Potboilers, fantasy lands, murders, noir triumphs, supernatural creatures, and the twisted, thrilling, and dark imaginations that devise them are hardly a male-only literary province. Since Mary Shelley imagined Frankenstein on a night in Switzerland, women have been creating genre fiction alongside men, playing with vampires, dragons, detectives, unreliable narrators, and denizens of outer space. So pack some of these classic genre novels by women in your canvas tote and enjoy reading them this summer at the beach, the pool, or just snuggled up to your air conditioning… Read More
Mary Shelley was the brilliant parent of science fiction who hobnobbed with the Romantic poets and gave us Frankenstein, our most enduring monster-cum-morality tale, a woman whose wild and daring existence was whitewashed by her descendants. Her mother, Mary Wollstonecraft, was a self-created political genius and writer of “A Vindication of the Rights of Women,” whose sexual lifestyle — radical for her time — meant her intellectual legacy was trashed for a century until her work was “exhumed” by female scholars who recognized her as their forbear.
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Not so much into March Madness? Well, perhaps you should look at it another way. March is the perfect month for reading books about madness — it is a transitional time, after all, possessed of both lion and lamb. Plus, you’ll have ample reading time, both outside and inside. The books herein, it should be noted, are those that deal with a kind of literary madness — obsession and absurdity and hallucination — not directly focusing on mental illness proper, whenever the two can be separated. So you won’t find The Bell Jar or One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest or The Yellow Wallpaper here, though those are all excellent… Read More
Literary biography is a hugely significant, if often overlooked, enterprise. Today, much of what we know about the authors we admire is filtered through an ocean of online mini-biographies, nearly all of which are copies of copies. The original source of an enormous amount of this information is the literary biography, and in the case of most authors, there are precious few examples of such books. Even exceedingly famous authors are gifted only a handful of quality biographies. With this in mind, I’ve come up with a list of 50 essential literary… Read More
With not one, but two novels featuring Jane Austen, one featuring the ghost of Dorothy Parker, and a third about Virginia Woolf and her sister hitting shelves soon, it seemed like a good time to survey the entire “writer-as-character” category of novels. Who are the most popular fictionalized writers? It’s no surprise to see a ton of Shakespeares, Dickenses, and Brontës scampering with pens through the pages of other peoples’ novels. But a graphic-novel Susan Sontag? Cranky Robert Frost? Witty Alexander Pope? These are some of the delights we uncovered for your reading… Read More
There are four kinds of adults on Halloween night: the ones who take their kids trick-or-treating; the ones who stay home to give those kids candy; the ones who go out to parties dressed as sexy Ebola nurses or whatever; and the ones who shut off their lights, pretend they’re not home, and binge on horror movies. If you’re in the latter category, this post is for you. Earlier this month, our fringe horror expert Alison Nastasi offered up a few off-the-beaten path Netflix picks. If you’re still looking, here are a few more conventional picks, along with a couple of recent faves and some choices from other streaming services as… Read More
So, if we’re to believe David Miliband, head of an International Rescue Committee meant to prevent a full-on outbreak of the Ebola virus, we’re now at an “absolute tipping point” that could lead to “widespread disaster.” Great. With that in mind, here are ten classic novels where the unthinkable — life-slaying pandemic and endless pain — is thought, recorded, and written about at length. These novels will not help you deal with an outbreak of the Ebola virus, but they do pose a lot of interesting existential questions about pestilential doom.
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One of the things literature does better than almost any other medium is allow us to experience another person’s quality of mind, and sometimes even inhabit it. It follows, then, that every avid reader has a favorite literary character — whether they’re beloved for dastardly deeds, tough-girl antics, sex appeal, or a high snark quotient — and that there are many impossibly good ones out there. Click through to find 50 of the… Read More
“I busied myself to think of a story,” wrote Mary Shelley in the preface of her classic novel Frankenstein: or, The Modern Prometheus. “A story to rival those which had excited us to this task. One which would speak to the mysterious fears of our nature and awaken thrilling horror—one to make the reader dread to look round, to curdle the blood, and quicken the beatings of the heart.” Today marks the author’s 217th birthday. She is remembered most for her 1818 gothic tale, celebrated as one of the earliest science fiction works. Shelley’s story has inspired dozens of adaptations. We revisited a few of our favorites.
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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