Category: Reading

Fiction's newest genre: up lit

Five weeks ago I blogged about my favorite television series, Call the Midwife, and lamented that literary novels don’t share its mix of realism and uplift. “Qualities that I think are hard to find in a literary novel — such as hope, warmth, gladness, and change for the better — are present in spades in... Read more »

Reflecting on my reading habits

On my new computer, I bookmarked NPR, CNN, and other news sites one day and removed the bookmarks the next. Their stories were mostly different angles on news I already knew, and nothing was must-know-immediately. And unless my safety is in danger, what is must-know-immediately anyhow? The depth, analysis, and insight of long-form journalism is... Read more »

The continuing relevance of Alex Haley’s Roots

More than four decades after Roots: The Saga of an American Family was published and became a sensation, I finally read the book by Alex Haley. It tells the stories of six generations of Haley’s ancestors, starting in the mid-1700s with Kunta Kinte, a 17-year-old African captured into slavery. Roots spent 46 weeks on the... Read more »
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Why I love my book group

When asked what their book groups are reading, friends often reply with a complaint. “I never like what this one person picks.” “I can’t get through the book.” “It’s too shallow to say much about.” Then I’m grateful for my book group. It’s been going for 21 years, with four of us founding members and... Read more »

Surprising parallels to today in novels about the plague

Judging from the number of reading lists returned by googling “pandemic books,” many readers aren’t looking for escapism during COVID. A pandemic read was not my object on my first trip into the Harold Washington Library Center after it reopened a few weeks ago. Browsing in the Popular Library on the first floor, I noticed... Read more »

When you need upbeat fiction

When my book group chose its next novel, someone suggested Albert Camus’s The Plague for its current relevance. The rest of us wanted something less depressing in the present circumstances, so we’re reading Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland and Through the Looking-Glass. Wanting something less depressing is nothing new for me. Back in the 1990s, I... Read more »
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In the minority about Little Women ending

Had I not read that Jo marries Laurie in an upcoming Little Women spinoff, I may not have admitted that I’m one of the readers who want that ending. Ours isn’t the enlightened position today. In author Louisa May Alcott’s day, it was the majority wish. Now, you can find plenty of online comments that... Read more »

Why I prefer novels to nonfiction

When I was sick for several days recently, I caught up on the New York Times Sunday Review and the New York Times Magazine. As usual, the exceptional writing impressed me. But after a few days, I craved a novel. I needed to immerse myself in a story and get to know its characters. I... Read more »

Say it ain’t so, Atticus

So, all lovers of To Kill a Mockingbird — I know there are a lot of us; it placed first on PBS’s Great American Read last fall — did you realize that not everyone admires Atticus? Learning that Atticus Finch, the book’s hero, has critics came as a surprise after I finished my umpteenth reread... Read more »
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Book group gives Moby-Dick a go

Ah, Moby-Dick. Revered by many as the Great American Novel. Reviled by perhaps as many as unreadable. My book group was split down the middle about reading Herman Melville’s 1851 novel: Half of us were interested, the other half ambivalent at best. At our discussion last week, one person said she gave up about halfway... Read more »