Archive: Ron Charles

Polite Sex at Dawn

Two weeks ago, I saw a review on our Weddings page of a book called "Sex at Dawn: The Prehistoric Origins of Modern Sexuality" (HarperCollins). Without much thought, I blurted out in a tweet that it sounded pretty stupid to me. But that started a surprising e-mail conversation with one...

By Ron Charles | June 11, 2010; 11:32 AM ET | Comments (1)

Eulogy for Robert B. Parker by his son, David

Eulogy for Robert B. Parker by his son, David

By Ron Charles | February 24, 2010; 12:11 PM ET | Comments (1)

Washington DC Critics on the Best Books of 2009

I had a great time this week looking back at my favorite books with some of my favorite reviewers. Lou Bayard and Maureen Corrigan, who review regularly for Book World, were guests along with me on Bethanne Patrick's PBS-WETA show "The Book Studio." Look for all of Book World's best...

By Ron Charles | December 11, 2009; 05:32 AM ET | Comments (0)

German Writer Herta Mueller Wins 2009 Nobel Prize

Sorry, Joyce, not this year. Despite recent pro-American comments by a member of the Nobel literature prize, writers in the United States failed again to win the world's most prestigious award. Instead, the Nobel Prize for Literature went to a Romanian-born novelist and poet named Herta Mueller. The winner of...

By Ron Charles | October 8, 2009; 07:11 AM ET | Comments (7)

A Relevatory Night at PEN/Faulkner

On stage, from left to right, Alice McDermott, Debra Magpie Earling, W. Ralph Eubanks and Francine Prose. (James R. Brantley ) About halfway through the pyrotechnic vision of Revelation, St. John hears a voice that tells him to take a little book and "eat it up." The scene Monday...

By Ron Charles | September 23, 2009; 05:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Romance Novels Still Fighting for Respect

Last week I received an uncomfortable honor, the kind I'm not sure I should include on my résumé. At their annual conference in Washington, the Romance Writers of America presented me with the Veritas Award. It's "given annually for the article that appears in print or in another medium...

By Ron Charles | July 22, 2009; 05:16 AM ET | Comments (7)

Nora Roberts at The Washington Post

The diva of romance fiction, Nora Roberts herself, came to The Washington Post yesterday. About 550 women (and four hen-pecked men) filled our auditorium to ask her questions and get signed copies of her new bestseller, "Black Hills." She offered witty and wonderful advice to writers ("The muse is a...

By Ron Charles | July 15, 2009; 05:30 AM ET | Comments (2)

You DO Have Time for This

Nobody needs a new NEA study to prove that literature is being squeezed out of our busy lives. But rather than fighting back against the Webby forces of evil, Dave Daley is one of those clever innovators trying to use the Internet to keep an old art form alive. An...

By Ron Charles | July 8, 2009; 05:38 AM ET | Comments (0)

Electric Literature

Amid all the dismal reports about the death of fiction, here's a refreshingly bold act of optimism: a new bimonthly magazine called Electric Literature. And it's not just MFA kids self-publishing their diatribes against Mom and Dad. The first issue sports stories by such heavyweights as Pulitzer Prize-winner Michael Cunningham...

By Ron Charles | July 1, 2009; 05:04 AM ET | Comments (2)

Better Than Space Camp

One of our favorite reviewers, Jeff VanderMeer, has just told me about a relatively new SF/fantasy writing camp in South Carolina that sounds too cool to be true. Shared Worlds is a two-week experience for kids 13-18 held on the campus of Wofford College July 19-August 1. Campers from around...

By Ron Charles | June 24, 2009; 05:30 AM ET | Comments (2)

School's Out! Summer Reading begins.

School's out today in Montgomery Country, Md., where my wife teaches high school English. Like millions of kids around the country, her students need to start thinking about summer reading, but this year things are a little different. Parents in our gargantuan district (140,000 students!) have successfully argued that because...

By Ron Charles | June 17, 2009; 05:12 AM ET | Comments (5)

Dave Eggers Tells Me To Cheer Up

Dave Eggers claims print still have a lot to offer in the e-future.

By Ron Charles | June 10, 2009; 05:41 AM ET | Comments (3)

A new force in book marketing: The Okra Picks

It's takes a lot of gumbo to have fun with the biggest name in the book world, but that's exactly what a group of booksellers are doing. In a cute play off You Know Who, the Southern Independent Booksellers Alliance announced plans for a new marketing plan this fall: The...

