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When Dystopia Meets Mystery (10/20)
With his novel Leave the World Behind, Rumaan Alam explores how a group of isolated strangers react to an unspecified threat that is sweeping across New York. By hinting at the disaster's cause and effect, but depriving both his characters and his readers of concrete answers, he is able to tap into our inherent fear of the unknown.

...
Literary Sequels (08/20)
2019 has been a year of literary sequels: bestselling authors expanding on fictional worlds they created, in some cases decades after the original book was published. Find Me by André Aciman is one such example, published 12 years after Call Me By Your Name. But it's hardly a new phenomenon—here are some of the most ...
Books Narrated from Beyond the Grave (06/20)
Yu Miri's Tokyo Ueno Station is told from the viewpoint of Kazu, a ghost who wanders the grounds of the train station in which he lived out his final years. Though the book makes unique use of this framing device to explore its particular themes of poverty and homelessness, it is certainly not the only novel to feature a narrator who ...
19th Century Literary Companions (06/20)

In Sara Collins' historical novel The Confessions of Frannie Langton, the titular protagonist, a slave, tells her master's wife, 'Books were my companions…And I am grateful I could learn something, no matter how I came to do so. It was a way to know that lives could change, that they could be filled with adventures. There were times...

Young Adult Epistolary Novels (05/20)
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Epistolary novels have a long tradition in literature, and even young adult novels like Sarah Henstra's We Contain Multitudes have gotten in on the act. Given their younger audiences, however, authors writing for teens often incorporate new technologies or other clever twists on the epistolary form. Check out a few of these examples of YA...

Books Set Across Centuries (04/20)
Katy Simpson Smith's novel The Everlasting is set entirely in Rome, but it takes place across multiple centuries, introducing us to separate storylines in 2015, 1559, 896, and 165. Here are some other noteworthy books that are set in one location spanning multiple centuries.

The Kingsbridge Series by Ken Follett
Originally published...

Posthumous Cancer Memoirs (03/20)
Once or twice each year, I find a superb memoir in which the author comes to terms with mortality after a diagnosis of incurable cancer. Sometimes when I look up more information about the author I'm relieved to learn they're still alive (e.g. Kate Bowler, Clive James and Christian Wiman). But sometimes I see an end date to the life span,...
Locked Room Mysteries (03/20)
In Eight Perfect Murders, bookseller Malcolm Kershaw is contacted by the FBI regarding his list of favorite mystery novels with seemingly unsolvable murders. The oldest book on Malcolm's list is The Red House Mystery, written in 1922 by A.A. Milne (of Winnie-the-Pooh fame). Milne's book is a locked room mystery, also known as an ...
Recent Reinterpretations of Pride and Prejudice (02/20)
Unmarriageable might be the first version of Pride and Prejudice set in Pakistan, but it's hardly the only creative retelling of this classic novel. Fortunately for fans of Jane Austen, several other imaginative reworkings of her beloved novel have been published recently - perhaps a Jane Austen book club could tackle any or all of these ...
Young Adult Dystopian Novels (02/20)
In Tehlor Kay Mejia's debut novel We Set the Dark on Fire, men marry two wives – one Primera, who is logical and controlled, and one Segunda, who is beautiful and passionate. However, when Dani, a young Primera, joins the resistance as a spy, she becomes determined to invert the whole system. Dystopian novels, while often set in ...
An Organ Donation Reading List (01/20)

Readers curious to learn more about organ transplantation after finishing surgeon Joshua D. Mezrich's memoir on the subject have a wealth of options to choose from; here are five recommendations, two fiction and three nonfiction:


Fiction:

The Tell-Tale Heart by Jill Dawson
Fifty-year-old Patrick is a philandering professor with a ...

