Readersforum's Blog

September 25, 2014

The top 10 walks in books

From Laurie Lee’s departure for Spain one sunny morning to Flora’s unfortunate sexual odyssey in Cold Comfort Farm, Duncan Minshull chooses the best literary journeys on foot.

WalkI’ve always been a walker. Age 10, it was the Sunday outing (family bonding); age 13, it was getting away from home (rebellion); and, as a student of 20, I tramped everywhere (no money).

Later I began examining the activity, which meant writing about it, and after that I corralled 200 walkers and their journeys into an anthology, just re-published as While Wandering. This contains characters from fiction, as well as passages from memoirs, plays and poetry. The purpose of the book was to shed some light on our desire to travel by foot.

John Hillaby said he had no idea why he walked, despite crossing deserts, roaming the length of Britain, and writing great books about it all. Funny, I’ve always believed the opposite. There are a thousand and one reasons for setting out, be they physical, psychological or spiritual, rational or bonkers. I like to think that the following people might inspire us to hit the road, too.

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Hacking scandal book on Financial Times awards shortlist

Journalist Nick Davies’ book on the hacking scandal and Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century (Belknap Press/Harvard University Press) are among the titles shortlisted for the Financial Times and McKinsey Business Book of the Year Award.

The £30,000 award is given to the most influential business book of the year, with the five shortlisted titles getting £10,000.

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The brilliance of Richard Brautigan

Fairytale meets beat meets counterculture: bursting with colour, humour and imagery, Brautigan’s virtuoso prose is rooted in his rural past – and that’s what draws me in.

Over the years, I’ve lived in a variety of places, including America, but I was born and raised in the Lake District, in Cumbria. Growing up in that rural, sodden, mountainous county has shaped my brain, perhaps even my temperament. It’s also influenced the qualities I seek in literature, as both reader and writer. In my early 20s, connecting with fiction was a difficult process. There seemed to be little rhyme or reason to what was meaningful, what convinced, and what made sense. There was a lot of fiction I did not enjoy, whose landscapes seemed bland and unevocative, the characters faint-hearted within them, the very words lacking vibrancy. This was no doubt empathetic deficiency on my part. I wouldn’t say it was lack of imagination – if anything, roaming around moors and waterways solo can lead to an excessive amount of making things up, a bizarreness of mind. I suppose what I wanted to discover was writing that served these functions, and I was in danger of quitting books.

Around this age I first read Richard Brautigan.

 

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Too Graphic? 2014 Banned Books Week Celebrates Challenged Comics

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Burnside, Miller and Williams up for Forward Best Collection

John Burnside, Kei Miller and Hugo Williams are among the poets shortlisted for the £10,000 Forward Prize for Best Collection.

The three 2014 Forward Poetry Prizes celebrating the best of the year’s poetry, awarding the best collection, best first collection and best single poem.

Shortlisted for the £10,000 Forward Prize for Best Collection are Colette Bryce for The Whole & Rain-domed Universe (Picador Poetry); John Burnside for All One Breath (Cape Poetry); Louise Glück for Faithful and Virtuous Night (Carcanet); Kei Miller for The Cartographer Tries to Map A Way to Zion (Carcanet); and Hugo Williams for I Knew the Bride (Faber & Faber).

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September 23, 2014

50 best cult books

Albert Camus, Joseph Heller, JD Salinger and Thomas Pynchon are among the authors chosen by our critics for the 50 best cult books

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

Catch-22 by Joseph Heller (1961)

By Telegraph Reporters

A cult book may be hard to define but one thing is for sure: you know a cult book when you see one.

Cult books are somehow, intangibly, different from simple bestsellers – though many of them are that. And people have passionate feelings on both sides:

Our critics present a selection of the most notable cult writing from the past two centuries. Some is classic. Some is catastrophic. All of it had the power to inspire . . .

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John Keats, Autumn

Filed under: Uncategorized — Bookblurb @ 12:53 pm

By Steve King

On this day in 1819, twenty-five-year-old John Keats wrote to his friend, Charles Brown, to say that he was giving up poetry for journalism. This is also the first day of autumn; four days earlier in 1819 Keats had written “To Autumn,” now one of his most popular poems, and one which many critics regard as “flawless in structure, texture, tone, and rhythm.”

 

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May 29, 2014

Maya Angelou Dead at 86

mangelou_1_190x130_normal

By Dan Kedmey.

The celebrated poet, author and civil rights activist passed away on Wednesday in her North Carolina home

Maya Angelou, the acclaimed poet, author and civil rights icon who wrote lyrically of her childhood in the Jim Crow south, died Wednesday morning. She was 86, and her death was confirmed by a family representative and by officials at the Winston-Salem mayor’s office in North Carolina, where she had been living.

Angelou had been honored with more than 50 awards, including the nation’s highest civilian honor, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, for her collected works of poetry, fiction and nonfiction, most notably her groundbreaking memoir, I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, which made history as one of the first nonfiction best-sellers by an African-American woman.

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Masters and Spoon River

Edgar Lee Masters   (1869 - 1950)

Edgar Lee Masters (1869 – 1950)

By Steve King.

On this day in 1914 the first installment of Edgar Lee Masters’s Spoon River Anthology appeared, with the full 244 “epitaphs,” published in book form in 1916. Despite fears of a backlash due to his realistic and unflattering view of life in a Midwest village, the book was an instant hit, and the national praise so outdid the local anger that Masters was eventually able to give up legal practice and become a full time writer.

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April 23, 2014

10 Books for Twentysomethings

BellBy Robin Marantz Henig and Samantha Henig

In the new book Twentysomething: Why Do Young Adults Seem Stuck?, the mother-daughter team of Robin Marantz Henig and Samantha Henig explores the difficulties facing young people in today’s society–including identity exploration, instability, and self-focus. Do yourself a favor and pick up the book, as well as some of these 10 books, selected by the Henigs, which will help get the twentysomething in your life on the right track.

The most uplifting news we’ve read recently about Millennials, the one that counters all the negative stereotypes about them as lazy, entitled, narcissistic, and shallow, is that they love books. In fact, a survey reported last summer noted that Millennials buy more books than Baby Boomers (30% of total sales for Millennials versus 24% for Boomers). The future of civilization is assured.

And in their typically self-obsessed way — one generalization that’s probably true, because it’s developmentally appropriate to spend time thinking about yourself at a stage in life when your main task is figuring yourself out — Millennials are probably buying books about other twentysomethings, the more disaffected the better. If they’re not, they should be, because what better way to get through a period of uncertainty and shifting enthusiasms than to read great literature about characters doing pretty much the same thing? Here are 10 of our favorites.

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