By Ron Charles | June 3, 2009; 05:09 AM ET | Comments (0)

John Freeman Appointed Acting Editor of Granta

John Freeman Appointed Acting Editor of Granta

By Ron Charles | May 28, 2009; 03:38 PM ET | Comments (1)

Breakthrough Winner

The dream came true yesterday for James King. His first book, "Bill Warrington's Last Chance," has won the annual Amazon Breakthrough Novel contest. The prize is what every aspiring writer wants most: a publishing contract and a $25,000 advance. Viking plans to release his novel next summer. I caught up...

By Ron Charles | May 28, 2009; 05:04 AM ET | Comments (0)

Radical Business Plan: Free Books

Chris Anderson has been generating buzz lately with a new sermon about the future of business: FREE! His book on the subject comes out in early July for $26.99. [Insert own joke here.] But a small publisher in Massachusetts is already taking Anderson's advice to heart. Concord Free Press just...

By Ron Charles | May 27, 2009; 05:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

An Exact Duplicate of "Atmospheric Disturbances"

Tuesday night a group of readers, "fit but few," gathered at the Jewish Community Center in Washington, D.C. to meet Rivka Galchen, the author of last year's twilight-zone debut Atmospheric Disturbances. It's about a psychiatrist who suddenly becomes convinced that his wife has been replaced by an exact duplicate. Looking...

By Ron Charles | May 20, 2009; 06:28 AM ET | Comments (2)

Stop reading that book -- go watch TV!

A new TV show called Open Book is one of the more attractive recent efforts to salvage book coverage in this country. Eschewing the usual talking heads approach (Zzzzzz), Open Book packages author interviews in beautifully filmed segments, directed by Diane Paragas, that show writers walking around outdoors, staring off...

By Ron Charles | May 13, 2009; 05:18 AM ET | Comments (1)

A Historical Novelist's Perspective on Our New Swine Flu

The current swine flu crisis reminded me of Mary Doria Russell's wonderful historical novel "Dreamers of the Day." The opening section of that story covers the Great Influenza of 1919 in the most powerful way. She was kind enough to answer a few questions by e-mail: How does your research...

By Ron Charles | May 6, 2009; 05:46 AM ET | Comments (2)

1 Millions Words! But Who's Counting?

I don't blame you for losing track, but today was supposed to be the day the English language reached 1 million words. For a few years now, Paul Payack of the Global Language Monitor in Austin, Tex., has been issuing these deadlines like a millennialist preacher predicting the end of...

By Ron Charles | April 29, 2009; 11:59 AM ET | Comments (4)

Happy 400th Birthday, Shakespeare's Sonnets

I got a startling invitation recently from the Folger Library: Come see the first edition of Shakespeare's "Sonnets" on the 400th anniversary of the book's publication. "My stay, my guide and lantern to my feet" was Dr. Georgianna Ziegler, the Folger's head reference librarian. Her office is just off the...

By Ron Charles | April 22, 2009; 04:41 AM ET | Comments (0)

Hot Novel Rises Again

Last year, I took some heat for (over)praising "The Gargoyle," a bizarre gothic novel by Canadian writer Andrew Davidson. It's about a pornographer who's badly burned in a car accident and then nursed by a sculptor who claims they were lovers in 14th-century Germany. A few of my colleagues here...

By Ron Charles | April 20, 2009; 02:26 PM ET | Comments (1)

Four Books to Celebrate 50th Anniversary of 'The Elements of Style'

Today is the golden anniversary of William Strunk and E.B. White's "The Elements of Style." With 10 million copies in print, it's (its?) far and away (cliche!) the most popular book on writing ever published. ("Do not overstate.") To commemorate the occasion, Pearson Longman has released a special leather-bound edition...

By Ron Charles | April 16, 2009; 12:01 PM ET | Comments (4)

Free Books, but No Takers

I've been experimenting this year with a new book-sharing network called BookCrossing. So far, despite my best -- my family would say, "fanatical" -- efforts, the experiment has been a complete failure. BookCrossing bills itself as the world's largest book club, with 762,824 members in over 130 countries. (About 40...

By Ron Charles | April 15, 2009; 05:29 AM ET | Comments (8)

Killer Business

By the look of her, you'd think Helen Simpson was a harmless little old lady, but beware: She spends her days surrounded by murderers, spies and con artists. Not to mention those even more dangerous characters: Amazon and Barnes & Noble. Simpson and her partner, Ed King, own Big Sleep...

