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Heidi Julavits

Heidi Julavits has received the first major review for her diary/essay collection and it’s a rave. 

The Folded Clock offers all the thrill of that trespass, in a work so artful that it ­appears to be without artifice,” Eula Bliss writes in the New York Times Book Review. “This diary is a record of the interior weather of an adept thinker. In it, the mundane is rendered extraordinary through the ... read more ...

The Book: The Top Ten

The Real Power of Books

To mark the publication of J. Peder Zane's new book, "Off the Books: On Literature and Culture," we'll be posting an essay from it each day.  

By J. Peder Zane

The sun was sitting high in the sky and I was near a shady tree as my kids splashed in the pool. Life is good.

Then I picked up the paper: bombings in Syria, genocide in Kenya, massacres in Iraq.

I looked back at my children, smiled, then marveled at the mind's capacity to take in all the information of the world and then judge our well-being by what's in front of our noses. It's the same thought I have whenever my wife and I discuss our pressing need to add another room to our fairly spacious home, or when I conclude that I really do need a new DVD player or component for my stereo system. I know that there are people in far-flung spots consigned to circumstances so abject they are almost beyond imagining. And yet my desires don't fade—and still I feel good about myself, still consider myself a good person.

This dynamic is particularly troubling for us book-lovers. Besides being a great source of pleasure, books are our primary gateway to other lives and cultures. If books serve a larger purpose, it is their power to brake our god-given selfishness. Nature primes us to look out for ourselves; few of us require help in that regard. What most of us need are constant reminders to consider everyone else, to imagine their needs, hopes, desires and circumstances.

Personal experience has convinced me that books are both the greatest tool for empathy we have created and totally inadequate to the task. Some of the best-read people I know are among the nastiest and most selfish individuals I've never wanted to know.  Read more ...

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Heidi Julavits

Heidi Julavits has received the first major review for her diary/essay collection and it’s a rave. 

Heidi Julavits

Heidi Julavits has received the first major review for her diary/essay collection and it’s a rave. 

Jonathan Lethem

“Jonathan Lethem’s extraordinary career is a reminder of the not-so-distant past when working novelists published their new creations regularly and with a seemingly free-flowing hand,” Michael Greenberg writes in the New York Times Book Review. “If one book wasn’t up to snuff, there would be another to redeem it a year or two later. It was all part of the ebb and flow of a lifetime of work.

 

Joyce Carol Oates

“During her long and distinguished career, Joyce Carol Oates never has shied away from the controversy that can come with using celebrities and tabloid news stories as the inspiration for her fiction,” Jon Michaud observes in the Washington Post.

Peter Carey

Peter Carey is receiving astoundingly mixed reviews for new novel, Amnesia. Where some reviewers see genius, others eye a tedious mix. It’s enough to make you suspect that critics are not infallible!

 

Stewart O'Nan

Stewart O’Nan’s fifteenth novel, West of Sunset, is the latest in a line of works in which great writers essay the life of other great writers – one of my favorites is Frederick Busch’s 1999 novel featuring Herman Melville, The Night Inspector.

 

Tom LeClair

Top Ten Land may celebrate classic books, but like Bob Dylan, we don’t look back. We look forward to new lists that bring great works to our attention.

Pages

New List

Jonathan Lethem

1. Great Expectations by Charles Dickens (1860–61).
2. The Trial by Franz Kafka (1925).
3. The Man Who Loved Children by Christina Stead (1940).
4. The Red and the Black by Stendhal (1830).
5. A Dance to the Music of Time by Anthony Powell (1951–75).
6. Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll (1865).
7. The Black Prince by Iris Murdoch (1973).
8. New Grub Street by George Gissing (1891).
9. Tristram Shandy by Laurence Sterne (1759–67).
10. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866).

Classic List

Norman Mailer

1. Anna Karenina by Leo Tolstoy (1877).
2. Madame Bovary by Gustave Flaubert (1857).
3. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1866).
4. The Brothers Karamazov by Fyodor Dostoevsky (1880).
5. Pride and Prejudice by Jane Austen (1813).
6. The U.S.A. trilogy by John Dos Passos (1938).
7. Moby-Dick by Herman Melville (1851).
8. The Red and the Black by Stendhal (1830).
9. Buddenbrooks by Thomas Mann (1900).
10. Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges (1964).

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