Toni Morrison

Are These America's 25 Most Important Writers?

There are a million ways to rank authors, as anyone who has spent any time on this website can surely attest. But here’s one that has us reflecting on the state of the American literary canon in a new way. Over at Commentary Magazine, D.G. Myers has ranked American writers based on the MLA International Bibliography’s account of the amount of scholarship on them. And, perhaps more interestingly, he’s tracked the changes since the last listing.

In the last 25 years, Henry James overcame William Faulkner as the headliner in our collective academic heraldry, Vladimir Nabokov and Toni Morrison have both shot up the charts, and Hawthorne, Thoreau, Frost and Twain seem to be fading fast. Of course, as Myers points out, this isn’t a popularity contest, per se. The list reflects “the professional commitments, the devotion of time and energy, on the part of literary scholars. These are the writers who are principally taught in university English departments around the country, the writers who are being handed down to the next generation.” Click through to see Myers’ list, with the bracketed numbers reflecting changes since 1947, and let us know if you think this reflects the American canon in the comments. … Read More

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Readers' Choice: 10 More of the Most Powerful Women in Literature

Recently, we compiled a list of ten of the most powerful female characters in literature, and asked you to pitch in with your own suggestions in the comments. And boy, did you oblige us! As one commenter wrote, “This should be the 50 Most Powerful Female Characters. 10 just isn’t enough.” Indeed — even 50 probably wouldn’t cut it. We were excited to see the number of different characters you came up with, and even more excited to see a shining reminder of how many incredibly strong women exist in literature, so we decided to publish a second list with some of the most often (and most fervently) recommended female characters. The beauty about the vast world of literature is that different people are inspired by different things, so everyone gets to have a list of their own, and some of these aren’t necessarily characters we would have picked (though some totally are), but hey — the people have spoken. Click through to see which female characters our readers picked as the most powerful women in literature, and if we still haven’t hit on your favorite, make a case for her in the comments! … Read More

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Audiobooks and the Celebrities Who Were Born to Read Them

Audiobook superstore Audible has recently rolled out a new series of books called the “A-List Collection,” featuring celebrities lending their vocal talents to classic books. They have some great talent on tap: Annette Bening reading Mrs. Dalloway, Colin Firth reading The End of the Affair, Dustin Hoffman reading Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There, but the project got us to thinking about the celebrities we’d pick to read our favorite novels to us if we had our choice. Click through to read our list of our dream audiobook narrators and why we think they’d be perfect for the gig, and let us know who you’d want to whisper sweet prose into your ear in the comments. … Read More

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10 Books We Would Give Blue Ivy Carter

What to give the baby that has everything (including a song on the Billboard chart)? Not one to go handing out $7,000 pink Swarovski-crystal bathtubs to newborns like some aunties we could name, excellent gift-giver Oprah reportedly gave Blue Ivy Carter, Beyoncé and Jay-Z’s brand new baby girl, “a trunk full of children’s books” for the occasion of her birth. Exactly which books are contained within? We may never know. Since we try to follow Oprah’s lead in all parts of our lives, we got to thinking about what books we would give little Blue for a life as American royalty. With those genes she’s got, we basically expect her to immediately become a full-on child prodigy, so we haven’t limited ourselves to children’s books, but imagined a starter bookshelf that will have her discovering new things at least until high school. Click through to read our gift list for Blue Ivy, and let us know what books you might give the celebrity baby in the comments. … Read More

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10 Famous Literary Characters and Their Real-Life Inspirations

We all know truth is stranger than fiction, and some things (and people) are just too good to have been made up. We’ve already shown you quirky cartoon characters based on real people, and though we imagine there are many more life-to-literature adaptations than life-to-cartoon, we’ve decided to continue the trend and pick some of our favorite famous literary characters inspired by real-life people. For the most part, we’ve skipped the autobiographical inspirations, mostly because there are too many too count, though many writers would probably tell you there’s a little bit of themselves in every character they write, so in some ways that distinction is a losing battle. Click through to read out list of ten famous literary characters and their real-life counterparts, and let us know your own picks for your favorite truth-inspired heroes and heroines in the comments! … Read More

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A Collection of Rejected Titles for Classic Books

It’s a well-known fact that authors, for all their brilliance, can be less than visionary when it comes to coming up with titles. We understand — so much goes into the perfect title, both from an artistic and a commercial point of view, and when you’re so close to the work at hand, we can imagine how it could be a little challenging to see the issue from all angles. But even if a writer is particularly talented at title-penning, the names of books can go through as many permutations as the text itself before they see the light of day. Plus, for good or ill, writers have husbands, wives, publishers and others to weigh in, causing even more changes. Lovers of book trivia, read on: after the jump you’ll find our list of what some classic works were almost called. Check it out and let us know whether you think the changes were for the better or the worse in the comments. … Read More

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10 Fantastic Banned Books That Talk About Sex

Upwards of 11,000 books have been challenged in American libraries and schools since Banned Books Week was born in the last week of September back in 1982. We wanted to draw some attention to books that have been censored over the years, so we got in touch with Sarah Murphy, a school librarian and co-founder (with Maria Falgoust) of The Desk Set, a “social and philanthropic group for librarians and bibliophiles.” Sarah writes, “Those who attempt to ban books are probably afraid of whatever is inside. So, what are they most afraid of? Judging from the dangers cited this year, it’s sex.” She continues, “If you read about sex, you might get the idea to have some. Or think that it’s nothing to be ashamed of. You might start to believe that you’re not the only person in the world to like it, hate it, want it, or be confused by it. Let’s celebrate our freedom to read by checking out the books that got the would-be book banners’ totally chaste knickers in a knot. Here are ten suggested titles; some are new to the list, others have been challenged for decades. All have been accused of being too darn hot.” So read on, dear readers, and let us know what racy books you hid from your parents and teachers when you were young and precocious. … Read More

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Cultural Icons Reflect on September 11th

Where were you on the morning of September 11, 2001? What errands were you running, what classes were you taking, and what job were you arriving to on that fateful day? As the 10th anniversary of the World Trade Center attacks approaches, we’ve decided to run a group of quotes by writers and public intellectuals (as well as a graphic designer and comedian) who had something to say about the state of the city and the country in the days and years to follow. As David Remnick wrote in the New Yorker, “we pay tribute to the resilience of ordinary people in the face of appalling destruction.” But we also pay tribute to those who had the courage to discuss real issues when there was so much political showboating happening. So read on, dear readers, and let us know what words got you through this incredible shock to the system. … Read More

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Love Will Tear Us Apart: 30 Literary Breakup Quotes

We hate to be the ones to say it, but the end of the summer romance is nigh, dear readers. As August becomes September, a noticeable chill lingers in the air; the cold creeps in slowly, hardening hearts and delivering sang-froid to young and old alike. In preparation, we suggest you arm yourselves with our modest arsenal of literary quotes that can be administered whenever you feel the time is right. Good luck, and let us know in the comments section what quotes have helped you get through a difficult breakup. … Read More

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Like Pandora? Try A Literary Offshoot, Booklamp

BookLamp.org is a new website that is similar to Pandora — it creates algorithms and breaks down your book preferences by main themes. For instance, if you liked White Teeth, then Booklamp discerns that you’re into: Culture, Life/Death/Spirituality, Extended Families, Explicit Language, and “Elements of Time.” This results in some odd recommendations, such as The Cestus Deception (Star Wars: Clone Wars) by Steven Barnes. (Really? Because we are just never going to be in to that.) However, another suggestion was The Pregnant Widow by Martin Amis, which makes some sense. So click through and see what hilarious, interesting, and arguably accurate choices we found on our trip through the site. … Read More

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