By Ron Charles | April 8, 2009; 05:05 AM ET | Comments (0)

Americans Dominate International IMPAC Award Shortlist

Half the eight finalists for the International IMPAC Literary Award ($132,200) are Americans. The list, announced this morning in Dublin, includes: Junot Diaz (Dominican/US) "The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao," which has already won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Critics Circle award. David Leavitt (US), "The Indian...

By Ron Charles | April 2, 2009; 10:50 AM ET | Comments (3)

Does Your Prose Stay Crunchy in Milk?

Cheerios recently started accepting submissions to its third annual New Author Contest. If you're not a professional writer, but you've got a book in you for kids 3-8, this could be your chance at fame. Just ask Shellie Braeuner, 43, who sounds like the world's greatest nanny. She won $5,000...

By Ron Charles | April 1, 2009; 10:03 AM ET | Comments (0)

Adopting Shakespeare at Folger Shakespeare Library

Once a year, the Folger Shakespeare Library assembles all its new acquisitions and lays them out for display. It's a rare chance to peruse some extremely precious (and sometimes arcane) documents.

By Ron Charles | March 25, 2009; 01:01 PM ET | Comments (2)

A Priceless Anniversary

Today marks the 19th anniversary of the largest art theft in history. What gift does one send for that occasion? An empty frame? In 1990 two men disguised as police officers broke into Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, tied up the guards and made off with 13 pieces worth half...

By Ron Charles | March 18, 2009; 05:35 AM ET | Comments (2)

Luck o' the Irish

Just in time for St. Patrick's Day, used bookseller Abe Books has released a list of the 10 most expensive books by Irish writers. Number 1 is that I-can't-live-without-it masterpiece: "The Sceptical Chymist: or Chymico-Physical Doubts" (1690) by Robert Boyle, which some collector picked up for the bagain basement sum...

By Ron Charles | March 17, 2009; 01:48 PM ET | Comments (0)

We'll Miss You, Mr. Magoo

I just heard the news that Millard Kaufman died this weekend at the age of 92. I grew up on his "Mr. Magoo," and I loved his first novel, "Bowl of Cherries," written just two years ago when he was 90. He's the poster child for the truism that you're...

By Ron Charles | March 17, 2009; 12:46 PM ET | Comments (0)

Orwell's Last Stand

There's a colorful story in today's Travel section about visiting Barnhill, the old farmhouse on the isle of Jura off the coast of Scotland where George Orwell lived from 1946 till the end of his life. Nowadays, you can rent the farmhouse for about $830 a week, and -- don't...

By Ron Charles | March 15, 2009; 02:38 PM ET | Comments (0)

Mainers Have Good Taste

My favorite book of 2008 -- Roxana Robinson's "Cost" -- has just been chosen as the best novel by the Maine Writers and Publishers Alliance. As we all should, Robinson has a summer place on Mount Desert Island, ME. If you haven't read this fantastic novel, I can't recommend it...

By Ron Charles | March 14, 2009; 08:53 AM ET | Comments (0)

National Book Critics Circle Winners 2008

The late Chilean writer Roberto Bolano has won this year's fiction prize from the National Book Critics Circle for "2666," his complex, five-part novel about a series of murders in Mexico. And for the first time in the organization's 35-year history, the poetry prize was split between two authors, Juan...

By Ron Charles | March 13, 2009; 10:38 AM ET | Comments (2)

An Evening with the National Book Critics Circle Finalists

For some of the most accomplished writers in the country, last night was the equivalent of a cold call audition: All 30 of the finalists for this year's National Book Critics Circle awards were invited to read from their nominated works before an audience of about 200 at the New...

By Ron Charles | March 12, 2009; 09:42 AM ET | Comments (1)

Recession? Poof!

A comic book collector in Dubai placed the winning bid -- $19,120 -- for a rare first edition of the first Harry Potter novel. The book, offered online last week by Heritage Auction Galleries in Dallas, is one of just 200 softcover copies that were originally printed mostly for schools...

By Ron Charles | March 10, 2009; 02:05 PM ET | Comments (0)

Barbara Parker

Attorney-turned-mystery-writer Barbara Parker, best known for her "Suspicion" series, died this weekend in Boca Raton. The Sun Sentinel ran this tribute. Two years ago, our contributing editor Dennis Drabelle raved about her novel "The Perfect Fake": "There's a lot going on in Barbara Parker's The Perfect Fake. Several people die...

