Janet Malcolm

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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20 Great Biographies of Famous Authors

There’s always something exciting about reading a literary figure’s memoir, learning the details of their personal life (those they’re willing to share, anyway) and getting a glimpse into their creative process. But it’s perhaps more illuminating to read an outsider’s account of a literary great, assembled from years of reporting and sifting through private papers. A literary biography might not be as sensational as, say, the life story of a doomed Hollywood starlet (although certainly a fair number of novelists, playwrights, and poets have lived turbulent lives), but they do offer a complete picture that shatters the fourth walls of our favorite writers’ work. Here’s a collection of great bios that accomplish just… Read More

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25 Books Every Writer Should Read

The hard work, the MFA vs. NYC debate, the negativity, the importance of a good Twitter account, the parties you have to go to, the readings you have to do, the people you should meet, the agents you need to impress — amid all the different ways writers have found to obsess over what it takes to be successful, we sometimes forget the most important thing of all: great writers need to be great readers. Of course, you can’t read everything, but once you’ve moved past the totally obvious titles, consider adding these 25 books to your TBR… Read More

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8 of the Best Genre-Busting Books About Writers and Writing

Olivia Laing’s The Trip to Echo Spring made the cover of the New York Times Book Review last week. It was a well-deserved honor for a fascinating exploration of the way drink inflects the work of a number of male writers. But it is difficult to classify, generically. It’s not quite a biography, and not quite literary criticism, and not quite memoir either. This is one of my favorite kinds of books, I should say, the kind that give you the lives of other writers embedded in a strong point of view from the writer herself, and do something more than your garden-variety kitchen-sink biography manages to achieve. Here are some books you could buy, along with Laing’s, if that formula sounds up your alley. … Read More

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10 New Must-Reads for May

Another month, another pile of books accumulating on your bedside table, threatening to spill over while you sleep. This list will not help with that. But in case, despite all else, you’re looking for a read or two to keep you up late (the better to keep an eye on that rickety pile), this month will treat you well. Read on to discover short stories and sophomore novels galore, all guaranteed to prove companionable in this sweetest of… Read More

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20 Books Every Woman Should Read in Her 20s

Recently, we stumbled upon this list of “fun” books that every woman should read in her 20s — needless to say, if you’re even a casual visitor to this space, the books (Confessions of a Shopaholic, Bitches on a Budget) aren’t exactly the ones we’d choose. So, perhaps rather predictably, we decided to put together our own list instead. Now, don’t forget, these are books for women in their 20s — we assume you’ve already read as much Jane Austen and Louisa May Alcott as you care to, we expect that you’ve already tackled To Kill a Mockingbird and I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings and Jane Eyre. And though women should read all books about all kinds of things and by all kinds of authors, this list sort of necessarily skews towards  both female writers and characters, given the topic of the day. Click through to check out our reading list — and since every woman should read more than 20 books in her 20s (hundreds, ladies!), add your own favorites in the comments. … Read More

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