Category Archives: Literature

More End-of-the-Year Lists

It’s only mid-December, so the end-of-the-year listmania continues apace, to my great delight. After the more or less standard lists, here are some that are more unusual but just as interesting.

50 Covers for 2013 from The Casual Optimist. That cover of 1984 is stunning.

Great translations published this year via Three Percent and Typographical Era.

The Millions is running a wonderful series of posts called Year in Reading, with contributions from many amazing writers and critics.

And Brain Pickings has the usual embarrassment of riches with best book lists from many different fields: science and technology, psychology and philosophy, art and design, biographies, memoirs and history, as well as children’s, illustrated and picture books.

Happy reading!


Books of the Year

I love lists, the internet loves lists, and December is the perfect month for list addicts. So here’s a roundup of best books of 2013 lists from major media outlets. My favorite is the first one, but each and every one of them suggests something new — enough to keep you reading well into 2014.

The Guardian asked writers and critics to choose the best books of 2013 (with more genre specific lists coming up.)

The FT has a very comprehensive list divided by genre.

As always, The New York Times chose 100 notable books and then the 10 best books.

The NPR‘s list is not just interesting but also very well designed.

As it usually does, The Times Literary Supplement asked writers to talk about their favorite books and what’s great is that there are quite a few translations.

And there’s more over at SlateThe Spectator, and Forbes with even more to come in the next few weeks. Do you have any favorite lists? Leave the link in the comments!

Modernism Lab

If you like modernist literature (Woolf! Joyce! Proust!), you’ll love this digital archive developed at Yale. Not only does it list many modernist texts by year with links to their online versions, it also traces the movement of several key writers from 1914 to 1926 and has a pretty informative wiki.

For instance, here’s what was happening 100 years ago in modernist land: the first volume of Proust’s In Search of Lost Time finally came out, Kafka published The Judgment, George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion premiered in Vienna and then London, and Igor Stravinsky’s The Rite of Spring was performed in Paris in front of an outraged audience. Not a bad year all in all.


Children’s Books

Reading about this classic children’s books exhibit at the British Library has made me want to share some of my favorites. So here’s the first one:  Nikolai Nosov’s Neznayka — the story of light-headed Dunno/Neznayka and his group of friends, Gunky, Swifty, Bendum, Twistum and many others, who build a hot air balloon and go off on an adventure. Like most children’s books, it does have clear didactic purposes (in this case, Communist-sanctioned goals since it was written in Soviet Russia), but I can’t remember understanding it that way when I first read it as a child. It was just a very enjoyable read.

The drawings below are by A. Laptev from the Romanian edition (Aventurile lui Habarnam și ale prietenilor săi). The English translation, The Adventures of Dunno and His Friends, is available here.

Today Should Be International Mark Twain Day

Sales Prospectus Promotional Blurb

Mark Twain would have been 178 years old today, says the internet, and such anniversaries are always a good reason to do a link roundup. (I wonder who keeps track of these things — is there someone, somewhere who constantly checks Wikipedia to see which anniversary is up next?) In any case, Mark Twain is one of the internet’s darlings, so there are many interesting articles, clips, photos, and archives. Here’s just a sample:

1. Mark Twain in His Times from the Department of English at the University of Virginia is an amazingly comprehensive archive. You could spend hours going through reviews, promotional materials, manuscripts, and pictures, so it’s a good thing today’s Saturday.

2. Excerpts from letters he received from his readers, chosen by Brain Pickings from Dear Mark Twain.

3. The sardonic notes he often made in the margins of his books: highlights from Open Culture and much more from the New York Times.

4. 10 Photos of him via Huffington Post.

5. And a rare film showing Twain with his family, shot by Edison in 1909, a year before the writer died:

Plus, as luck would have it, the second volume of his mammoth autobiography has recently been published, just as we’ve started making gift lists.

(Huck Finn ad from Mark Twain in His Times)

Where Does Little Red Riding Hood Come From?

Little Red Riding Hood

An anthropologist has been trying to find Little Red Riding Hood’s origins, using methods from evolutionary biology. Which led to this:

“[…] the evolutionary analysis of Little Red Riding Hood does not support a Chinese origin. Instead, the folktale seems to have emerged almost 2000 years ago somewhere between Europe and the Middle East, Tehrani reports today in PLOS ONE. China most likely adopted the tale from Europe, rather than the other way around. The African versions of the story probably evolved from the Middle Eastern tale, The Wolf and the Kids. And that story appears to be older than Little Red Riding Hood, although one version of the European tale has become far more popular due to its publication in book form 200 years ago by the Brothers Grimm.”

(Image from Gallica)