By Ron Charles | March 9, 2009; 03:49 PM ET | Comments (0)

25 Most Influential Books of the Past 25 Years

If you don't know the nerdy culture magazine Mental Floss, buy a copy of their March/April issue. The lead story, by Rosemary Ahern, is called "The 25 Most Influential Books of the Past 25 Years." It's everything you want in a list of books: quirky, daring, provocative and sometimes outrageous....

By Ron Charles | March 5, 2009; 05:00 AM ET | Comments (2)

Five Novels Up for the NBCC Award

The National Book Critics Circle will announce its awards at a ceremony in New York next Thursday night, and I've been eying their great shortlist of fiction finalists, trying to figure the odds. Compared to the Pulitzer and the National Book Award, the NBCC has far and away the largest...

By Ron Charles | March 4, 2009; 05:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

Remembering Irish Poet Christopher Nolan

I was so sad to hear that Christopher Nolan passed away last week in Dublin at the age of 43. His remarkable memoir, Under the Eye of the Clock, had an enormous influence on my life when I needed it most. Nolan was born in 1965 with cerebral palsy as...

By Ron Charles | February 25, 2009; 07:31 AM ET | Comments (0)

One Night of Unbridled Passion

In the spirit of romance, I asked some willing authors: "If you could spend one unbridled night with any fictional character in the world, who would it be?" Janet Evanovich: Uncle Scrooge, from Carl Barks's Disney comics. He's always going on adventures, he pushes his money around with a bulldozer,...

By Ron Charles | February 18, 2009; 07:03 AM ET | Comments (20)

Book Consumption (Literally)

"Give me the little book." And he said unto me, "Take it, and eat it up; and it shall make thy belly bitter." -- Revelation Goaded into action by alarming stories of Chinese-made toys containing high levels of lead, Congress passed sweeping new regulations that went into effect yesterday. While...

By Ron Charles | February 11, 2009; 08:28 AM ET | Comments (0)

Book Covers and Cover-ups

The No. 1 question I'm asked about my job -- after "They pay you for this? -- is "How do you choose what books to review?" For security reasons, I can't reveal the complicated algorithms we use, but clearly publishers think the jacket designs have something to do with which...

By Ron Charles | February 4, 2009; 07:18 AM ET | Comments (0)

John Updike, Sans Nobel Prize

Hearing about the death of John Updike saddens me. And maddens me. So long as the prolific author lived, there was always a chance that the Nobel Committee -- that bastion of proud obscurity -- might correct one of its greatest errors. Having won the Pulitzer Prize (twice), the National...

By Ron Charles | January 27, 2009; 03:31 PM ET | Comments (5)

DC Writers Center

Tired of working on your novel at the kitchen table? Or, worse, your mom's kitchen table? A group of authors in the Washington area is trying to create a better workplace for writers -- a communal space that's quiet, close to a Metro station, and not too expensive. That's a...

By Ron Charles | January 22, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

John Mortimer, He Who Must Be Obeyed

Like millions of other fans, I was sorry to hear that John Mortimer passed away on Friday at his home in Oxfordshire, England. He was 85. In a series of witty novels, the British lawyer-turned-writer brought to life his alter ego: the barrister Horace Rumpole, made even more famous in...

By Ron Charles | January 17, 2009; 10:30 AM ET | Comments (0)

Nevermore? Here's Mo' Poe Than Ever

The pendulum has finally swung to the 200th anniversary of Edgar Allan Poe's birth (Jan. 19), and the city of Baltimore, where he lived for much of his short, tortured life, is celebrating all year long. Leonard Slatkin got things started last week by leading the Baltimore Symphony Orchestra through...

By Ron Charles | January 14, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Most Wanted Out-of-Print Books in 2008

Every year I'm fascinated by this list released by BookFinder. It tracks requests for out-of-print books at second-hand bookstores and Web sites. Here are the top five most sought-out titles you can't buy new in 2008: 1. Once a Runner, a novel from 1978 by John L. Parker, about long-distance...

By Ron Charles | January 8, 2009; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Language Lounge

This week marks the fourth anniversary of The Language Lounge, a linguistics column on the Visual Thesaurus Web site. It's a monthly column that considers questions like, "Is there any reliable pattern of sound symbolism associated with diphthongs?" (Now don't all answer at once!) The author, Orin Hargraves, is a...

By Ron Charles | January 7, 2009; 07:05 AM ET | Comments (2)

Donald E. Westlake

Donald E. Westlake, the celebrated comic novelist who died on New Year's Eve, wrote more than 90 books during his 50-year career. Our regular reviewers loved him. Carolyn See called him "the funniest man in the world." And Michael Dirda noted that "Westlake knows precisely how to grab a reader."...

