We are now past the mid-way point in February, which is technically the shortest month, but is also the one that—for me, anyway—feels the longest. Especially this year, for all of the reasons that you already know. At this point, if you keep monthly reading goals, even vague ones, you may be looking for few a good, short novels to knock out in an afternoon or two. Last year, I wrote about the best contemporary novels under 200 pages, so now I must turn my attention to my favorite short classics—which represent the quickest and cheapest way, I can tell you in my salesman voice, to become “well-read.”
One way you know if a book is any good is if you are still thinking about it a year after you read it. (Or five years, or a decade, etc. The longer you think about a book the better you know it is.) Another way to know if a book is good is if it seems like every week you read an article that could be a supplementary chapter.
‘The Great Gatsby’ is not a book about people, per se. Secretly, it’s a novel of ideas.
In one day, you can sit with the brutal awfulness of nearly every person in this book—booooo, Jordan; just boo. And Mr. Wolfsheim, shame on you, sir; Gatsby was your friend. In a day, you no longer have to wonder whether Daisy loved Gatsby back or whether “love” aptly describes what Gatsby felt in the first place. After all, The Great Gatsby is a classic of illusions and delusions. In a day, you reach those closing words about the boats, the current, and the past, and rather than allow them to haunt, you simply return to the first page and start all over again.
Sarah Churchwell, Philip McGowan, William Blazek and Melvyn Bragg talk about The Great Gatsby on the In Our Time podcast. They discuss Fitzgerald’s legacy and how it came to be so important within the American literacy canon.
For an audio version of the book, the team at NPR’s Planet Money have done a reading after the book was added to the Public Domain:
Fiona Hardy’s funny and heartfelt new novel How to Write the Soundtrack to Your Life is a celebration of music, creativity, and listening to the world around us. Here, Fiona shares some of the music that has shaped her life.
‘Self Improvement’ doesn’t mean what it used to
In response to the challenges created by the global public health crisis of COVID-19, Project MUSE is pleased to support its participating publishers in making scholarly content temporarily available for free on our platform. With many higher education institutions moving into an exclusively online learning environment for the foreseeable future, we hope that easy access to vetted research in the humanities and social sciences, from a variety of distinguished university presses, societies, and related not-for-profit publishers, will help to support teaching, learning, and knowledge discovery for users worldwide.
- 84k by Claire North (@cmplxtv_studies)
- A Gentleman In Moscow – Amor Towles (@allis_land)
- A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara (@johnny_boy1988)
- A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini (@Speedgonzaeles)
- A Yellow Raft in Blue Water by Michael Dorris (@capaldi_phil)
- Blood Meridian by Cormac McCarthy (@MarianTaudinCha)
- Boy Swallows Universe by Trent Dalton (@ZephanieP)
- Flowers For Algernon by Daniel Keyes (@TheWayneGibbons)
- Invisible Boys by Holden Sheppard (@johnny_boy1988)
- Libra by Don DeLillo (@Amy_Futures)
- Life After Life by Kate Atkinson (@TaraMcEndo)
- Musashi by Eiji Yoshikawa (@JasonOshima)
- My Absolute Darling by Gabriel Tallent (@mamamialia)
- Parable of the Sower by Octavia E. Butler (@lauranissen)
- Parable of the Talents by Octavia E. Butler (@lauranissen)
- Riddley Walker by Russel Hoban (@sharplm)
- Suttree by Cormac McCarthy (@ChrisWalsh05)
- The Boy In the Striped Pyjamas by John Boyne (@1jorobson)
- The Dark Tower series by Stephen King (@MrCarlsonsClass)
- The Man Who Folded Himself by David Gerrold (@TheWayneGibbons)
- The Overstory by Richard Powers (@Czernie)
- The Power by Naomi Alderman (@lauranissen)
- The Passage by Justin Cronin (@GlenviewMath)
- The Raw Shark Texts by Steven Hall (@e_lewisc)
- The Ten Thousand Doors of January by Alix E. Harrow (@erikasmith)
- The Wasp Factory by Ian Banks (@raymondsoltysek)
My latest podcast is a reading of the author’s note from “Attack Surface” — the third Little Brother book, which comes out on Oct 12. I recorded this for the audiobook edition of Attack Suface, which I’ve been recording all last week with Amber Benson and the Cassandra de Cuir from Skyboat Media. If you like what you hear, please consider pre-ordering the book — it’s a scary time to have a book in the production pipeline!
