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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 Summerland Disaster on the Isle of Man

...a beyond the book article for Someday, Maybe
In the novel Someday, Maybe by Onyi Nwabineli, photographer Quentin Morrow was scheduled to go on a photography retreat on the Isle of Man before his death. In the middle of the Irish Sea, the Isle of Man is an island with its own parliament, customs, history and a population of over 80,000. While technically a Crown Dependency (owned by ...

US Military Mules in World War II

...a beyond the book article for The Curse of Pietro Houdini
One of the characters in Derek B. Miller's novel The Curse of Pietro Houdini is a limping mule named Ferrari. The author notes that mules were used extensively during World War II in the Italian theater, in areas where trucks couldn't go, such as mountain passes and forests.

Mules are remarkable creatures that have been used as pack ...

The Goiania Accident

...a beyond the book article for You Glow in the Dark
In the title story of You Glow in the Dark, scrap metal scavengers uncover a strange glowing capsule in the ruins of an abandoned hospital. Dazzled by the beautiful blue particles that glow in the dark, they spread radioactive poison throughout their community, leaving illness and death everywhere they go. When the accident is finally ...

Hertha Ayrton

...a beyond the book article for Held
The friendship between Hertha Ayrton and Marie Curie is explored in Anne Michaels's multigenerational novel Held. Although Marie Curie is a household name, Aryton's fascinating life is likely unfamiliar to most readers.

Born in 1854 in Portsea, England, Hertha Ayrton was born as Phoebe Sarah Marks. Levi Marks, a clockmaker from...

Trail Names

...a beyond the book article for The Atlas of Us
In Kristin Dwyer's The Atlas of Us, Atlas and her friends are given trail names by their program director; these nicknames allow Atlas (trail name Maps) to create a new identity and forge a new beginning, one unencumbered by her personal history. Names in Dwyer's novel serve a symbolic purpose, but there's a very real phenomenon of trail ...

Fan Culture and Parasocial Relationships

...a beyond the book article for Snowglobe
For those living in the dystopian world of Soyoung Park's Snowglobe, the main source of entertainment is reality television shot within a climate-controlled dome. The lives of the actors on these shows are on 24-hour display to be consumed obsessively by the fans in the icy world beyond the dome's barrier. Every detail of the stars' lives...

A Quick Tour Through South Australia's Wine Region

...a beyond the book article for Exiles
Jane Harper's third novel in the Aaron Falk series sees the Federal Police agent returning to the fictional town of Marralee, located in South Australia and home to an annual food and wine festival where a woman went missing the previous year. Harper is known for providing evocative descriptions and details for her Australian settings, ...

Hungry Ghosts in Art and Culture

...a beyond the book article for Hungry Ghosts
Kevin Jared Hosein's title Hungry Ghosts has its origin in Taoism, Hinduism and Buddhism. According to the Concise Encyclopedia of Hinduism, hungry ghost, or preta "literally means 'one who has gone away from here' and is used to indicate the disembodied spirit of a dead person, especially during the first ten days after ...

Cultural Diversity in 15th Century North America

...a beyond the book article for Stealing
Margaret Verble's novel, Stealing, centers around Kit, a young girl who is part Cherokee. Set in the 1950s, she is removed from her home and sent to a Christian boarding school where a significant portion of the students are Native American. Not only are the indigenous children systematically stripped of their heritage but Kit observes ...

W. E. B. Du Bois and the Talented Tenth

...a beyond the book article for The Grimkes
Throughout The Grimkes: The Legacy of Slavery in an American Family, historian Kerri K. Greenidge repeatedly refers to the postbellum "colored elite" to which the Black Grimke family members belonged, using the term "the Talented Tenth." Made famous by the American sociologist and writer W. E. B. Du Bois in his 1903 ...

A Brief History of the Police Procedural

...a beyond the book article for The Tainted Cup
As most will know, a mystery novel is one that starts off with a conundrum – someone has been killed, something or someone has gone missing – and proceeds along a logical path until the puzzle is solved, generally with plot twists and red herrings along the way. There are many variations on this theme, and consequently many ...

