I hope you enjoyed, The View from the Cheap Seats by Neil Gaiman, the August 2022 selection for our Facebook Book Club. If you did, hopefully you’ll also like these thought-provoking essays on writing, art, and culture. Head over to the group to find out what September’s book will be and join in on our community conversations.
Due Considerations by John Updike
John Updike’s sixth collection of essays and literary criticism opens with a skeptical overview of literary biographies, proceeds to five essays on topics ranging from China and small change to faith and late works, and takes up, under the heading “General Considerations,” books, poker, cars, and the American libido. The last section of Due Considerations assembles more or less autobiographical pieces–reminiscences, friendly forewords, comments on the author’s own recent works, and responses to probing questions.
The Writer’s Library by Nancy Pearl and Jeff Schwager
Inspired by the questions of why books seem so human, personal, and alive, and whether people embody the books they read, librarian critic Pearl (“Book Lust” series) and writer, editor, producer, and playwright Schwager interviewed 22 American writers about what they read and how it affects their work. Interviewees reveal what they read as children, as well as the books influencing their writing today. Here, “library” refers not to a physical collections but rather the works that shaped an author’s output. Contributors include Laila Lalami, Luis Alberto Urrea, Maaza Mengista, Louisa Erdrich, and Siri Hustvedt, alongside Pulitzer Prize winners Jennifer Egan, Viet Thanh Nguyen, and Richard Ford. Among the most inspirational figures: Toni Morrison, followed by James Baldwin, Joan Didion, Denis Johnson, and Lorrie Moore.
Farther Away by Jonathan Franzen
In Farther Away, which gathers together essays and speeches written mostly in the past five years, Franzen returns with renewed vigor to the themes, both human and literary, that have long preoccupied him. Whether recounting his violent encounter with bird poachers in Cyprus, examining his mixed feelings about the suicide of his friend and rival David Foster Wallace, or offering a moving and witty take on the ways that technology has changed how people express their love, these pieces deliver on Franzen’s implicit promise to conceal nothing.
Critics, Monsters, Fanatics, and Other Literary Essays by Cynthia Ozick
In a collection that includes new essays written explicitly for this volume, one of our sharpest and most influential critics confronts the past, present, and future of literary culture. If every outlet for book criticism suddenly disappeared — if all we had were reviews that treated books like any other commodity — could the novel survive? In a gauntlet-throwing essay at the start of this brilliant assemblage, Cynthia Ozick stakes the claim that, just as surely as critics require a steady supply of new fiction, novelists need great critics to build a vibrant community on the foundation of literary history.
Words Are My Matter by Ursula K. Le Guin
A brilliant collection showcases the essays, reviews, talks, book reviews and more from the National Book Foundation Medalist author and one of our foremost public literary intellectuals.
The New York Times Book Review: 125 Years of Literary History
A collection from the longest-running, most influential book review in America, featuring its best, funniest, strangest, and most memorable coverage over the past 125 years. The editors have curated the Book Review ‘s dynamic 125-year history, which is essentially the story of modern American letters. Brimming with remarkable reportage and photography, this beautiful book collects interesting reviews, never-before-heard anecdotes about famous writers, and spicy letter exchanges. Here are the first takes on novels we now consider masterpieces, including a long-forgotten pan of Anne of Green Gables and a rave of Mrs. Dalloway , along with reviews and essays by Langston Hughes, Eudora Welty, James Baldwin, Nora Ephron, and more. With scores of stunning vintage photographs, many of them sourced from the Times ‘s own archive, readers will discover how literary tastes have shifted through the years–and how the Book Review ‘s coverage has shaped so much of what we read today.