Beyond the Book Articles

Beyond the Book Articles

For every book we review, we also write a "beyond the book" article that focuses on a cultural, historical or contextual topic related to the book. You can browse by category below, or use the search box at the top of the page (check "Article").

Recent Articles

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The Library War Service

...a beyond the book article for The War Librarian
The War Librarian features quiet, bookish Emmaline Balakin, who, despite the dangers of World War I, chooses to set off on an adventure by serving as a volunteer librarian to American service members. Her new position sends her overseas to a frontline hospital in France where she must contend with surly officers, German bombers and social...

Rent Control in New York City

...a beyond the book article for Stories from the Tenants Downstairs
In Sidik Fofana's Stories from the Tenants Downstairs, gentrification and rent rises pose a threat to the struggling characters living in an apartment building in Harlem. New York City and some neighboring suburban counties operate rent control and/or rent stabilization policies.

Rent control is rare, only applying to about 16,000 ...

Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne

...a beyond the book article for The Lost Ticket
In Freya Sampson's novel The Lost Ticket, Titian's Bacchus and Ariadne is a central motif. The painting first comes up in a conversation between the character Frank and an admirer he encounters on the London 88 bus, and it continues to reflect relationships between characters throughout. The mythological relationship between Bacchus ...

Kate Meyrick

...a beyond the book article for Shrines of Gaiety
In an Author's Note in her novel Shrines of Gaiety, Kate Atkinson reveals that the real-life inspiration for her character Nellie Coker was Kate Meyrick, the impresario known as the 'Queen of Nightclubs.' Much like Atkinson's character, 'Ma' Meyrick built an empire of sorts during the Jazz Age, owning and operating a string of clubs in ...

Birchbark Books

...a beyond the book article for The Sentence
Tookie, the protagonist of The Sentence by Louise Erdrich, works in a Minneapolis bookstore called Birchbark Books, which is owned by Erdrich herself both in reality and this work of fiction. As is shown in the novel, where the author appears as a minor character, the store serves the local community and carries a wide selection of ...

Death in Venice: Book vs. Film

...a beyond the book article for The Magician
Which is better — the book or the film? That question is often debated when a much-loved book is turned into a movie. Death in Venice — the novella written by Thomas Mann and published in 1912 — is perhaps the author's best-known work, not least because it was made into a film by the great Italian director Luchino ...

Eleanor of Aquitaine

...a beyond the book article for Matrix
In Lauren Groff's novel Matrix, the protagonist Marie (based on 12th century poet Marie de France) spends the majority of her life pining for Eleanor of Aquitaine. This real-life queen of France and England serves as Marie's foil and the source of considerable turmoil, as both women seek to hold and maintain power over their very ...

The Los Angeles Aqueduct

...a beyond the book article for Properties of Thirst
In Marianne Wiggins' novel, Properties of Thirst, one of the main characters is in an ongoing battle with the Los Angeles Department of Water over their aqueduct installation in California's Owens Valley.

Los Angeles was officially founded on September 4, 1781 as part of Spain's colonization of California. As the town grew so did its ...

The Churel

...a beyond the book article for Moth
In Melody Razak's novel Moth, one of the characters is fascinated by the legend of the churel, and the mythological being is mentioned several times throughout the plot.

A churel (also spelled 'chudail,' 'churail' and as other variations) is a staple of South Asian folklore, encountered most frequently in India, Pakistan and Bangladesh...

The Rise of Vehicular Homelessness in the U.S.

...a beyond the book article for If I Survive You
In 2018, in Seattle's SoDo neighborhood, a woman named Sabrina Tate died inside her RV. She was almost 28 years old. A chronic drug user, Sabrina may have been killed by an infection. Two men living in the same vehicular lot, what was considered a safe space, had died there earlier in the year. Sabrina's parents, who had tried to help her...

Cabramatta, New South Wales, Australia

...a beyond the book article for All That's Left Unsaid
Tracey Lien's debut novel, All That's Left Unsaid, follows a Vietnamese Australian family in Cabramatta, which is a suburb of Sydney, capital of the state of New South Wales. The presence of a migrant hostel in the area in the 1960s and '70s made it a hub for Southeast Asians fleeing the Vietnam War. By the mid-1990s, around a quarter ...

