The Roots of the True Crime Genre

Elm City Murder PamphletAs evidenced in her novel, Little Deaths, author Emma Flint is an aficionado of true crime. These books that chronicle the grim details of actual murders are written with a sensitive ear to readers' morbid curiosity about sensational crimes. The genre has been popular for centuries – people have long been willing to shell out cash to indulge the guilty pleasure of peeping into man's oldest and most heinous practice – murder.

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The Environment in Fiction

How do you take something as sprawling and all-encompassing as the environment around us and make it one of the primary players in fiction? These fascinating and compelling novels show us how it's done. What's more, they fulfill the basic premise of fiction, which is to make the story universal, to drive home the impact and maybe shed light on something we might not have heard about before. Just in time for Earth Day, these dramatic novels will doubtless give you plenty of fuel for discussion as we face the daunting challenge ahead of us.

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The History of Fictional Female Detectives

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 concept of creating a woman detective rise from some writer's fertile imagination, or was Warne the inspiration for the first fictional female sleuth?

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Christina's World by Andrew Wyeth: The Inspiration for "A Piece of the World"

Christina's WorldAndrew Wyeth's painting Christina's World, the subject of A Piece of the World, was initially met with little fanfare, and its critical reception was lackluster. Nevertheless, the painting, which features Christina Olson reaching toward her home in the distance, was purchased during its first showing at a New York Gallery in 1948 by Alfred Barr, the founding director of the Museum of Modern Art (MoMA). Today it is one of MoMA's most admired exhibits and has become a well-known representation of American art. The painting has been loaned out only once since its purchase when it was shown for two days in 2009 at Chadds Ford, PA, Wyeth's hometown, in memoriam of the artist.

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From Sea to Shining Sea: The American Story

History and sociology are always intriguing but when presented together, they can create a revelatory portrait of our times. Such explorations feel ever more pressing these days in our raw and polarized landscape. These recommendations offer nuance, something that is often missing from the public discourse and invite readers and book club members to learn more about the American experience from where we have been to where we are headed. We hope this stokes some healthy debate and sheds new insights into aspects of the United States--in all its colorful, messy and sprawling glory. Which books would you recommend? Share them with us by posting in the comments section at the bottom!

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Circadian Novels

The Sun Is Also a Star by Nicola YoonNicola Yoon's The Sun Is Also a Star is an example of a circadian novel where the main action (except flashbacks, for instance) takes place all on one day. The most celebrated example is James Joyce's Ulysses (1922), set in 1904 Dublin on what has come to be known as "Bloomsday," June 16th. The protagonist, Leopold Bloom, mostly wanders the streets of his city: attending a funeral, arguing in a pub, and so on. The Sixteenth of June (2014) by Maya Lang recreates the format of Ulysses in a near-contemporary story set in Philadelphia.

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The Night She Won Miss America
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