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The Secrets of Suspense

“We love churning apprehension in fiction; we hate it in life. But understanding the most fundamental technique of storytelling can teach us something about being alive.”

Kathryn Schulz explains the nature of suspense, the process of “making the audience want to know what happens next.”

Inside Alice Munro’s Notebooks

Benjamin Hedin, a writer working on a biography of Alice Munro, uses photos of pages from Alice Munro’s notebooks to examine her writing process.

The Best Books of the Year (So Far)

“The nonfiction and novels we can’t stop thinking about.

The New York Times book staff weighs in with their recommendations.

These Maps Reveal the Hidden Structures of ‘Choose Your Own Adventure’ Books

I have no personal experience with Choose Your Own Adventure books (although I’m pretty sure my child did), yet I found this article (from 2017) fascinating. The choose-your-own-adventure concept seems adjacent to the metaphor of other possible lives that often plays out in Life Stories in Literature.

Has Psychiatry Lost Touch With Individuals?

“An argument for emphasis on subjective experience.”

This short article discusses the niche field of phenomenological psychiatry, which emphasizes the study of psychological states as people experience them. Such experiences include the perception of time, the feeling of emotions, and “how one’s perception of their own body structures how they relate to the world, or the salience of stimuli—which features of experience attract attention, such as bright colors, fast movement, personal relevance, loud sounds, or distinctive smells.” The field of phenomenological psychiatry is more common in Europe, where it originated, than in the United States.

I see the attempt to communicate the nature of such personal experiences in works of literature like The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark Haddon and Where the Moon Isn’t by Nathan Filer.

 What we gain by recognising the role of chance in life

“Appreciating the world is random can foster perseverance, gratitude for our own luck and empathy for the plight of others”

This is an excerpt from the recent book The Random Factor: How Chance and Luck Profoundly Shape Our Lives and the World Around Us by Mark R. Rank, a professor at Washington University in St. Louis, Missouri.

Rank begins with a discussion of the Monte Carlo fallacy, also known as the gambler’s fantasy. This fallacy is the belief that a string of bad luck must end. To illustrate: A roulette wheel contains an equal number of alternating black and red squares, which means that on any spin of the wheel, there is a 50-50 chance that the ball will land on either color; that 50-50 chance remains the same on each spin no matter how many times the wheel is spun. But research has found that if the ball should land on the same color several times in a row, gamblers will increase their bets on the other color because they believe it is overdue and must be coming up next. 

The gambler’s fallacy exists because of an intuitive sense that balance and fairness exist in the world. But, Rank points out, “In life, bad things can happen to good people, and good things can happen to bad people. Accidents take place, illnesses strike, and unlucky breaks occur indiscriminately. In this regard, the randomness of the universe is blind to any sense of justice.”

Rank further argues “By recognising the ubiquitousness of chance in our lives, we are in a much better position to empathise with the misfortunes of others. Bad luck can strike anyone at any time. Accepting this fact allows us to imagine ourselves in the position of the less fortunate, and creates the possibility for more meaningful and empathetic connections with each other.”

Were Egyptians Really the First to Domesticate Cats? Try Cave Men

From all the cute photos of books and something else that I see on social media, four categories stand out: books and wine, books and coffee (or tea), books and dogs, and books and cats. For all you cat people, here’s some history for you.


BookBrowse uses the recent publication of Douglas Westerbeke’s book A Short Walk Through a Wide World as a reason to feature some novelists who started out as librarians.

How a Self-Published Book Broke ‘All the Rules’ and Became a Best Seller

“Keila Shaheen’s ‘The Shadow Work Journal’ shows how radically book sales and marketing have been changed by TikTok.”

Hardly a week goes by without an article about how BookTok (on TikTok) influences reading patterns and book sales.

Why Are Debut Novels Failing to Launch?

“For first-time writers, it’s harder than ever to break out. That poses an existential crisis for publishing—and disturbing limits on your access to exciting new voices.”

“Last fall, while reporting Esquire’s “Future of Books” predictions, I asked industry insiders about trends they’d noticed in recent years. Almost everyone mentioned that debut fiction has become harder to launch,” writes Kate Dwyer. Here she explains the hard work new authors have to do to get the word out about their books.

© 2024 by Mary Daniels Brown

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