The Fall of Constantinople

...a beyond the book article for Cloud Cuckoo Land
Parts of Anthony Doerr's novel Cloud Cuckoo Land take place during the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 CE. Constantinople (now known as Istanbul) had long been an important trading hub by the time it was officially established by Roman emperor Constantine the Great in 330 CE. The ruler moved his government to the city, and it ...

Imposter Syndrome

...a beyond the book article for Assembly
Psychologists Pauline Clance and Suzanne Imes first identified 'imposter phenomenon,' popularly known as 'imposter syndrome,' in 1978. It is characterized by a belief that one's success is accidental. Clance and Imes' research was based on high achieving women who couldn't accept the success they had created and were frightened others ...


...a beyond the book article for Lean Fall Stand
In Lean Fall Stand, the main character suffers a massive and debilitating stroke during a whiteout storm in Antarctica. After being rescued, he returns home to England to begin the long, arduous task of learning to speak again. The medical term for the loss of the ability to understand or express speech is aphasia. It is usually caused by...

Escalating Anti-Muslim Sentiment in India

...a beyond the book article for Honor
At the time of the partition in 1947, what was once the British colony of India was split, separating the predominantly Hindu Dominion of India (modern-day Republic of India) from the predominantly Muslim Dominion of Pakistan (modern-day Pakistan and Bangladesh). Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru envisaged India as a secular socialist ...

The Brothers Karamazov

...a beyond the book article for The Family Chao
The Family Chao by Lan Samantha Chang is a modern reimagining of the novel The Brothers Karamazov (1879) by Russian author Fyodor Dostoevsky (1821-1881). The plot of Dostoevsky's book centers around a family of three brothers — Dmitri, Ivan and Alexei (aka Alyosha) — and the murder of their father, Fyodor Karamazov. As Dmitri ...

The Windrush Generation

...a beyond the book article for All the Lonely People
The protagonist of Mike Gayle's novel All the Lonely People is a member of the 'Windrush generation,' which refers to people from the Caribbean who emigrated to the United Kingdom between 1948 and 1971.

Facing a severe labor shortage after World War II, the British government began encouraging mass immigration from citizens of its ...

Teaching Young People Philosophy

...a beyond the book article for Four for the Road
In K.J. Reilly's coming-of-age novel Four for the Road, main character Asher Hunting is fortunate to have an insightful sidekick to advise him. Will has suffered loss just as Asher has, but Will presents as more equipped to navigate his way through his grief. Early on in the book, Will recites Kierkegaard to Asher, noting that the ...

The Intelligent Octopus

...a beyond the book article for The Mountain in the Sea
In Ray Nayler's The Mountain in the Sea, the characters Ha Nguyen and Evrim discuss at length the extraordinary neurological traits of octopuses and how they are likely the key to unlocking a model of consciousness completely alien to humans. Ha mentions, for one, that two-thirds of an octopus's neurons are not even in its brain but ...

The Great Spokane Falls Fire of 1889

...a beyond the book article for Fire Season
Fire Season is set in the late 1880s and features a historical backdrop of immense changes — both metaphorical and literal — in Spokane Falls, Washington. It was a time when Washington was seeking statehood and the legitimacy that came along with this designation, and the Great Spokane Falls Fire could have put the territory's...

The Camera Obscura

...a beyond the book article for 2 A.M. in Little America
A central theme in 2 A.M. in Little America is the difficulty of distinguishing between truth and illusion, and Pushcart Prize-winning writer and journalist Ken Kalfus uses recurrent imagery throughout the novel of mirrors, lenses and reflective surfaces to symbolize the way that our perception of reality is filtered through and refracted...

Stave Churches

...a beyond the book article for The Bell in the Lake
It's no secret that Lars Mytting loves trees. He wrote a novel titled The Sixteen Trees of the Somme (2017), and is known for his international bestseller Norwegian Wood (2015), a nonfiction guide to sources of firewood that gives instructions on how to chop, stack and cure wood for burning. With The Bell in the Lake, he continues with ...


