The Atlantic's editors and writers share their favorite titles—new, classic, or somewhere in between—from a year of reading.
In the new anthology Goodbye to All That: Writers on Loving and Leaving New York, contributors share the experience of moving to New York in pursuit of the writing life. In essay after essay, writers describe their experiences moving to New York from Long Island, New Jersey, California, and overseas. Anyone from anywhere can come to New York City in pursuit of fame, riches, and romance, and as a result, Goodbye to All That captures New York’s uniquely nuanced, overlapping landscape of cultures and geographies that for millions feels at once deeply personal and communal.
But while something deeper also reveals itself in the pages: Some thread of pure accident runs through the story of each writer’s dream of making it in the big city.
Goodbye to All That features several familiar names from the Manhattan and (mostly) Brooklyn literary community, including editor Sari Botton and several other 20- and 30-something women writers. Through a series of emails, I asked Sari and contributors Cheryl Strayed, Melissa Febos, and Mira Ptacin about the differences and similarities between their experiences in the city of so many of our dreams.
The National Library of Norway is planning to digitize all the books by the mid 2020s.
Yes. All. The. Books. In Norwegian, at least. Hundreds of thousands of them. Every book in the library’s holdings.
By law, “all published content, in all media, [must] be deposited with the National Library of Norway,” so when the library is finished scanning, the entire record of a people’s language and literature will be machine-readable and sitting in whatever we call the cloud in 15 years.
If you happen to be in Norway, as measured by your IP address, you will be able to access all 20th-century works, even those still under copyright. Non-copyrighted works from all time periods will be available for download.
Read more. [Image: Reuters]
Want to read books on a screen?
Up to now, two large companies would make that easy for you.
Option #1: Apple’s iBooks system. Chipper and colorful, iBooks is easy to use if you own an iPhone or iPad. In its zeal to convince you that, yes, you are reading a book!, though, it can cartoonishly oversell the reading experience. (Case in point: Apple has patented its page-turning animation.)
Option #2: Amazon’s Kindle devices. The retail giant has both its own line of gray, hardy e-readers and also makes reading software for other platforms, including Apple and Android phones/tablets. It has lots of books to read, but, once purchased, you can only read them on Kindles. Some of its software, too, suffers for its extensibility. At its worst, the Kindle system can feel like Windows 95: closed, hard to leave, and a bit stodgy.
As of this week, though, readers have a new option. Starting immediately, Penguin UK will sell its ebooks on the Readmill system. You can now read the works of best-selling authors—including George Orwell, John LeCarré, and Zadie Smith—on the lesser-known but elegant reading system, Readmill.
Read more. [Image: Garry Knight/Flickr]
In 2012, Publishers Weekly chose E. L. James as its Person of the Year. James’s Fifty Shades soft-porn trilogy was a sensation that boosted global print and e-book revenues, with at least 100 million copies sold (and counting). According to Forbes, James topped its annual list of bestselling authors with earnings of $95 million, including movie rights.
This year’s selection for PW's Person of the Year represents a wholly different approach to the honor. It is Oren Teicher, CEO of the American Booksellers Association, and the ABA's board of directors, the organization that represents the country's independent book stores. The fact that these traditional brick-and-mortar, mainly locally owned bookstores are being recognized as outstanding contributors to publishing is not merely a sympathetic gesture to old-fashioned commerce in a generally downward trajectory. The accolade is justified by results defying the odds that so heavily favor the Amazon juggernaut and the chain stores, still led by (the struggling) Barnes & Noble.
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With its use of sound and interactivity, the Device 6 app isn’t a novel. … Right?
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Laurel Sturt was a 46-year-old fashion designer in New York City whose career trajectory took an unlikely shift one day on the subway. A self-proclaimed social activist, Sturt noticed an ad for a Teaching Fellows program. Then and there, she decided to quit her job in fashion design and shift her focus to her real passion: helping others. She enrolled in the two-year program and was assigned to teach at an elementary school in a high-poverty neighborhood near the South Bronx.
A decade later, Sturt has written about the experience in her provocative memoir Davonte’s Inferno: Ten Years in the New York Public School Gulag. I spoke with her about how her time in the classroom affected her views on education today.
Read more. [Image: Jim Young/Reuters]
A finalist for the National Book Award, Packer joins The Atlantic’s Jeffrey Goldberg in a video chat tomorrow night about The Unwinding, his 2013 work on the collapse of a superpower.
In a 2005 speech to the American Library Association, then-senator Obama described his view of the importance of literacy: “In this new economy, teaching our kids just enough so that they can get through Dick and Jane isn’t going to cut it,” he said. “The kind of literacy necessary for 21st-century employment requires detailed understanding and complex comprehension.” Education secretary Arne Duncan’s response to the 2013 National Assessment of Educational Progress earlier this week reinforced a pragmatic approach to literacy: “If America’s students are to remain competitive in a knowledge-based economy, our public schools must greatly accelerate the rate of progress of the last four years and do more to narrow America’s large achievement gaps. It is an urgent moral and economic imperative that our schools do a better job of preparing students for today’s globally-competitive world.”
Reading is indeed crucial to success in school and in careers. But we worry that discussions of reading, especially public policy discussions, focus almost exclusively on its utilitarian value. What’s missing is the pleasure readers derive from the reading they do.
Read more. [Image: susivinh/flickr]
Many things can be said about Dave Eggers’ latest novel, The Circle, the story of an ingenue’s improbable rise at a technology company that’s like the unholy lovechild of Google and Facebook.
Most of the hype surrounding the book focused on how this literary giant was going to take on the Twittering classes. Finally, someone to call bullshit on all this social media.
Eggers delivers dire warnings through the book’s two male moral centers — an artisan chandelier maker and a mysterious founder of The Circle, who sexes up the young female protagonist in an office bathroom. Both oppose unfettered interpersonal transparency and communicating through social networks. We are clearly supposed to as well.
This point is driven home with dystopian intensity. Social media isn’t just bad for people, we discover. It can kill. Or leave you in a coma.
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