George Saunders

50 Essays Guaranteed to Make You a Better Person

It’s hard to be a person in the world today — or, really, any day, but today’s what we’ve got. Humans are striving creatures, and also empathetic ones, so most of us are always looking for an opportunity to improve ourselves, even in tiny, literary ways. We’ve already established that novels can make you a better person, but of course, novels also take you down a long winding road to get there. If you’re looking for a more direct shot to the heart, try an essay. After the jump, you’ll find 50 essays more or less guaranteed to make you a better person — or at least a better-read one — some recommended by notables of the literary and literary nonfiction world, some recommended by yours truly, incessant consumer of the written word. Don’t see the essay that changed your life? Please do add it to the list. … Read More

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‘Sweetness # 9′: Is Commodity Horror Becoming a Cliché in American Satire?

Imagine if every problem your cranky grandparent might identify as part of the current “American condition” – whatever that is – could be blamed on a certain product. Anxiety-addled yet apathetic? Obese yet calorie-counting? Double-speaking to oblivion? In Stephen Eirik Clark’s Colbert-bumped debut novel Sweetness #9, the (possible) culprit for all negative facets of the American condition is a pink sugar substitute called Sweetness #9. The guilt-stricken narrator tested the substance on monkeys and rats in the ’70s, and spends most of his life trying to hide his involvement with the cloying agent responsible for American malaise. … Read More

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25 Great Pieces of Life Advice From Literature

Everyone could use a bit of advice now and then. But what if you’re the type who eschews all human contact and prefers to converse only with characters in your books? Well, er, then even they might not be able to help you. All kidding aside, as any avid reader will know, many of the great works of literature are filled with wisdom, which you could do worse than to take to heart — especially in these back-to-school weeks, a time when a little extra advice can always help. Here, you’ll find a few nuggets of humanhood as doled out by literary (read: fictional!) characters who know a thing or… Read More

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50 Excellent Fabulist Books Everyone Should Read

Fabulism, it seems, is having a moment — although whether it’s truly a trend is up for debate. Some might say it’s been right there, purring along, all this time, while others might blink and wonder what you’re talking about. Such is always the case with magic. But whether you’re a newbie or an old hat, there are always new corners of the fantastic to discover. So, here you’ll find 50 excellent novels and short story collections by fabulists, fantasists, and fairy-tale-tellers, literary books that incorporate the irreal, the surreal, and the… Read More

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30 Writers’ Invaluable Advice to Graduates

Graduation season is fast approaching, the time of the year when some of our favorite writers are tasked with summing up the wisdom to be accrued from the process of growing up in ten succinct minutes of witty truth. These days, a successful graduation speech has the very real chance of going viral, and then living forever as a book: from David Foster Wallace’s This Is Water: Some Thoughts, Delivered on a Significant Occasion, About Living a Compassionate Life to Neil Gaiman’s Make Good Art, the best graduation speeches are finding a new life. This crop includes the brand-new Congratulations, By the Way: Some Thoughts on Kindness by George Saunders, a pretty-in-print encapsulation of his 2013 Syracuse Graduation speech. It’s reason enough to collect 30 of the best, wisest, and pithiest pieces of advice from the greatest writers to attempt the graduation… Read More

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15 Short Stories You Can Read in Under 15 Minutes

Ever since the wheel tumbled into existence, we’ve looked to technology to help us do more with less. When we rolled out the printing press, publishing was revolutionized, and books began reaching readers in unprecedented numbers. Flash forward to today, and we’ve got a crop of new speed-reading platforms promising that their new way of presenting text minimizes the time and effort it takes to get through a book. But the new ways are often not the best ways (R.I.P. Google Wave; best of luck, Neil Young), and many people prefer to read at their own pace. … Read More

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12 Amazing Author Selfies

As everyone knows, 2013 was the year of the selfie, something we’ve all groaned over, bemoaning the state of kids today. But selfies aren’t just for moody teenagers — they’re also employed by moody writers! Not to mention, it seems, just about everybody else. After the jump, secretly revel in a little collection of famous authors’ selfies, both vintage and recent, serious and totally goofy. And if any of your favorites are missing here, add ‘em on in the comments. Can’t have too many selfies. … Read More

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50 Novels Guaranteed to Make You a Better Person

It’s a new year, and resolutions are flying left and right. Here’s one that’s always on everyone’s mind, beginning of the year or no: how to be a better person. Well, since science keeps proving that reading literary fiction accomplishes that very fact, why not attack a novel in order to spruce up your heart and mind? Click through for 50 novels to make you kinder, cleverer, more productive, and a whole lot more open to the experience of… Read More

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Stereotyping You by Your Favorite Book of 2013

You read a lot of books this year (or maybe you didn’t, which is also fine…), but only one can hold the title of your favorite of the last 365 days. A single book stood apart from the others as the one that touched you, made you think a little harder, had you tearing up or doubled over with laughter, was so great that you had to read it twice. And we’re here to tell you — in an decidedly unserious, unscientific way — what that favorite book might tell you about yourself. … Read More

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The 10 Best Short Story Collections of 2013

Short stories are deceptive. We’re led to believe that smaller and shorter means faster and easier to pull off, yet any fiction writer worth their salt will tell you that trying to cram an entire story into a few pages is no easy task, and writing a truly great short story takes far more time than some might imagine. Think about that, and multiply it by however many stories the authors of the following exemplary collections have written to fill their books in a year when major media outlets started to take note of the fact that we are indeed living through a truly great time for the short story. … Read More

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