...a beyond the book article for Those Who Forget
In Those Who Forget, author Géraldine Schwarz relates a visit her father paid to his parents' former home in Mannheim, Germany, looking for a specific 'Stolperstein' installed outside the apartment.

The word 'Stolperstein' (plural 'Stolpersteine') means 'stumbling stone' or 'stumbling block' in German. These small ...

The Art and Political Imprisonment of Ai Weiwei

...a beyond the book article for 1000 Years of Joys and Sorrows
Ai Weiwei is an influential creator, whose career has given rise to a great variety of works in many mediums. Accordingly, describing him merely as an artist does not do him justice, as he wears many hats, being a visual artist, architect, documentarian and writer. Ultimately, all of his work is underpinned with a strong thread of ...

The Hubble Telescope

...a beyond the book article for The Milky Way
In The Milky Way: An Autobiography of Our Galaxy, Moiya McTier references the discoveries made by the Hubble telescope. NASA refers to the Hubble as 'the most famous telescope,' and the reasons are easy to see. For over 30 years, it has provided insights and never-before-seen imagery — and it's still evolving.

The telescope is ...

Françoise Sagan

...a beyond the book article for The Book of Goose
In Yiyun Li's novel The Book of Goose, narrator Agnès Moreau recollects entering a surprising phase as a 14-year-old author in post-World War II France when a book that she was secretly assisted in writing by her best friend, Fabienne, became a hit and a public curiosity. Fictional Agnès describes the real-life French author ...

Movie Columnist Louella Parsons

...a beyond the book article for Big Red
Louella Parsons (1881-1972) was a pioneer newspaperwoman, a famous movie columnist and, for many years, a principal purveyor of Hollywood gossip to the world. Nevertheless, according to Samantha Barbas, author of an extremely thorough biography of Parsons, it was only in 1949 that she first veered into the realm of scandal by revealing ...

Who Are the Cossacks?

...a beyond the book article for The Amur River
In The Amur River: Between Russia and China, Colin Thubron engages with people from a variety of cultural backgrounds. One of these individuals is Alexei, an Amur Cossack who proudly meets the author decked out in his ceremonial uniform, yelling exuberantly 'the Cossacks are coming back!' But who are the Cossacks?

First, the term '...

Educational Reforms in the Austrian Empire Under Maria Theresa

...a beyond the book article for In the Shadow of the Empress
By the mid-1700s, Maria Theresa, Queen of Hungary and Bohemia and Empress of the Holy Roman Empire, had suffered a significant military defeat at the hands of Prussia's King Frederick II. In the aftermath, she sought to modernize and improve her army to match that of her rival, and that included upgrading military education to focus on ...

The Bylina

...a beyond the book article for The Story of Russia
The bylina, an Old Russian form of epic poetry or song, is referenced in The Story of Russia by Orlando Figes, in which the author notes its ideological significance.

The word 'bylina' (plural: byliny) has its origins in the Russian 'byl,' translating as 'that which happened.' Byliny began to be printed and popularized in the 17th ...

Chinese Passengers Aboard the Titanic

...a beyond the book article for Luck of the Titanic
In Luck of the Titanic, we get a glimpse into the lives of Chinese passengers and workers aboard the famous 'unsinkable' ship, including the xenophobia, racism and classism they face. At the beginning of the novel, author Stacey Lee explains that there were eight real-life Chinese passengers on the Titanic, of whom six survived. While ...

How Short Can Stories Get?

...a beyond the book article for How High? -- That High
Hey, wait! Where are you going? This isn't going to be a long article. I promise!

In fact, it may well be as short as a piece of flash fiction, which sounds like a creation for the age of Twitter, but actually goes much further back. At least as far back as around 600 BCE when many of the tales attributed to Aesop are believed to have ...

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The Bell in the Lake
by Lars Mytting
The engrossing epic novel - a #1 bestseller in Norway - of a young woman whose fate plays out against her village's mystical church bells.

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