By Ron Charles | January 3, 2009; 09:53 AM ET | Comments (3)

Used, But Not Used Up

Last week, my daughter sold back a barely opened $120 textbook for $35, which of course is a rip-off coming and going. But education publishers will tell you they're barely staying above water. Ironically, as all things on paper give way to the Internet, we're hearing a lot about the...

By Ron Charles | December 31, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (6)

Poet Elizabeth Alexander to read at Obama Inauguration

Read the Post's story here....

By Ron Charles | December 17, 2008; 04:39 PM ET | Comments (0)

Publishing Heads into Thin Air

A couple of new signs -- as if they were needed -- that publishing is moving online and that the traditional standard bearers are catching up: 1. The Pulitzer foundation announced that it will accept entries from online-only publications. Sig Gissler, a Pulitzer administrator, said the change reflects the foundation's...

By Ron Charles | December 17, 2008; 07:08 AM ET | Comments (0)

Gifts of Fiction for the Scientist

Until a candid math professor in college advised me to "consider possible talents in other areas," I had every intention of becoming an engineer. (Fortunately, I knew how to type.) Maybe you know someone who straddles the arts/sciences border, someone who would enjoy a literary novel that involves scientists or...

By Ron Charles | December 10, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (1)

Refreshed Classics: Abomination or Illumination?

When I was teaching, I considered modern English translations of English classics something of an abomination, but now that I've got baffled high-school-age kids of my own, I've softened considerably (in every way). The "No Fear Shakespeare" editions (published by SparkNotes) run the original text of the Bard's plays on...

By Ron Charles | December 3, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (7)

Five Novels That Serve Up Thanksgiving Dinners

Thanksgiving Night, by Richard Bausch. It's fall, 1999, in a small Virginia town. In his signature sensitive way, Bausch winds together the stories of an enormous cast of characters, some tragic, some comically eccentric. A Patchwork Planet, by Anne Tyler. Several Tyler novels would fit on this list -- she...

By Ron Charles | November 27, 2008; 07:02 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Best Bad Sex in Fiction

Among the prestigious prizes being doled out this season, don't forget one of a somewhat less dignified nature: the Literary Review's Bad Sex in Fiction Award. Last night at a bawdy ceremony at London's In and Out club (I'm not making this up), Rachel Johnson, the sister of London Mayor...

By Ron Charles | November 26, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

The Caged Bird Sings

Maya Angelou celebrated her 80th birthday and the release of her new book, Letter to My Daughter, at an elegant gathering in the Hays-Adams Hotel on Thursday night. Wearing a long, dark red dress and a strand of pearls, the celebrated autobiographer and poet said she'd been taking notes for...

By Ron Charles | November 20, 2008; 11:23 PM ET | Comments (0)

Another Award Winner Up North

Miriam Toews's The Flying Troutmans has won Canada's Writers' Trust Prize for fiction ($25,000). I loved this novel, and I've been hearing the same thing from my 17-year-old daughter and a retired co-worker. Toews is a comic writer to watch. Four years ago, she won the Governor General's Award for...

By Ron Charles | November 20, 2008; 05:19 PM ET | Comments (0)

And the Winners of the National Book Awards Are...

The National Book Awards were announced last night in New York. The Post's publishing reporter, Bob Thompson, was there. Here are the Fiction winner and finalists: WINNER: Peter Matthiessen's Shadow Country (Modern Library) FINALISTS: Aleksandar Hemon's The Lazarus Project (Riverhead) Rachel Kushner's Telex from Cuba (Scribner) Marilynne Robinson's Home (FSG)...

By Ron Charles | November 20, 2008; 07:21 AM ET | Comments (2)

Memories of the Christian Science Monitor

Last month the Christian Science Monitor announced that it would shut down its daily print edition in April 2009. From then on, it will exist as a pure Web-only newspaper, the first national newspaper to take such a drastic step in the e-future. Friends and colleagues who knew I used...

By Ron Charles | November 12, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

'Wednesday' Morning Quarterback

On election day, Bob Kaiser ran a story in the Post about a political scientist at Emory University who confidently called the race back in August. Dr. Alan Abramowitz uses a complex mathematical formula that has predicted the presidential winner in every general election since 1952 (except that alt-history contest...

By Ron Charles | November 5, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

Literary Halloween Tour of Terror

For travelers as crazy about Halloween as I am, I've prepared this Literary Halloween Tour of Terror: The original man of mystery, Edgar Allen Poe. (AP) We'll start close by with a visit to the Edgar Allan Poe House in Philadelphia. Access is somewhat limited now as the Park Service...

