Readersforum's Blog

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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June 17, 2013

Storyville: 3 Essential Books You Should Read in Every Major Genre

storyville-masterBy Richard Thomas

This list is entirely subjective, based on books that I’ve read over the years. But what they all have in common is that they’ve stayed with me. Many of these titles I’ve read over and over again. Some are touchstones, lodestones that I reference when I get blocked, bowing at the feet of masters that have taught me everything I’ve ever learned about what makes compelling fiction. I’m hoping that you’ve read most of these and will spend much of this column nodding your head in agreement. More importantly, I hope you find some new authors and novels that will enlighten you at some point down the road.

NOTE: The genres I’ve picked are “major” to me, not to publishing in general. In leaving out romance, for example. I’m not saying it’s unimportant, just not for me. As you know, I tend to be drawn to dark writing, so that’s probably easy to see in these selections, including the YA and literary fiction.

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April 10, 2013

Murakami and Houellebecq lead 2013 Impac award shortlist

Karen RussellTen novelists in all are left in contention for the prestigious €100,000 prize.

By Alison Flood

Titans of international literature Haruki Murakami and Michel Houellebecq are going head-to-head on the shortlist for the €100,000 Impac award.

The Japanese and French favourites are two of 10 novelists in the final running for the International Impac Dublin award, with Murakami picked for surreal love story 1Q84, and Houellebecq for The Map and the Territory, which features the “celebrated novelist Michel Houellebecq” as a fictional character. The Impac is unique in that its longlist is voted for by libraries from around the world – Houellebecq received nominations from Barcelona and Berlin, and Murakami from South Africa, Ireland, the US and Germany – with a panel of judges selecting the shortlist and final winner.

This year’s line-up features the highest ever number of translated works, with Murakami and Houellebecq up against Icelandic star Sjón’s From the Mouth of the Whale, about an exiled poet, Dutch author Tommy Wieringa’s tale of a lonely musical prodigy Caesarion, and Norwegian debut novelist Kjersti Skomsvold’s The Faster I Walk, the Smaller I Am, in which a lonely old woman tries to make her mark on the world.

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August 24, 2012

Haruki Murakami leads race for Nobel prize for literature

Big outside Japan … Haruki Murakami has been installed as favourite for the 2012 Nobel prize for literature. Photograph: Sipa Press/Rex Features

Ladbrokes gives Japanese novelist odds of 10/1, ahead of Dutch writer Cees Nooteboom and Mo Yan of China on 12/1.

By Alison Flood

The Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has emerged as the early favourite to win this year’s Nobel prize for literature.

The acclaimed author of titles including Norwegian Wood, The Wind-Up Bird Chronicle and, most recently, IQ84, Murakami has been given odds of 10/1 to win the Nobel by Ladbrokes.

Last year the eventual winner of the award, the Swedish poet Tomas Tranströmer, was the betting firm’s second favourite to take the prize, given initial odds of 9/2 behind the Syrian poet Adonis, at 4/1. This year Adonis has slipped down the list, given odds of 14/1 alongside the Korean poet Ko Un and the Albanian writer Ismail Kadare.

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April 3, 2012

10 Science Fiction Books That I Love (And You Will At Least Like A Lot)

By Jon Korn

As the new ‘Sci-Fi guy’ here at LitReactor, it only seems proper to formally introduce myself. I really enjoyed writing my first piece contrasting John Carter as a book and a film, but thought a more expansive entrée might be fun. And rather than the standard recitation of resume and influences, why not throw myself upon the mercy of the comment section and offer a list of my favorite books in the genre?

Lists like these are imperfect in their very conception, so feel free to tell me where I went awry. (My theory: not taking a year off between high school and college to devote myself to becoming Jay-Z’s intern by any means necessary.) Some of these titles are very well known, others less so, but as a whole I think they reflect my admittedly idiosyncratic taste. At best, I’m hoping to provoke passionate discussion and inspire you to check out some truly rad books. At worst, we’re going to have an old-tyme, AOL circa 1996 thermonuclear flame war. To be completely honest, both sound sort of awesome.

Two caveats, then: First, these are in no particular order. Trying to winnow my packed bookshelves down to ten titles was traumatic enough; I’m not going to parse superlatives. And second, my definition of ‘science fiction’ is pretty far-reaching. High, low, near future, alternate history, literary – all are welcome. I’m a big tent kind of guy. Who doesn’t love big tents?

Enough prologue, on to the books!

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February 28, 2012

10 Great Magical Books for Adults

By Emily Temple

We’re just as excited as the next guy over the news that J.K. Rowling is writing a novel for adults, and like everyone else, we’re dying to know all the details. Rowling, however, is keeping a tight lid, which leaves us to sit around and speculate, an activity, to be fair, that we rather enjoy. While we don’t know if her new novel is slated to include any magic at all, we like to imagine that it will — after all, she is rather practiced at writing it — but we hope it won’t be another straight-up fantasy novel. To that end, we’ve compiled a list of wonderful and magical books for adults to inspire the great Ms. Rowling (and tide us over!). Now, don’t get us wrong: while there are plenty of fantasy books for adults — Lev Grossman has made a recent splash with his magical college novel The Magicians and its recent sequel The Magician King, and we don’t think anyone would argue that George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice and Fire series is for children, here we’re focusing on non-genre books (that is, not strictly fantasy or sci-fi) that nevertheless manage to include some awe-inspiring magic. 

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December 8, 2011

Selling Books by Their Gilded Covers

Publishers are putting more thought into books' aesthetics. Alessandra Montalto/The New York Times


Even as more readers switch to the convenience of e-books, publishers are giving old-fashioned print books a makeover.

