The Nobel and the Man Booker

I love this literary time of year!  Literary Masters book groups and salons have started up again, the Nobel committee awards its prizes, and suspense builds for who will win the Man Booker Prize.  If this blog is the first media that you turn to each day

you’re just learning that Alice Munro is the 2013 recipient of the Nobel Prize in Literature.  Congratulations to a master of the short story!

Now we can all look forward to next Tuesday, when the winner of the Booker will be announced.  In case you need to be reminded of the short list, here it is.


Reading Literary Fiction Proven To Be Good For Us!!!

Hallelujah!  Finally, a study that proves what I’ve known ALL ALONG and have tried to convince others of: reading literary fiction, the type of fiction we Literary Masters members read each and every season, is GOOD FOR US!  It makes us more empathetic and understanding of others; it strengthens our emotional intelligence.  If you ever, ever, ever have had any pang of guilt while reading our monthly selection, if you ever have thought, “Oh, I shouldn’t be reading; I should be doing something more useful,” well, think again!  Clearly, reading literary fiction will make you a better person, which will lead to a better society all around.

To find out more about how reading literary fiction is the solution to all the world’s problems (OK, maybe I’m getting slightly carried away here, but still…) click here to read the fascinating article from The New York Times.

Then go sit down and read a great novel!

The Ten Best Books About Women

Everyone loves lists, right?  They make life easier.  So, even though I have no clue who the author Bidisha is, I am willing to see what she deems to be “the ten best books about women” in her recent article in the UK’s Guardian.

What a list!  I’ve only read two of these books, but one was very influential in forming my literary “career”–Reading Lolita in Tehran.  And because that wonderful book is on Bidisha’s list, I’m willing to give the others a try.  I am particularly intrigued by Joan of Arc: In Her Own Words and Intercourse.  Wow, the TBR pile next to my bed just got higher!

Click here for the full list.  What would your Ten Best Books About Women list look like?

An Experiment in Democracy!

If you’re in one of my Literary Masters book groups or salons, you know that whether or not you like the book we’re discussing is of absolutely no importance.  I’ve made you one promise: I will not make you read junk.  We read literary treasures that allow us to ‘dig deep’ and learn about ourselves, others, and the world around around us.

However, this 2013/2014 season, I am trying something new.  I put out a long list of book titles and asked my Literary Masters members to vote for the eight books they’d like to read.  What fun!  If I were a psychologist (perhaps in another lifetime), I would have a field day with this.  One thing is for sure: it is an impossibility to please all the people all the time.  I didn’t even have one book group that voted unanimously.  Just goes to show–you don’t join a book group to like what you’re reading.  You join a book group to be open to the new, to learn, to grow, and to connect with others.

So, what titles were on the long list?  And what titles ended up on the final 2013/2014 Literary Masters reading list?  Stay tuned and all will be revealed…

A Book for Someone Special on Your Christmas List!

Just in time for the holidays! A friend of mine has illustrated a gorgeous picture book for children that tells the story of the Nativity. Entitled The Friendly Beasts, it is an “illustrated version of the French Christmas carol. In simple, rhyming verse, the stable animals welcome the new baby Jesus and describe the gifts they each give to him.” If you have any nieces, nephews, or young kids of your own who like books, you can order from Amazon and receive it in time for Christmas (check delivery to make sure, though!). Check it out:

The Goldilocks Dilemma of Reading

I love the online Guardian‘s book section; there’s always something of interest there.  This morning I came across this article/picture gallery of the ten most difficult books to read, chosen by Robert Crum.  I got to thinking…I used to enjoy a “difficult” book much more; I found it challenging and felt very accomplished upon finishing it.  Especially if I had understood it. 🙂

Perhaps I read too much now, but lately I get annoyed if I feel a book is difficult just for the sake of being difficult.  Sometimes I’m not in the mood to work that hard.  Yet, if a book is too light or easy, I’m not interested in reading it.  Hmm…the Goldilocks Dilemma of Reading: I have to find a book that’s “just right”!

Click here to check out the Guardian piece.  And tell me, what is the most difficult book you’ve ever read?

And Now For the Short List!

The short list is out for the prestigious Samuel Johnson Prize, so all you non-fiction readers, grab your glasses and get comfy–you’ve got some reading to do!  You’ll find the short list below, and click here for an interesting article on books that may change our view of the world.

The winner of the prize will be announced on November 12th. The full shortlist is:

Behind the Beautiful Forevers: Life, Death and Hope in a Mumbai Slum, by Katherine Boo (Portobello Books)

Into the Silence: The Great War, Mallory and the Conquest of Everest, by Wade Davis (The Bodley Head)

The Old Ways: A Journey on Foot, by Robert Macfarlane (Hamish Hamilton)

The Better Angels of our Nature: A History of Violence and Humanity, by Steven Pinker (Allen Lane)

The Spanish Holocaust: Inquisition and Extermination in Twentieth-Century Spain, by Paul Preston (HarperPress)

Strindberg: A Life, by Sue Prideaux (Yale University Press)