Time-Slip Novels (01/20)
The Heavens is not an easy novel to categorize, but on at least one level, it participates in a category of fantasy literature called a 'time-slip' novel, in which a character travels between two or more separate timelines. The mechanism for the shift in time varies, but can be reading letters, doing research, traveling through a doorway ...
Books about the History of Race in America (10/19)
In Andrea Bobotis' The Last List of Miss Judith Kratt, an affluent white woman nearing the end of her life in the 1980s takes stock of her family estate in Bound, South Carolina, while recounting the years she spent there as a child during the 1930s. The novel offers a riveting tale of family secrets, revenge, and, especially, racial ...
Women in Translation (12/19)
Translated fiction is something of a rarity in the English-speaking world. It's been widely reported that only about 3% of books published in the United States were originally written in a language other than English – a statistic that led to the creation of the University of Rochester's Three Percent database, a valuable online ...
Older Characters in Fiction (12/19)
The elderly are often underrepresented in popular culture, and where these characters do exist, they are often one-dimensional. The most effective depictions of elderly people demonstrate that age does not limit one's ability to have an interesting inner life, new adventures, and/or the chance for romance. In short, they resist the notion...
Memoirs by First Ladies (12/19)
Michelle Obama's memoir Becoming has been a huge success by all standards, and she joins a long and illustrious list of former First Ladies who have written memoirs. The appeal is obvious: who wouldn't want to know more about the women who've stood beside the President of the United States, acting as confidant, support system, and ...
A Van Gogh Reading List (10/19)
Deborah Heiligman's Vincent and Theo draws on the hundreds of letters that passed between the Van Gogh brothers. There are various editions of Vincent's letters, including a 2009 version endorsed by the Van Gogh Museum that contains all Van Gogh's letters to his brother Theo. The letters between Theo and his wife, Johanna, are also ...
An Introduction to Graphic Novels (10/19)
If David Small's Home After Dark is your first introduction to visual storytelling through book-length graphics, you're in for a treat. There is a wealth of wonderful, accessible yet profound books that can serve as a terrific introduction for new graphic novel fans. This list just scratches the surface of this fantastically rich and ...
Cults and Cult Leaders in Contemporary Literature (09/19)
The Parking Lot Attendant's Ayale is an archetypical cult leader – charismatic, intelligent, savage and manipulative. The novel's young narrator finds herself unwillingly ensnared in a cult through her association with Ayale. The cult leader is a fascinating figure, one that is frequently reproduced and reimagined in literature. ...
Narratives that Explore the Immigrant Experience (09/19)
Picture Us In the Light adds to readers' consciousness of the immigrant experience – and the experience of children of immigrants in the United States. But it is not the only novel that does this. Children's and young adult texts in particular are consciously addressing these issues from wider and wider lenses, providing unique ...
Celebrity Status: Books about Fame (09/19)
As one half of the famed Vlogbrothers (a popular YouTube channel with over three million subscribers), Hank Green is no stranger to internet celebrity, albeit perhaps not quite at the level that his protagonist, April May, achieves in his debut novel An Absolutely Remarkable Thing. Though Green's debut is aimed at adult readers (with ...
Sibling Rivalry in Literature (09/19)
In My Sister, the Serial Killer, the narrator Korede protects her younger sister Ayoola at great cost, despite her feelings of bitterness that Ayoola has always been favored by their mother and admired everywhere for her beauty. Sibling rivalry has long been a source of inspiration for conflict in great literature.

Here are a few ...
Family Through the Ages: Multi-Generational Sagas (09/19)
The Latecomers utilizes a multi-generational structure to bring the stories of the Hollingworth family members vividly to life. Here a few more novels I recommend that employ a similar narrative structure:

The House of the Spirits by Isabel Allende
Allende's first novel follows three generations of the Trueba family. Esteban, the ...
California Reading (08/19)
One of the most captivating aspects of Lisa Brennan-Jones' Small Fry is the portrayal of California during the 1980s and 1990s. From the small, specific aspects of Northern California culture to the sweeping descriptions of the San Francisco hills, Brennan-Jones creates not just a backdrop, but an atmosphere of a time and place. Here...
Love Potions in Literature (06/19)
What if love could be grasped with a single sip?