Moon Art

...a beyond the book article for Our Moon
When you look at the Moon, what do you see? Since ancient times, the Moon has ignited our imaginations, as Rebecca Boyle demonstrates in her history of Earth's relationship to its closest neighbor. In mythologies and legends, it has been seen as a canvas depicting a rabbit and a jovial man's features, among other things. It has been with ...

Canadian Nurses in World War I

...a beyond the book article for The Warm Hands of Ghosts
Katherine Arden's The Warm Hands of Ghosts, in addition to focusing on the violence and trauma of the World War I trenches, is also about the female nurses who treated wounded soldiers.

Protagonist Laura's point-of-view sections devote ample description to the sordid day-to-day of serving as a hospital nurse in WWI. Already sent away ...

Infamous Prison Insurrections

...a beyond the book article for The Ascent
In The Ascent, Adam Plantinga imagines what it would be like to climb through six levels of a prison in utter chaos: cell doors opening, guards hiding or dead, inmates murdering each other and so much worse. It does not require fiction, however, to imagine these hellscapes: history has many examples of such mayhem. Below are two of ...

The Failure of Plastics Recycling

...a beyond the book article for The Climate Book
Most of us are familiar with the mantra 'reduce, reuse, recycle,' and the effectiveness of this slogan inspired a generation of Americans to put plastics of all kinds into recycling bins rather than their trash. The problem is that, as contributor Nina Schrank points out in The Climate Book, 'this narrative is perhaps the greatest example...

The Uphill Climb for Sub-Saharan African Girls' Education

...a beyond the book article for Call and Response
In the short story 'Dark Matter' from Gothataone Moeng's collection Call and Response, which takes place in Botswana, childhood friends Tumo and Nametso love swimming in the river and they love school. Daughters of teachers, they are inseparable until Tumo's mother is transferred. The girls meet up again at university in Gaborone. In her ...

The Pendle Witches

...a beyond the book article for Weyward
'Witch. The word slithers from the mouth like a serpent, drips from the tongue as thick and black as tar. We never thought of ourselves as witches, my mother and I. For this was a word invented by men, a word that brings power to those who speak it, not those it describes. A word that builds gallows and, turns breathing women into corpses...

Books of Stories Centering Black American Life

...a beyond the book article for Neighbors and Other Stories
Diane Oliver's Neighbors and Other Stories is a collection delving deep into the corners of Black American life in the 1950s and '60s that were not and are still not usually part of the public conversation. Historical and academic writing that discusses the situations of marginalized people often does not touch on the intricacies of their...

A History of the Texas Rangers

...a beyond the book article for The Bullet Swallower
In Elizabeth Gonzalez James's novel The Bullet Swallower, a group of Texas Rangers pursue the protagonist, Antonio Sonoro, with maniacal zeal. The most dangerous member of the posse tortures and murders innocent civilians as a warning to Sonoro, crossing the Rio Grande and attacking Mexican citizens with impunity. Set in the mid-1890s...

The Białowieża Forest

...a beyond the book article for The Extinction of Irena Rey
In Jennifer Croft's The Extinction of Irena Rey, humans' domestic and professional concerns mix with those of the natural world against the background of the vast Białowieża Forest, beside which the titular author lives and hosts a personal entourage of translators. The Białowieża Forest is a complex of woodland ...

The Tohoku Earthquake and Tsunami of 2011

...a beyond the book article for One Hour of Fervor
In Muriel Barbery's novel One Hour of Fervor, her characters watch the television in horror as news breaks of a huge earthquake in Japan's Tohoku region and its resulting tsunami. Though they are safely on high ground far from the impacted area, they are immediately fearful for loved ones, and reminded all too starkly of just how quickly ...

