Readersforum's Blog

April 8, 2014

Peter Matthiessen, Co-Founder Of The Paris Review, Dies At 86

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December 6, 2013

NPR’s Book Concierge

girlsOur Guide To 2013’s Great Reads

by Jeremy Bowers, Nicole Cohen, Danny DeBelius, Camila Domonoske, Rose Friedman, Christopher Groskopf, Petra Mayer, Beth Novey and Shelly Tan

Choose your own adventure! Use the categories below to search through more than 200 standout titles selected by NPR staff and critics. (You can also combine categories!) Then click on the books’ covers to find out why we love them.

(But wait! No best-of lists this year? Here’s why we decided to try something new.)

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April 24, 2013

Mining Books To Map Emotions Through A Century

By Alix Spiegel

Were people happier in the 1950s than they are today? Or were they more frustrated, repressed and sad?

To find out, you’d have to compare the emotions of one generation to another. British anthropologists think they may have found the answer — embedded in literature.

Several years ago, more or less on a lark, a group of researchers from England used a computer program to analyze the emotional content of books from every year of the 20th century — close to a billion words in millions of books.

This effort began simply with lists of “emotion” words: 146 different words that connote anger; 92 words for fear; 224 for joy; 115 for sadness; 30 for disgust; and 41 words for surprise. All were from standardized word lists used in linguistic research.

The original idea was to have the computer program track the use of these words over time. The researchers wanted to see if certain words, at certain moments, became more popular.

 

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November 2, 2012

Reading 125 Titles A Year? That’s ‘One For The Books’

Filed under: Interviews — Tags: , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 7:08 am

Joe Queenan reads so many books, it’s amazing that he can also find time to write them. Queenan estimates he’s read between 6,000 and 7,000 books total, at a rate of about 125 books a year — (or 100 in a “slow” year). “Some years I just went completely nuts,” Queenan tells NPR’s Robert Siegel. “A couple years ago I read about 250. I was trying to read a book every single day of the year but I kind of ran out of gas.”

Queenan is the author of nine books on a diversity of topics: from Closing Time, a memoir about his childhood in a Philadelphia housing project, to Imperial Caddy, a humorous takedown of Dan Quayle. His latest work, called One for the Books, is a meditation on his lifelong obsession with reading. He talks with Siegel about what he reads, why he reads and how he loves books but hates book clubs.

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September 13, 2012

Bookstore-sitting gig: Not so charming?

By Carolyn Kellogg

News that Tales of the Lonesome Pine bookshop in Virginia is looking for a bookstore-sitter this fall has been embraced by everyone from Jacket Copy to NPR as a charming idea. In exchange for room and board, the sitter gets a rustic setting, a couple of pets to care for and a bookstore to watch over. Who wouldn’t want to give it a try?

Scott Brown, for one. He’s one of the owners of Eureka Books, an antiquarian bookstore in Eureka, Calif. He slams the idea of leaving a bookstore in the hands of an unpaid volunteer. “If after five years, you don’t sell enough books to pay yourself — let alone an employee — and you have to get a teaching job for the benefits (as Ms. Welch did), you aren’t a bookseller, you are a hobbyist.”

Brown notes that Wendy Welch and her husband, owners of the Tales of the Lonesome Pine bookstore, are leaving it behind to promote her memoir, “The Little Bookstore of Big Stone Gap.” The book extols the joys of running a small community bookstore, while admitting that it’s not much of a living. On the bookstore’s blog, she compares booksellers to nuns and monks.

That’s not how Brown sees it.

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August 8, 2012

Your Favorites: 100 Best-Ever Teen Novels

Harriet Russell

It’s almost a cliche at this point to say that teen fiction isn’t just for teens anymore. Just last year, the Association of American Publishers ranked Children’s/Young Adult books as the single fastest-growing publishing category.

Which is why we were only a little surprised to see the tremendous response that came in for this summer’s Best-Ever Teen Fiction poll. A whopping 75,220 of you voted for your favorite young adult novels, blasting past the total

And now, the final results are in. While it’s no surprise to see Harry Potter and the Hunger Games trilogy on top, this year’s list also highlights some writers we weren’t as familiar with. For example, John Green, author of the 2012 hit The Fault in Our Stars, appears five times in the top 100.

Selecting a manageable voting roster from among the more than 1,200 nominations that came in from readers wasn’t easy, and we were happy to be able to rely on such an experienced panel of judges.

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August 6, 2012

In The E-Book World, Are Book Covers A Dying Art?

Chip Kidd, an associate art director at publisher Alfred A. Knopf, has written a new graphic novel called Batman: Death by Design.