By Ron Charles | October 29, 2008; 07:13 AM ET | Comments (7)

Vampire Alert: Don't Stick Your Neck Out

News that Bram Stoker's great-grandnephew is preparing a sequel to his famous ancestor's masterpiece got me thinking that it might be wise to talk with an expert. Scott Bowen is the author of The Vampire Survival Guide: How to Fight, and Win, Against the Undead (Skyhorse). It's an essential book...

By Ron Charles | October 22, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (0)

National Book Award Finalists Announced

It's only been 12 hours since the Man Booker Prize was announced in London, but here come the finalists for the National Book Awards. You can watch a video of mystery writer Scott Turow delivering the news in Chicago. I've come to expect a strange, disappointing fiction list from the...

By Ron Charles | October 15, 2008; 12:20 PM ET | Comments (5)

Happy Goosebumps

Today is the birthday of R.L. Stine, master of children's horror literature. Since he started scaring kids out of their wits more than 20 years ago, he's written 300 books (300 million copies in print!). Reached by phone at his apartment in New York, he told me that he's now...

By Ron Charles | October 8, 2008; 06:50 AM ET | Comments (1)

Heating Up the Stacks

Recently, my 17-year-old daughter and her friends went out to dinner and then over to Barnes & Noble. They bought a Harlequin romance novel by Jill Shalvis called Flashback and spent the rest of the night in our basement reading it aloud, laughing their heads off and eating ice cream....

By Ron Charles | October 1, 2008; 07:18 AM ET | Comments (2)

Five Novels That Treat People With Special Needs With Respect

My older daughter has cerebral palsy, and living with her over the past 19 years has given me a sensitive gag reflex for the way people with special needs are portrayed in Hollywood movies. Novelists -- not surprisingly -- handle these characters with considerably more depth and complexity. Here's a...

By Ron Charles | September 25, 2008; 07:00 AM ET | Comments (3)

Giving It Away

The arrival of Philip Roth's new novel this week has got me thinking -- again -- about what reviewers should tell and what they should keep to themselves. Indignation doesn't turn on a shocking revelation the way his The Human Stain did, but on p. 54, the narrator reveals something...

By Ron Charles | September 17, 2008; 07:23 AM ET | Comments (3)

Five Novels So Cold You'll Forget the Heat

I don't care if it's the heat or the humidity, this is unbearable. If you're stuck in Washington this summer and don't have access to a pool, maybe a fantasy setting can help. Here are five novels -- of wildly divergent quality and tone -- that describe places so frigid...

By Jen Chaney | July 30, 2008; 05:00 PM ET | Comments (27)

Five Books That Include Memorable Graduation Scenes

After graduate school, I hung around the academy teaching English for a dozen years in the Midwest. The only serious downside to that career was having to attend graduation every spring. Often I sat so far back on the dais that I could safely catch up on some reading without...

By Jen Chaney | May 22, 2008; 06:30 AM ET | Comments (1)

Five Novels Resolved in 24 Hours or Less

About 2,000 years before federal agent Jack Bauer began saving the free world on "24," Aristotle described the classic drama as taking place during a single revolution of the sun. Novels generally don't abide by that "unity of time," of course, but some of the most striking and curious ones...

By Christian Pelusi | April 3, 2008; 06:27 AM ET | Comments (10)

Novels to Read While the Housing Market Plummets

Tired of watching my retirement savings go up in smoke, I decided to see how the value of my house has been holding up. Big mistake. According to the addictive, ulcer-inducing Web site zillow.com, my little Cape Cod in Bethesda declined by $46,000. In the last 30 days. That's more...

By Christian Pelusi | January 31, 2008; 11:04 AM ET | Comments (39)

For a Happy Stomach

'Tis the season for great food -- and lots of it. But here's a low-cal alternative: novels that serve up marvelous meals, with no guilt attached. Let me know what dish you'd add to this literary buffet. 1. Joanne Harris's "Chocolat," about a single mother who moves into a repressed...

By Christian Pelusi | December 7, 2007; 07:20 AM ET | Comments (4)

To Scare the Bejesus Out of You

In the spirit of Halloween, I offer up these thoroughly terrifying books. I can vividly recall where I was when I read almost all of them. Feel free to weigh in on these and tell us what books have left you sleepless on a dark and stormy night. Pleasant dreams....

By Christian Pelusi | October 11, 2007; 06:59 AM ET | Comments (20)

 

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