The idea isn't too absurd. Lisa Moore's YA novel Flannery tells the story of Flannery, a sixteen-year-old girl, who decides to see if she, along with her classmate and crush Tyrone, can create love potions for her entrepreneurship class. While planning, she concocts the idea ...
Books on Adoption (06/19)
In Little Fires Everywhere, an intense custody battle divides the idyllic suburban town of Shaker Heights, Ohio, into two when Bebe Chow, a Chinese immigrant, attempts to regain the rights to her daughter. The baby is now living with a white family after Bebe was forced to abandon her child during a period of desperation and poverty. ...
Anthony Horowitz: Creating Across Medias (05/19)
Anthony Horowitz has had a prolific career writing across multiple media including books, TV, film and stage plays. Since publishing his first novel in 1979, he has written over forty books for both adults and children, his screen credits include episodes of six TV series including Poirot and Midsomer Murders and creator and writer for ...
Maggie O'Farrell – Life & Books (04/19)
Maggie O'Farrell was born in Northern Ireland in 1972 and grew up in various locations across Wales and Scotland. When she was just eight she contracted encephalitis, an experience she describes in a chapter called 'Cerebellum (1980)' in her memoir, I Am I Am I Am. The illness did long term damage, leaving her physically weak and ...
Linked Short Stories (03/19)
Linked short stories, novels in stories, story cycles – these are terms for collections in which the stories are not all discrete pieces with separate worlds and characters. Instead, characters recur, whether subtly or overtly, and multiple stories have the same setting. What makes linked short stories so enjoyable, and what sets ...
Books Within Winter (10/18)
An integral part of Ali Smith's Winter are the frequent allusions and references made to other excellent works of literature. Though it would be nearly impossible to catalog them all, here are a few.

A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens

Dickens' famous work is referenced from the very outset of Winter in the opening line: 'God was ...
A Short History of Graphics & Comics (10/18)
In the Beyond the Book feature that accompanies the review of the graphic novel Home After Dark, there's a list of books to read – basically a graphic novel starter pack. The earliest on the list is Maus, the Holocaust-as-cats-and-mice graphic novel by Art Spiegelman, published in 1986.

But go back eight years and you'll...
Floods in Myth and Legend (10/18)
The End We Start From takes place during a drastic, near-future flood that impacts London and its surrounding territory. During 2017, floods surged over many regions of the world. As the plausibility of future catastrophic flooding seems more and more likely, it is fascinating to take a look at how floods figure prominently in ancient ...
James M. Cain's Noir Novels (08/18)
At one point in Sunburn, Polly recalls having gone to a film series back in Baltimore, a showing of several films grouped under the title 'Raising Cain.' At the time, she didn't know what that meant, but savvy readers will pick up on Lippman's reference to her fellow Baltimorean James M. Cain, author of influential noir novels, ...
Female Comic Book Writers (08/18)
Leia Birch, the central character in Joshilyn Jackson's The Almost Sisters, is the writer of a comic books series published by DC Comics. While the characters and the comic are both fictional, in real-life, as is in the book, female writers are in the minority. The comic book world is chock full of men - they are both characters in the ...
My Favorite Gay Characters in Literature (05/18)
With his portrait of Arthur Less, a lovable — if somewhat hapless — man on a trip round the world, Andrew Sean Greer gives more than a nod to Mark Twain's 1869 satire, The Innocents Abroad. Less, a middle-aged gay man, needs to radically re-write his own novel about 'a middle-aged gay man walking about San Francisco.' This ...
Advice Books for Juggling Careers & Motherhood (05/18)
In The Resurrection of Joan Ashby, the eponymous main character struggles to maintain her career as a writer while raising two children. She is not alone; thousands of women grapple with this issue every day. In recent years many books have been published aimed at this demographic with the goal of providing advice, guidance and ...
The History of Fictional Female Detectives (03/18)
Many great novels start with a premise, which mirrors or takes inspiration from something in real life. In Greer Macallister's Girl in Disguise, the inspiration is the real-life Kate Warne, the first female private detective who began her career with Pinkerton's in 1856. Learning about her made me wonder which came first – did the ...
Women who Scheme: The Female as Villain in Greek Tragedies and Beyond (03/18)
The story of Clytemnestra is told in bits and pieces across several play cycles from the Classical period, and before. At the end of the House of Names, the author Colm Tóibín notes that, while the majority of the novel's events are not related to any source material, the overall shape of the narrative and the main characters ...
OCD in Young Adult Literature (02/18)
Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) impacts the lives of many Americans, including young adults and children. According to a 2013 article in American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry, OCD 'is seen in as many as 1 in 200 children and adolescents.' Labeling exact characteristics of the disorder is difficult because, as the Anxiety...
A Slew of Southern Writers (01/18)
Mary Miller's Always Happy Hour is set in the south, but many will see it as something other than true southern fiction. The protagonists are too internalized, too walled off from the southerness – the land, the people, the ethos of pride, racial discord, and defeat – that is the beating heart of most great southern fiction...
A Florida Reading List (04/17)
Sarah Gerard's Sunshine State celebrates her coastal Florida upbringing. We've chosen five more books that also showcase Florida.

