You may have noticed that Greek mythology is having a bit of a moment lately. Several acclaimed novelists have produced fiction inspired by or in conversation with ancient literature…and have been nominated for awards. Continue reading “10 Contemporary Novels (and one Poem) and their Classical Sources”
On love day a few years ago, I got a hearty chuckle reading an article in which Hugh Grant pronounces the prepackaged romance of Valentine’s Day “repugnant.” I mean, that’s a bit hyperbolic, isn’t it? I would have gone with “revolting,” personally. Oh, I kid. I kid … sort of.
We have a day to celebrate our love of hamburgers, yoyos, books, and every last thing under the sun, moon, and stars. So I can’t really hate on the idea of setting aside a day to honor our capacity to love—our romantic partners, sure, but also our friends, children, neighbors, the authors we’ll probably never meet but whose books opened our worlds, our mail carrier that day she gamely trudged up our icy driveway and still delivered our package with a smile, the baker whose almond croissants make Monday mornings less Monday morning-ish, the barista who gets exactly what we mean when we ask for a dry cappuccino. Continue reading “5 bookish expressions of ardent affection, or love”
Charles Dickens was born on February 7, 1812. That makes today the 205th anniversary of his birth. (Impressive math skills, eh?)
Twenty-four years later, Dickens would write The Pickwick Papers and Oliver Twist, at the same time. At the same time! He’s estimated to have created over 13,000 characters. Basically, that would populate a medium-sized town! Continue reading “Happy birthday, Charles Dickens!”
I’m not saying I make a habit of reading on my phone. But it can be convenient. With my Nook app, I cue up my current read wherever I am. No spare moment is wasted. Standing on an eternally long line at CVS/the DMV/the coffee shop? I may just find it within
myself my phone to summon the patience of Job.
Many of us may, this weekend, find ourselves en route or on line or just…waiting, in general. So I though to share some Christmas stories you can access right from this post. And what is a holiday reading session – even one from one’s phone – without (the facsimile of) a roaring fire?
Enjoy, and Seasons Greetings to all!
“SantaLand Diaries” by David Sedaris
Sedaris has a whole collection of outlandish Christmas-themed stories (Holidays on Ice). This link will take you to a special treat: Sedaris’ NPR reading of “SantaLand Diaries,” culled from his experience as a mall elf. Ho ho ho, indeed!
“A Luckless Santa Clause” by F. Scott Fitzgerald
At the request of his fiancée, a young man struggles to give away $25 dollars, $2 at a time, on Christmas Eve in this witty Fitzgerald short story.
“A Christmas Memory” by Truman Capote
First published in 1956, Capote’s story, said to be largely autobiographical, takes place in the ’30s and narrates the last Christmas shared between best friends seven-year old Buddy and his elderly cousin. A beautiful, poignant Christmas story of love, loss, and what lasts.
The Gift of the Magi” by O. Henry
O. Henry’s 1906 story of young couple Jim and Della who each sacrifice something they love to buy the perfect present for the other has been widely adapted. The original is pretty great too!
“A Country Christmas” by Louisa May Alcott
In Alcott’s Christmas classic, city dweller Sophie and two of her friends travels to Vermont to celebrate Christmas on a farm with Sophie’s aunt and cousins.
“Papa Panov’s Special Christmas” by Leo Tolstoy
Tolstoy’s story is set at Christmas, but it reads like a New Testament parable: After a Christmas Eve dream that Jesus will visit him, a shoemaker decides to make a gift of a special pair of shoes he made. When a cold, itinerant young mother enters his shop with her shoeless baby, the shoemaker must decide whether to save the shoes for Jesus or bestow them on the baby.
“The Christmas Tree and the Wedding” by Fyodor Dostoyevsky
This is Dostoyevsky, so you may not need the warning…but I’ll give it to you anyway: This is a dark story, set largely at a New Year’s Eve gathering for children, about a rapacious, voracious man who gets exactly what he wants. Or does he? Let’s call it a cautionary tale, which isn’t a bad way to head towards a new year.
What Christmas stories – or other reading material – are you enjoying this holiday season?
Finding time to read during the holidays can be challenging. It’s not just carving out quiet time to spend with a book. The distraction of so much to do can make it hard to focus even when I do make the time.
So…maybe this isn’t the week to push myself to get through the last 100 pages of Jane Eyre. I can still enjoy the benefits of reading. Maybe this is the week to settle down next to my Christmas tree, snuggled under a warm blanket, with eggnog and gingerbread cookies, to read seasonal stories that celebrate the beauty of this time of year.
If you’re thinking likewise, here are nine short stories and novellas that feel like unwrapping a present you didn’t know you needed:
My True Love Gave to Me edited by Stephanie Perkins
This collection of short seasonal stories by a who’s-who of YA authors revolves around winter holidays – Yule, Hanukkah, Christmas, Winter Solstice. Each story, to the last, iterates some version of the magic of the season.