New Advances in Treating Vision Loss

...a beyond the book article for Blind Spots
After a mysterious event that blinded the entire world population, the characters in Blind Spots use devices called vidders to see. In real life, many people are experiencing vision improvement through technology that might sound like something out of a science fiction novel. From smart glasses to implantable contact lenses, vision ...

Townsizing: Trendy or Timely?

...a beyond the book article for We Deserve Monuments
The city versus country trope is as old as Aesop's fabled mice, yet the debate continues to warrant new narratives. In Jas Hammonds' We Deserve Monuments, the protagonist, Avery Armstrong, puts this very debate to the test when she moves to the small fictional town of Bardell, Georgia. Raised in the cultural mecca of Washington, D.C., ...

Books about Magical Libraries

...a beyond the book article for The Book That Wouldn't Burn
Mark Lawrence's fantasy novel The Book That Wouldn't Burn centers on an incredible library, where the knowledge of millennia is guarded by magical assistants and dangerous labyrinths. For book lovers, reading about magical libraries can have a special appeal—a place that, in the real world, already feels enchanted and full ...

Classical Culture and White Nationalism

...a beyond the book article for A Map of Future Ruins
The hands of history have reshaped the Greek past for centuries, sculpting it into an idealized version credited with birthing a myriad of ideas and concepts, notably identity. Certain contemporary political currents claim that Hellenic identity was what we would today consider white, although Greece was a multiethnic society that did not...

Houston, We Have a Problem

...a beyond the book article for The Great Displacement
In 2017, Hurricane Harvey dumped more than 50 inches of rain on Houston, Texas. It was the biggest rainstorm in United States history and the third major storm of its kind to hit the city in as many years. Huge swathes of Houston and its surrounding suburbs were submerged. Floodwater laced with toxic runoff, sewage and debris inundated ...

Missing People in the U.S.

...a beyond the book article for What Happened to Ruthy Ramirez
The number of active missing persons cases in the U.S. has declined steadily since 1997. This is due in large part to improvements in connectivity and communication, with cell phones and other handheld devices making it considerably easier to track a missing person's potential whereabouts. While this decline is cause for celebration, it ...

Civil War in the Republic of Georgia

...a beyond the book article for Hard by a Great Forest
In Leo Vardiashvili's Hard by a Great Forest, young Saba and his brother and father flee their home in Tbilisi, Georgia, when the city erupts in violence. "We heard gunfire by night and saw brass twinkling on the pavement in the mornings, as though it had rained shell casings all over Tbilisi," Saba says. "[W]hen a ...

Escape and Evasion Maps

...a beyond the book article for Ilium
In Lea Carpenter's Ilium, some of the spies have escape and evasion maps. Also known as escape maps or silk maps, these are scarves imprinted with maps that intelligence officers and soldiers have historically used when they've ended up behind enemy lines. They offer information about how best to escape or at least find somewhere safe to ...

Mobilian Jargon

...a beyond the book article for Cahokia Jazz
Joe Barrow, the protagonist of Francis Spufford's Cahokia Jazz, does not speak the titular city's common language, Anopa. He learns bits and pieces of it over the course of the novel, at around the same pace as the reader (heeding the suggestion of his friend Alan Jacobs, Spufford does not include a glossary). We learn the words for ...

Rosalind Franklin and the Discovery of the Structure of DNA

...a beyond the book article for The Exceptions
The discovery of DNA is one of the greatest scientific achievements in the modern era, and possibly one of the most significant in history. The credit has long gone to James Watson and Francis Crick, who publicized the famous double-helix structure of DNA and the rest, as PBS notes, 'is Nobel Prize history.'

The problem is this is an ...

Margaret Cavendish and Vitalist Materialism

...a beyond the book article for Pure Wit
In her biography of 17th-century author Margaret Cavendish, Pure Wit, Francesca Peacock shines light on often-overlooked aspects of Cavendish's life and work, including her contributions to Western philosophy. From the beginning of her philosophical career, she believed in materialism. Simply put, this is the theory that everything that ...

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