No one wakes up in the morning hoping to be as vapid as possible. But eventually you internalize the squeeze. Everyone down the chain adjusts their individual decisions to the whim of the retailer, or to their best guess at the whim of the retailer. If it’s Barnes & Noble, you may hear that a cover doesn’t work, that the store won’t carry the title unless you change it. If it’s Amazon, you may not hear anything at all. You go back and adjust your list of wildly optimistic comparative titles — it’s The Big Short, but . . . for meteorology!
Download and install Adobe Digital Editions.
Download and install Calibre, an open source ebook manager.
Download and extract the latest ZIP release of DeDRM_tools.
Open Calibre, open its preferences, and navigate to “Plugin” under “Advanced.
Use “Load plugin from file” to add the obok_plugin.zip file from its respective directory in the extracted DeDRM folder.
Use “Load plugin from file” to add the DeDRM_plugin.zip file from its respective directory in the extracted DeDRM folder.
Restart Calibre before loading any books.
In regards to publishing, I think that Verso Books has it right when they often offer substantial savings for eBooks as well as free eBooks for physical purchases. They also allow users full access to the text to load to whatever platform they choose.
This all reminds me of Craig Mod’s piece arguing that the.
From the pithy to the provocative, the classic book opener comes in many different forms. Hephzibah Anderson explores the art of the perfect first sentence.
Dazzling debut novels, searing polemics, the history of humanity and trailblazing memoirs … Read our pick of the best books since 2000
Visionaries thought technology would change books. Instead, it’s changed everything about publishing a book.
We were looking for the Future Book in the wrong place. It’s not the form, necessarily, that needed to evolve—I think we can agree that, in an age of infinite distraction, one of the strongest assets of a “book” as a book is its singular, sustained, distraction-free, blissfully immutable voice. Instead, technology changed everything that enables a book, fomenting a quiet revolution. Funding, printing, fulfillment, community-building—everything leading up to and supporting a book has shifted meaningfully, even if the containers haven’t. Perhaps the form and interactivity of what we consider a “standard book” will change in the future, as screens become as cheap and durable as paper. But the books made today, held in our hands, digital or print, are Future Books, unfuturistic and inert may they seem.
To publish a digital book today, you still need the words, but you can skip many of the other steps. From a Pages or Microsoft Word document you can export an .epub file—the open standard for digital books. Open an Amazon and iBooks account, upload the file, and suddenly you’re accessing 92 percent of the digital book market.
Social media, however, is not predictable. Algorithms and product functionality have all the stability of rolling magma as companies refine how they engage, and extract value from, users. This means an investment in social media can go belly up in a few years. Take author Teju Cole, for example. His use of Twitter was both delicate and brilliant. He amassed a quarter of a million followers before unceremoniously dropping the service in 2014, perhaps feeling the growing invective so characteristic of the platform today. He then consolidated his promotional social media activity around Facebook. Today, he says, “My main experience of Facebook is that I have no idea who sees what. I allegedly have 29,000 people following the page. I doubt that more than a few hundred of them are ever shown what I post.” Of course, Facebook gently suggests that page owners can reach their full audience by paying for promotion. Considering the shift in demographics of Facebook usage, who knows if his audience is even checking their timelines, and would see the posts if he paid.By contrast, there’s something almost ahistorical about email, existing outside the normal flow of technological progress. It works and has worked, reliably, for decades. There’s no central email authority. Most bookish people use it. Today I’m convinced you could skip a website, Facebook page, or Twitter account, and launch a publishing company on email alone.
It turns out smartphones aren’t the best digital book reading devices (too many seductions, real-time travesties, notifications just behind the words), but they make excellent audiobook players, stowed away in pockets while commuting. Top-tier podcasts like Serial, S-Town, and Homecoming have normalized listening to audio or (nonfiction) booklike productions on smartphones.
Our Future Book is composed of email, tweets, YouTube videos, mailing lists, crowdfunding campaigns, PDF to .mobi converters, Amazon warehouses, and a surge of hyper-affordable offset printers in places like Hong Kong.
I feel that their is a bit of myth and (mis)judgement around Austen’s work. One of the best things I did, although I would rather reread Mansfield Park or Emma than Pride and Prejudice.
On another text, I started reading Game of Thrones. Then I watched the show and gave up going back.
The joy and luck, for me, of writing my books, is that I’ve stumbled my way into a form (specifically: the illustrated gift book) that is not only commercial and popular, but also allows me to be as weird and as visual as I want to be. (I really do think of the books as fancy zines.) If they are shelved in self-help, so be it!
All books are, in a sense, self-help: you help yourself to them.
I started Rachel Cusk’s Outline, the first in her trilogy, and I’m not completely sure what the book is up to, but the sentences are really good, so I’m gonna stick with it.