A Child’s Christmas in Wales by Dylan Thomas
I’d never heard of this short, beautiful little book until last week via Words of a Reader. It’s Dylan Thomas’ enchanting story of Christmas in Wales told in the first person from a child’s point of view. I don’t think it took me half an hour to read, but it was an exhilarating half an hour.
The Nutcracker by E. T. A. Hoffman
Hoffman’s story of a little girl and her Christmas nutcracker provided the inspiration for the Balanchine’s ballet. If you’ve seen the ballet, it will seem lifted from the pages of this transporting read.
Christmas in the Highlands by M. C. Beaton
My love affair with Hamish Macbeth began with this novella. During Christmas in Lochdubh, PC Macbeth investigates several cases and conspires to bring the spirit of the season to his little corner of the Scottish Highlands.
The Night Before Christmas by Nikolai Gogol
Hijinks and hilarity ensue on Christmas Eve when the devil visits a Russian village bent on revenge against a dude who has been painting icons of the devil being vanquished. The ending is perfection. Continue reading “9 Short Seasonal Stories to Read in One Sitting”
December 16 is Jane Austen’s birthday, and yet … her life and works are the gifts that keep on giving.
They have been adapted, interpreted, and expanded every which way: for stage and screen, in fiction and nonfiction, in memoir and scholarly works, through blogs, memes, and GIFs. The breadth may seem exhaustive, but Austen and her novels are classics precisely because they are inexhaustible. “A classic,” Italo Calvino tells us, “is a book that has never finished saying what it has to say.”
If you’ve dipped into Austen-inspired fiction, nonfiction, or memoir (or want to), let’s compare notes! Here are eight I’ve read and enjoyed in recent years:
My Jane Austen Education by William Deresiewicz. Deresiewicz’s memoir shares his journey from being a too-cool-for-life grad-school type to a grown-up man, achieved through reading Austen’s novels. Each chapter tackles a stage in his personal development and what he learned from reading Austen’s novels. Written with a scholar’s insights but in layman’s language, his discussion of the books is the best part.
Austenland by Shannon Hale. At a hush-hush English country getaway for women of means, the conditions of Regency England are simulated (in everything from food to dress to pastimes), and women are romanced the old fashioned way. Austen-obsessed Jane Hayes is bequeathed a three-week trip to Austenland to cure her of her preoccupation with Colin Firth-as-Darcy.
Get over this? Oooh, that’s a tall
glass of water order – via GIPHY
Compulsively readable, funny, and sweetly charming, it has been adapted for film starring Keri Russell, Jane Seymour, and Jennifer Coolidge. Continue reading “For Jane Austen’s birthday, 8 books inspired by the iconic author”
As we celebrate the 240th anniversary of the United States of America, it’s a question I’ve been pondering. Since I like to think on my own but not alone, I turned to The American Idea: The Best of the Atlantic Monthly—150 Years of Writers and Thinkers Who Shaped Our History.
Published in 2007 to mark the Atlantic Monthly’s 150th anniversary, the book isn’t about American novels but rather about the larger idea of America, as a state of mind and of being. The doorstop-sized collection includes great American writing that has appeared in the magazine’s pages over the last century and a half: Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s “Paul Revere’s Ride,” Martin Luther King’s “Letter from a Birmingham Jail,” Ian Frazier’s “Stalin’s Chuckle.” Continue reading “The American Idea in 10 Great American Novels”
One of the many gifts my father has given me is my love for books and reading. So it seems fitting, this father’s day, to highlight some of the loveable dads, and dad figures, I’ve met in books. In many cases, I admire them because the qualities I love in my own dad (and there are many because he’s an excellent father and human) echo in them.
Some I’ve met this year. Some have been in my heart for many years. Each has inspired me in his own way. Continue reading “12 lovable literary dads”
I love reading excellent short books. I love reading big books too. But when it comes to Readathons, excellent short books take the win. As a slow reader, I can read them straight through and still read them well. Plus, I love that feeling of reading a whole book in a single day. Putting it down and getting off the sofa feels like getting off a long plane journey. I’m blinking and disoriented, and the world looks different, new.
This weekend (May 28 – 30) I’m participating in the Take Back Your Shelves Readathon, hosted by Jenna from JMill Wanders. It’s a reader’s choice affair, so I’m taking the opportunity to finish May’s “Smash Your Stack” challenge strong. At the head of my list this weekend is a fun short book, The Restaurant at the End of the Universe (the second in Douglas Adams’ Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy series). I began it last night and am keeping my options open for what I’ll read next. My one caveat is that it’ll be a book I already own (because #ReadMyOwnDamnBooks).
For other readers who enjoy short books, whatever the reason(s), here is a (second) list of 15 short books I’ve enjoyed or am looking forward to reading (maybe even this weekend!). Continue reading “15 (more) short books for #TBYSReadathon”
Saturday, May 21 is the second annual National Readathon Day, a nation-wide marathon reading session to promote and raise funds for literacy initiatives. You can click here find out more about it and how to participate.
In the meantime, for readers planning to participate, I thought I’d start a list of excellent reads suitable for reading in a single day. I’d love to hear your suggestions in the comments as well! Continue reading “15 short books for National Readathon Day”