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
Contemporary literature is an amorphous, expansive thing, and it isn’t always easy to pinpoint how or why it is changing or what it may become. But in the current moment, at least one promising development is certain: literary writing that challenges or refuses stable gender binaries is of increasing critical and aesthetic prominence. The last month alone has seen the publication and widespread critical acclaim of Maggie Nelson’s The Argonauts, a moving, multi-genre consideration of gender fluidity (among other themes). At the end of April, too, American audiences were finally able to access Anne Garétta’s Sphinx — wonderfully translated from the French by Emma Ramadan — a novel that uses no gender markers to refer to its protagonists. With these books in mind, the list below contains a collection of novels that feature agender, bigender, or gender-fluid characters or… Read More
As April ushers in sunshine and flowers, and the spring holidays have adherents talking about new beginnings, the writing world is overflowing with people setting goals. Some are participating in the 100 days project, which begins today and requires doing something creative each day for 100 days straight. Others are embarking on Camp NaNoWriMo, a “practice run” month of novel-writing, and the more verse-inclined are scribbling a poem a day for National Poetry Month (either through the auspices of NaPoWriMo or not).
And even if we’re doing none of those things, but simply contemplating Ken Cosgrove’s choice to abandon his writing to get revenge on his advertising colleagues on the premiere of Mad Men, today is a good day to rededicate oneself to the craft. So here’s a collection of words from writers beyond the usual suspects — writers of color, feminists, genre writers, and even a Renaissance poet — talking about the hard work of building habits, agonizing over the writing process, and wrestling with the muse. If they don’t have you waking up at dawn tomorrow with a pen and a notebook, nothing will.
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Everyone knows that, statistically at least, girls read more than boys. But the classic, canonical growing-up books, at least in American culture, tend to represent the male experience — I’m thinking On the Road, The Catcher in the Rye, everything ever written by Bret Easton Ellis or Michael Chabon — and while these are great books, suitable for boys or girls, the question remains: where are the books for girls to grow up on? Well, they’re definitely out there, if perhaps assigned less often in schools to readers of both genders. And so I propose a Girl Canon, populated by books not necessarily for girls but which investigate, address, or represent the female experience in some essential… Read More
Everybody out there could stand to be a little more interesting. Yes, even you, trilingual lion-tamer astrophysicist reader. And you know what makes you more interesting? Books, of course. (You knew it was going to be books, because you’re already a little interesting) But not just any books. Some books have more capacity to raise your interest level than others. Here’s a list of 50 books that will make you smarter, funnier, deeper, and yes, more interesting — at least to some… Read More
There’s been a lot of talk about genre in the air recently (well, really, when isn’t there?) — what it means, whether it’s changed, whether it’s even useful or important anymore. But no matter what is said, there’s still that lingering stigma that keeps worthy works of genre (for clarity, we’re mostly talking fantasy and science fiction, with a little historical fiction, mystery and crime thrown in for good measure) from ascending to full classic status: being taught in high schools, appearing on all-time best-book lists, etc. Some genre novels have already crossed the border into pure classic territory — Brave New World, Slaughterhouse-Five and 1984 are all genre and established classics by any measuring stick, The Lord of the Rings is so ubiquitous and grand that it’s forced itself into the canon, and let’s not forget that Wuthering Heights is a ghost story, and so, of course, is Beloved. To add to that list, here are 25 genre novels that should be considered classics. Add even more, if that’s your desire, in the comments.
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Back-to-school time is upon us, and for many, that means reading for pleasure will give way to burning through that syllabus. Classrooms, especially high school classrooms (college classes are becoming so weird and specific nowadays that you could read just about anything in them), suffer from the “classic effect” — which is exactly what it sounds like. Not that there’s anything wrong with literary classics, and they definitely should be read, but there’s so much more out there. And when you consider the fact that one-third of high school graduates never read another book for the rest of their lives — well, it would be nice if they had a little more to go on than The Great Gatsby. After the jump, find a selection of books you’ll (probably) never read in high school, but should still read, and add your own favorite anti-schoolbooks to the list in the comments.
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Just what is a cult novel? Well, like so many literary terms, the edges blur whenever you try to look right at them, but in the end, you sort of know one when you read one. Sometimes a cult novel is one that the critics panned but the fans love, or sometimes it’s one that both readers and critics love, but a certain contingent of readers really love. Any book with a squadron of rabid fans swearing that it changed their lives quickly seems cultish. Cult novels often come from the fringes, they often represent countercultural perspectives, they often experiment with form. Here are 50 of the… Read More
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
The air is getting crisper, the nights are getting longer, and All Hallow’s Eve draws near. You know what that means: it’s time to curl up with a book guaranteed to give you the shivers — or at least make you check the locks twice. Here, for your horrifying pleasure, are 50 of the scariest books ever written in the English language, whether horror, nonfiction, or speculative futures you never want to… Read More