Swamplandia! by Karen Russell
Ava Bigtree is 12 and reeling from her mother's death. She and her siblings participate in the family business, a gator-wrangling theme park on Swamplandia!, their (fictional...
Books About Empathy (09/17)
Empathy seemed to take a huge hit in 2016. I can't think of many weeks that went by where blatant hate or some form of intolerance wasn't at the forefront of the news. I got to a point where I decided to disconnect from media. I couldn't take it anymore.

When Will Schwalbe's Books for Living arrived on my doorstep, ...
Young Adult Novels Exploring Depression (08/17)
According to Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (SAVE), suicide is the second leading cause of death in people 15-24 years of age, and ranks tenth when considering all ages. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that in the United States, eight percent of all people over the age of twelve suffer from depression in ...
Contemporary YA Novels about 9/11 (08/17)
Over 3,000 people died on September 11, 2001. With the impact of that catastrophe being so far-reaching, it's no surprise that there have been a plethora of films and books released that recall 9/11. Oliver Stone's World Trade Center and Paul Greengrass' United 93 are two of the most popular movies to recreate that day. Jonathan Safran ...
Books About Books (08/17)
In The Book That Matters Most, literature turns out to be an important lifeline to Ava as she joins a book club to offer her some soul sustenance through trying times. Here a few other recommendations for books about other books, whose theme is the joy of the written word.

The Storied Life of A.J. Fikry by Gabrielle Zevin

The ...
Young Adults as Unreliable Narrators (07/17)
In How to Set a Fire and Why, Lucia claims to not remember exactly what occurred during an argument with her aunt's landlord, leaving her exact reasoning and motivation somewhat mysterious. In writing Lucia as an unreliable narrator, Jesse Ball draws from an established tradition.

An unreliable narrator lies, expresses uncertainty or ...
Brother, Can You Spare a Few Books? (06/17)
The Great Recession, in 2008, was the vicious charley horse that followed the extreme chest pains of the financial crisis in 2007. During that period, the $8 trillion housing bubble burst, and the stock market dropped precariously, taking down consumer spending, driving up the unemployment rate (from 5% in December 2007, to 9.5% in June ...
Young Adult Literature Set in the Big Apple (05/17)
A lot of books for children and young adults are set in suburbia - but some truly memorable examples of the genre are set in cities, especially (like Goodbye Stranger) in Manhattan. Here are just a handful of the many classic and contemporary novels for young people set in the Big Apple. Whether your family already lives there or you just...
Uncovering YA Novels with Transgender Characters (05/17)
Modern American culture has a fascination with understanding what being transgender truly means. Popular television series such as I Am Cait and I Am Jazz are bringing real, transitioning lives into households everywhere. But, of course, TV series aren't the only way that people are beginning to understand what being transgender ...
Misery Lit (05/17)
The Sound of Gravel, a personal account of the author's traumatic childhood, is part of a surprisingly popular genre commonly called, somewhat derisively we might add, the misery memoir.

In a 2006 Guardian article, a publishing industry official pointed out that 'readers of these books would previously have looked to fiction for their ...
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