In the olden days, a reader might pick up a book because the cover was exciting, intriguing, maybe even beautiful. But in the brave new world of e-books and e-readers, the days when an artist named Chip Kidd could make us reach for a book may be gone.

Kidd, an associate art director at publisher Alfred A. Knopf, has designed book covers for the past 25 years for authors like Cormac McCarthy, John Updike, David Sedaris and Michael Crichton. Remember the menacing Tyrd gave a TED talk on the art of designing books. He told the audience that while e-books offer convenience, theannosaurus rex skeleton on movie posters for Jurassic Park? The original version was Kidd’s cover design for the novel.

Earlier this year, Kidd gave a TED talk on the art of designing books. He told the audience that while e-books offer convenience, the growing digital publishing world risks losing “tradition, a sensual experience, the comfort of thingy-ness, [and] a little bit of humanity.”

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October 17, 2011

Your Picks: Top 100 Science-Fiction, Fantasy Books

Filed under: Lists — Tags: , , , , , — Henry Greeff @ 6:06 am

Chris Silas Neal

More than 5,000 of you nominated. More than 60,000 of you voted. And now the results are in. The winners of NPR’s Top 100 Science-Fiction and Fantasy survey are an intriguing mix of classic and contemporary titles. Over on NPR’s pop culture blog, Monkey See, you can find one fan’s thoughts on how the list shaped up, get our experts’ take, and have the chance to share your own.

A quick word about what’s here, and what’s not: Our panel of experts reviewed hundreds of the most popular nominations and tossed out those that didn’t fit the survey’s criteria (after — we assure you — much passionate, thoughtful, gleefully nerdy discussion). You’ll notice there are no young adult or horror books on this list, but sit tight, dear reader, we’re saving those genres for summers yet to come.

So, at last, here are your favorite science-fiction and fantasy novels.

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September 21, 2011

This Pig Wants To Party: Maurice Sendak’s Latest

Buy this

Bumble-ardy, the latest from author and illustrator Maurice Sendak, is dark and deeply imaginative, much like his classic works Where the Wild Things Are and In The Night Kitchen.

Bumble-ardy is an orphaned pig, who has reached the age of 9 without ever having a birthday party. He tells his Aunt Adeline that he would like to have a party for his ninth birthday, so Aunt Adeline plans a quiet birthday dinner for two. But Bumble-ardy instead decides to throw a large costume party for himself after his aunt leaves for work — and mayhem ensues.

When his aunt returns she says, “Okay smarty, you’ve had your party but never again.” Bumble-ardy replies, “I promise, I swear, I won’t ever turn 10.”

Sendak tells Fresh Air‘s Terry Gross that those two lines — his favorite in the book — sum up his life and his work.

“Those two lines are essential. ‘I’ll never be 10′ touches me deeply but I won’t pretend that I know exactly what it means,” says Sendak. “When I thought of it, I was so happy I thought of it. It came to me, which is what the creative act is all about. Things come to you without you necessarily knowing what they mean. … It comes at a time when I am getting ripe, getting old — and I want to do work that resonates.”

Sendak says that he worked on Bumble-ardy while taking care of his longtime partner, Eugene Glynn, who died of lung cancer in 2007.

“When I did Bumble-ardy, I was so intensely aware of death,” he says. “Eugene, my friend and partner, was dying here in the house when I did Bumble-ardy. I did Bumble-ardy to save myself. I did not want to die with him. I wanted to live as any human being does. But there’s no question that the book was affected by what was going on here in the house. … Bumble-ardy was a combination of the deepest pain and the wondrous feeling of coming into my own. And it took a long time. It took a very long time.”

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December 29, 2010

When Done Right, Little Gets Lost In Translation

Edith Grossman has translated Don Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes and Love in the Time of Cholera by Gabriel Garcia Marquez. When translating an author's work, "you feel as if you are looking at the world through the eyes of someone else," Grossman says.

When Edith Grossman translates a book, she begins to feel a closeness to the author who wrote it. “The more talented the writer, the more open the door is into his or her mind,” she explains.

And Grossman should know. She is perhaps best known for her translation of Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote. Not only did Cervantes invent the modern novel, says Grossman, he was a cutting-edge writer 400 years ago. When Grossman talks about the author, it’s almost as if he is still alive.

“I dearly love him,” she says. “I would love to have a meal with him, I’d love to have a couple of drinks with him, to sit and chat and talk about literature and all the other things you talk about with someone you are really very fond of.”

But such affection and admiration can also be daunting. Grossman says she had a lot of fear when she began translating Don Quixote. She spent two weeks on the first sentence alone, because she felt everything else would fall into place if she could only do justice to Cervantes’ opening line.

The key to unlocking what the author intended, says Grossman, can always be found in the text itself….read more

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