Many new releases have design elements usually reserved for special occasions — deckle edges, colored endpapers, high-quality paper and exquisite jackets that push the creative boundaries of bookmaking. If e-books are about ease and expedience, the publishers reason, then print books need to be about physical beauty and the pleasures of owning, not just reading.

“When people do beautiful books, they’re noticed more,” said Robert S. Miller, the publisher of Workman Publishing. “It’s like sending a thank-you note written on nice paper when we’re in an era of e-mail correspondence.”

The eagerly anticipated 925-page novel by Haruki Murakami, “1Q84,” arrived in bookstores in October wrapped in a translucent jacket with the arresting gaze of a young woman peering through. A new novel by Stephen King about the Kennedy assassination, “11/22/63,” has an intricate book jacket and, unusual for fiction, photographs inside. The paperback edition of Jay-Z’s memoir “Decoded” features a shiny gold Rorschach on the cover, and in March the front of “The Song of Achilles” by Madeline Miller will bear an embossed helmet sculpted with punctures, cracks and texture, giving the image a 3-D effect.

Publishers in recent years have had a frugal attitude about so-called special effects, but that attitude has begun to shift, said Julie Grau, senior vice president and publisher of Spiegel & Grau, part of Random House.

“We’re rethinking the value in certain cases of special effects and higher production standards,” Ms. Grau said, citing “Decoded.”

“Now in some cases, creating a more beautiful hardcover or paperback object is warranted.”

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November 22, 2011

Bad sex awards: the contenders for a night at the In and Out

Bad sex award nominee Christos Tsiolkas, who provides shocks in his new novel Dead Europe. Photograph: Colin McPherson/Corbis

The Literary Review prepares to name the author responsible for the worst sex scene of the year.

By Stephen Bates

The first thing that arises out of the nominations for this year’s bad sex awards – the excruciating writing highlighted by the Literary Review each year – is just how fecund their writers’ imaginations are. If they have done half the things they have ascribed to their characters, their spectacles must have steamed up.

There are agile tongues, rooms that begin to shake, warm wet caves, volcanic releases, moist meat, bottomless swamps of dead fish and yellow lilies in bloom and cellars filled with a heady store of wines and spirits emitting wafts of gaseous bouquets. And that is before you get to massaging, kneading, stretching, rubbing, pinching, flicking, feathering, licking, kissing and gently biting – which occurs in just one sentence thanks to David Guterson.

Now in their 19th year, the awards have shortlisted 12 authors before the presentation next month, among them some of the most distinguished – or at least bestselling – authors in the world. They come from Britain, the US, Hungary, Japan and Australia.

Among them is the monarch of horror, Stephen King, who may not have realised when he wrote in his new novel 11.22.63 “she leaned back and her head bonked on the door”, that bonking has a more ribald meaning in the UK.

Haruki Murakami, author of the 1Q84 trilogy, might also have thought better of calling one of his female characters Fukaeri.

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November 17, 2011

Knopf’s High-End Print Package for ‘1Q84’ Pays Off

Filed under: Publishers — Tags: , , , , — Bookblurb @ 5:47 am



By Rachel Deahl

It’s just under a thousand pages. It’s a work in translation. It got a not-so-glowing review from the New York Times. Following standard publishing wisdom, even when you account for the sometimes cultish following Japanese novelist Haruki Murakami has, his newest work, 1Q84, should not be the out-of-the-gate hit it is. But Knopf, which published the title late last month, has not only turned the book into a bestseller, it’s also managed to reverse another trend: it has made the book more popular in print than in digital.

According to numbers released by the publisher, the novel, which was at #2 on the Times bestseller list on November 13, has sold 75,000 copies in hardcover, and 25,000 in digital. Those impressive print sales are thanks, in large part, to an extravagant package that Knopf put together that has made the book the kind of object–beautiful and collectible–that readers want. And, more than likely, non-readers also want.

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November 5, 2011

The craze for long books goes on and on and on

Copies of Haruki Murakami's 1Q84 on sale in London. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/AFP/Getty Images

From Haruki Murakami to George RR Martin, both commercial and literary fiction have fallen in love with epic length.

By John Dugdale

Has there ever been an autumn season so rich in fat books? George RR Martin’s latest fantasy whopper, A Dance with Dragons (1,040 pages), was swiftly followed by Neal Stephenson’s sci-fi epic Reamde (912); and their efforts will be joined on Tuesday by Stephen King’s 11.22.63, depicting a time-travelling teacher seeking to prevent John F Kennedy’s assassination, which, while failing to match the 1,074 pages of King’s previous novel, Under the Dome, still asserts that he can keep up with the upstarts in reality-altering fiction by coming in at 740 pages.

Literary authors have contributed to this bumper harvest too, with Haruki Murakami’s 1Q84, itself not lacking in sci-fi elements, doing most to destroy forests with a three-volume combined pagination just short of the virility-verifying 1,000-page marker. Also in autumnal lit fic, Adam Levin’s The Instructions and Peter Nadas’s Parallel Stories both managed to produce 1,000-plus pagers. And that’s what’s changed about the size issue today – it cuts across publishing’s class system.

A lot of commercial fiction has always been weighty, from Victorian three-decker novels via Gone with the Wind to Harold Robbins and Jilly Cooper. Reacting against this in the 20th century, classier writers regularly differentiated themselves (from both market-pandering scribblers and their wordy Victorian predecessors) by producing slimmer books – if they wanted to make a bigger statement, as with Marcel Proust, John Dos Passos and Anthony Powell, they wrote sequences of novels that were normal size. The era’s sci-fi, fantasy and crime classics were also easily portable. Ulysses and The Lord of the Rings were one-off monsters. more

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