When Neha Patel decided to analyze the ages of female protagonists in contemporary fiction, she was surprised to discover that “glancing through all the books I’ve read so far this year, I was shocked to realize that almost all the leads were under the age of 45 (give or take).”
“The role of women in thriller and mystery novels specifically can be troubling,” Patel writes. Here she offers a list of mystery and thriller books “that place older women front and center.”
I found her definition of older women particularly interesting: “Note that by ‘older women,’ I generally refer to female leads over the age of 45.”
Richard Kreitner admits, “I AM A FREAK FOR the American road trip. And I’m not alone, as some of this country’s best writers have taken a shot at describing that quintessentially American experience.”
I’ve always been interested in the metaphor of the road trip representing the journey of life in fiction. But for this exercise Kreitner has stuck to nonfiction with the exception of On the Road, which he included because it’s narrated in first person. His other requirement was that “a book needed to have a narrative arc matching the chronological and geographical arc of the trip it chronicles.”
Take a look at the map (created by Steven Melendez) based on the following books published between 1872 and 2012:
- Wild, Cheryl Strayed
- The Cruise of the Rolling Junk, F. Scott Fitzgerald
- Rolling Nowhere: Riding the Rails With America’s Hoboes, Ted Conover
- A Walk Across America, Peter Jenkins
- Cross Country: Fifteen Years and 90,000 Miles on the Roads and Interstates of America with Lewis and Clark, Robert Sullivan
- The Lost Continent, Bill Bryson
- Blue Highways: A Journey into America, William Least Heat Moon
- On the Road, Jack Kerouac
- Roughing It, Mark Twain
- Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance, Robert Pirsig
- The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, Tom Wolfe
U.K. novelist Gillian McAllister writes, “I seem to be rather obsessed with the theme of justice in my novels.” But what exactly constitutes justice? “For me, it is even-handed: the simple cause and effect that runs through most stories. If a character makes a decision, it has a consequence later on.”
Justice is dressed up differently in different books. From the choices made in deep past that come to light in the present, to the slippery slope from good to bad we all might find ourselves on, to the wrong person being accused of a crime.
Justice, for me, isn’t only about crimes, but also about secrets, lies and also endings. Justice is done if evil is punished, and good redeemed. Justice is done if a mystery is solved–and exists for both characters and for readers, of course.
Here she lists six books that deal with some form of justice.
‘Alone Together’ compiles stories of hope, heartache and more from the COVID era — with a heavy Seattle presence
Seattle author and journalist Jennifer Haupt had a book deal canceled when the COVID-19 pandemic hit in March. “I just had no energy around fiction,” she writes. Then she had an idea for an anthology.
“A lot of people were feeling that they didn’t have anything important to say, they didn’t know how to use their creativity,” Haupt writes. She solicited pieces from more than 75 writers, and the pieces she received coalesced into the collection Alone Together: Love, Grief, and Comfort in the Time of COVID-19.
In this article freelance writer Sarah Neilson writes, “The thread in this anthology: connection.”
This year, perhaps as never before, our reading habits reflect our precarious reality. As the country has muddled through a deadly pandemic and a racial reckoning under a cloud of exhaustion and dread, we’ve used books to escape the present, inform our beliefs and educate our homebound children. We’ve found catharsis in apocalyptic science fiction and comfort in romance; advice in self-help guides and a moment of peace, thanks to children’s activity books. Most strikingly, since the death of George Floyd in May, we’ve flocked to books about race and social justice.
In this article in The Washington Post Stephanie Merry and Steven Johnson compiled data “from publishers, libraries, associations, data firms and readers of our website provide a snapshot of book trends during the spring and summer of 2020. Together, these literary choices mirror our collective mood.”
© 2020 by Mary Daniels Brown