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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October 31, 2013

Implausible Literary Halloween Costumes No One Will Recognize

480px-Gertrude_Stein_1935-01-04By Blake Butler

Gertrude Stein

Cut your hair down to just fistfuls with a pair of safety scissors and without looking in the mirror. A pretty white scarf around your neck would be very nice, or maybe even one patterned like the American flag. Then put on a dark blue dress and find a stairwell and throw yourself down it. Repeat until you’re no longer sure where you are. When you go out, get up close in people’s faces and breathe hard with your eyes big in your face, not saying anything except when others speak first, then repeating back exactly what they said in a slightly different tone. Maybe carry a gun in your panties but don’t tell anybody or ever get it out. Keep putting on extra lipstick and laughing to yourself. For extra elocutionary damage, bring a little flask full of homemade corn whiskey and take a mouthful every time someone says the word egg, why, water, time, dinner, kindness, more, or what.

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April 5, 2013

20 Awesome Examples Of Literary Graffiti

enhanced-buzz-27754-1363039938-15  Thank you, graffiti artists, for making our streets a little bit smarter. How many of these literary references do you recognize?

1. Kurt Vonnegut, “Slaughterhouse Five”


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March 10, 2013

10 Books That Rewrite History

14035-v2-215xBy Peter Dimock

Peter Dimock’s George Anderson: Notes for a Love Song in Imperial Time defies simple description. It is a novel where history meets method, and where narrative approaches madness. It’s also a treasure trove of poetic prose that rewards careful attention. We asked Dimock, whose own novel challenges what we think we know as “history,” to pick 10 books that do the same. These are the books to read when you want to jolt yourself out of your shell.

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March 8, 2013

10 Classic Books You Read in High School You Should Reread

PracticalBy Kevin Smokler

In Practical Classics: 50 Reasons to Reread 50 Books You Haven’t Touched Since High School, Kevin Smokler takes you on a trip down high school memory lane, when you couldn’t stand reading As I Lay Dying or Tess of the d’Urbervilles. Or maybe you could, you bookworm. Either way, Smokler gives us 10 books and 10 compelling reasons why you should revisit them.

It’s all too easy to look at the novels assigned to us as high school students as monuments or mist, to be worshiped or abandoned as we did our outfit to the junior prom. That either/or narrative matches both how we encounter these “great books” in education (as non-negotiable requirements) and an educator’s hope for our response (that their “greatness” changes our lives). That may be a whole lot no-shades-of-gray thinking on my part. As proof, I’ll accept a “meh” opinion on Moby-Dick or The Scarlet Letter from anyone assigned to write an essay on it as a teenager.

Is there a third way? I hope so. I spent the last year rereading the books my high school teachers assigned to me. My thinking: It isn’t enough to give a classic another look just because “it’s a classic.” A classic is also so because of its resonance and usefulness throughout time, JST as Shakespeare’s Henry V was a patriotic salvo when Laurence Oliver adopted it at the beginning of the Cold War and a warning about the cost of empire when Kenneth Brannagh did at the end of it.

Below are 10 high school classics where I found that useful thing I missed the first time around.

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September 25, 2012

Handicapping the Nobel Prize in Lit: Philip Roth vs. E.L. James?

By Greg Zimmerman

Let it not be said that the folks at Ladbrokes don’t have a sense of humor. There, at the end of their annual list of  Nobel Prize in Literature odds, sits E.L. James at 500/1. For you non-degenerate gamblers, 500/1 means if you bet $1, and E.L. James wins, you win $500. But you’d have to collect your winnings whilst dodging swarms of locusts, waves of fire and other signs of the apocalypse. So that would suck.

And but, we’re only a few weeks out from the announcement of the 2012 Nobel Prize in Literature (it’ll be announced some time the week of Oct. 8), or as I like to call it, “Countdown to Philip Roth Getting Hosed Again.” This year, Mr. Roth stands at a fairly respectable 16/1 shot. Last year, Roth was a 25/1 shot, so he’s improving.

If you don’t know much about the Nobel Prize in Literature, here’s the one line you can use at your next cocktail party, “I strongly believe the Nobel committee judges American writers unfairly due to American imperialism in the Bush years.” And then stand back and watch people try to decide if you’re being sarcastic or not. It’s good times.

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March 8, 2012

Top 5 Mysterious Authors

Filed under: Lists — Tags: , , , , , , — Bookblurb @ 7:50 am


By Jack Joslin

We are now in a state of affairs when an author, particularly a new kid on the block, is expected to build a platform, a fanbase, often before even a single line of their work sees print. Twitter followers and page hits are a vital step in appealing to publishers, important signs for whether an author’s work will actually be bought. It’s already becoming difficult to conceive of a life with complete and utter privacy, particularly in the case of a writer, so dependent on exposure the process has become. It was not always so.

Even in the days when an author’s fans had to wait for an article, an interview, there were those who refused to toss even the slightest crumb of biography the way of the public. Those who eschewed interviews and photographs, whether they believed a writer’s work should stand by itself or they plain didn’t want to be photographed. They were, or are, mysteries.

Here are five of the most mysterious of all. The fifth is a unique case; his life has been exposed to the public, mostly against his will, but his version of events differs from the disturbing backstory of his debut novel.

Autobiographies will not be available at all good bookstores.


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September 25, 2011

10 of Literature’s Most Notoriously Incomprehensible Classics

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By Tom Hawking

A while back, we surveyed a selection of cinema’s most notoriously “difficult” classics. This week, we got to thinking about literary equivalents, mainly because of the news that to celebrate the 250th anniversary of Laurence Sterne’s Tristram Shandy, 169 artists are creating their own versions of the mysterious illustration that adorns p. 169 of the book’s third volume. We’ve come up with a selection of other novels that have been acclaimed as classics and that we find largely incomprehensible — none of them have been bewildering readers for quite as long as Tristram Shandy has, but they’re doing their best to make up for lost time. We’re big fans of some of these novels, by the way (although not all of them) — but love them or hate them, they’re all confusing as hell.

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February 28, 2011

Gravity’s Rainbow Appears

Filed under: Today in Literature — Tags: , , , — Bookblurb @ 4:12 pm
    On this day in 1973 Thomas Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow appeared, causing among the critics the sort of wonder and mayhem which begins the novel, as a V-2 rocket slams into 1944 London: “A screaming comes across the sky. It has happened before, but there is nothing to compare it to now….” The final verdicts ranged from “unreadable” to “masterpiece.”                                     …read more

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