. Brave New World(1932)
  4. I, Robot (1950)
  5. Fahrenheit 451 (1953)
  6. Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?  (1968) (served as the source material for Blade Runner)
  7. The Terminator films (1984-?)
  8. The Handmaid’s Tale  (1985)
  9. Parable of the Sower  (1993)
  10. District 9  (2009)

For each item on the list Maloney includes a brief section called “Why it matters today.” He also breaks down the list interns of themes such as environment and class inequality.