books Books BOOKS!

18 Things Every Book Lover Can Relate To
Too Many BooksAll 18 Pulptastic gifs HERE

Ten books that changed the world

From Euclid’s Elements to Freud’s Interpretation of Dream, The Guardian enlists 10 authors to choose books ‘not of an age, but for all time’

The Second Sex By Simone De BeauvoirThe Second Sex by Simone de Beauvoir:

“Unsatisfied, cold, priapic, nymphomaniac, lesbian, a hundred times aborted, I was everything, even an unmarried mother,” wrote Simone de Beauvoir of the reaction to the second volume of The Second Sex.

This outpouring of angst – which included the Vatican placing the book on its banned list – was brought on by De Beauvoir’s frank discussion of female sexuality, including lesbianism and cross-dressing.

But there is so much more to The Second Sex, which asks the most fundamental question in the whole of feminism: what does it mean to be a woman?

See all 10 books HERE

20 Mystical Bridges That Will Take You To Another World

Two pics in particular that are personal – I was at Multnomah Falls (and it IS gorgoeous) and the Stari Most bridge in Mostar – well, it isn’t the original. the original was destroyed by a senseless war. I don’t know that I can ever see this recreation again as “real”. It’s the illusion Bandaid slapped onto a human-engineered ruin that can never be taken back. Such is the fruit of war.

But check out Earth Porm’s selections of “20 bridges are incredibly mystical, for more reasons than one. Enjoy the view, and let your imagination run wild!”
Multnomah Falls, OregonMultnomah Falls, Oregon, USA

Located along the Columbia River Highway, this historic bridge spans before the incredible Multnomah Falls waterfall

See all the bridges HERE

25 Websites to Upgrade Your Life

Lifehack offers “Great websites which you should check if you want to escape from the vicious trap of social media and live a life full of knowledge, joy, and inspiration.”

Brain PickingsA favorite of mine. Brain Pickings features thoughtful and analytical articles on topics related to literature, as well as spirituality, creativity, and personal growth.

Project Gutenberg, #19 on their list, offers more than 50,000 eBooks, all for free. You can download these books in ePUB, Kindle, or PDF formats, or you can even read them online. This site is completely legal as well, since the books available are ones with copyrights that have expired or that have been made free for non-commercial use by the publishers.

See all the sites HERE


U.K. bookstore chain Waterstones is removing Kindles from many of its stores as sales “continue to be pitiful”. A spokesman said the company was taking the display space back to use for physical books instead.

“The e-reader may turn out to be one of the shortest-lived consumer technology categories,” an analyst said.

Read the whole story HERE

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What color is ‘C’?

She sees music, in color, and then she paints it.

Until artist Melissa S. McCracken was 15, she thought everyone constantly saw colors like she did – in books, math formulas, at concerts. But when she finally asked her brother which color the letter C was, she realized “my mind wasn’t quite as normal as I had thought.”

“Basically, my brain is cross-wired. I experience the ‘wrong’ sensation to certain stimuli. Each letter and number is colored (‘C’ is canary yellow, by the way) and the days of the year circle around my body as if they had a set point in space.”

But the most wonderful ‘brain malfunction’ of all, she says, is seeing the music she hears. “It flows in a mixture of hues, textures, and movements, shifting as if it were a vital and intentional element of each song.”

Here is an example of what a famous song looks like in color.All The Love In The World“All The Love In The World”

“Having synesthesia isn’t distracting or disorienting. It adds a unique vibrance to the world I experience.”

See more of her paintings HERE

fREADom22 Ways To Celebrate Banned Books Week

At Bustle, Alex Heimbach says that there are tons of great ideas on Twitter and Instagram.

“I’ve collected 22 of them. If you haven’t read these books, you should. There may come a day when you no longer can.”

Read all the suggestions HERE

Why BannedThis amazing library display features a line-up of literary characters from books that have been banned at one point in time. Created by Rachel Moani of the Lacey Timberland Library in Washington state for Banned Book Week, it highlights a few of the reasons the books have been banned by either a school or community library:

Such as “The Wizard of Oz” for depicting women in strong leadership roles, and “The Diary of Anne Frank” for being too depressing.

Banned Books Week is an annual awareness campaign sponsored by the American Library Association and others in the book community every September to celebrate the freedom to read and expose the dangers of restricting access to books.

Read a tribute to Judy Blume, an outspoken advocate against censorship, at  A Mighty Girl.

‘Protecting ‘The Books That Will Never Be Written” HERE

Book Review

‘Rad American Women A-Z’
Rad Women

Attention, parents and teachers: This is an alphabet book with a difference. A is for Angela Davis, Z is for Zora Neale Hurston. In between are scientists, poets, pilots and others, half of whom are women of color, who have long been left out of children’s history books.

Read the whole review HERE

Marie Curie’s Research Papers Are Still Radioactive 100+ Years Later

When researching a famous historical figure, access to their work and materials usually proves to be one of the biggest obstacles, Open Culture notes. But things are much more difficult for those writing about the life of Marie Curie, the scientist who, along her with husband Pierre, discovered polonium and radium and birthed the idea of particle physics. Her notebooks, her clothing, her furniture, pretty much everything surviving from her Parisian suburban house, is radioactive, and will be for 1,500 years or more.

Read the whole story HERE

The woman who saved American children
Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey

Pharmaceutical representatives came to Washington in droves to drive Dr. Frances Oldham Kelsey back from her stand at the FDA over a drug being pushed by a muscular company and the men who ran it, William Rivers Pitt reports at The Smirking Chimp.

She said the drug was dangerous, and had the data to prove it. She was, in the parlance of the times, “a woman in a man’s job” despite her bedrock-strong credentials as a doctor and researcher, and she stood her ground when those men tried to brush her aside.”

The drug was thalidomide, a substance that came to be one of the most dangerous drugs ever unleashed on the human population and thanks to Dr. Kelsey, American babies didn’t get born without arms and legs.

Read the whole story HERE


Last Library Catalog Card
Last Library CardSince information seekers now use computer catalogs and online search engines to access library collections around the world, OCLC has printed its last card.

Read the whole story HERE

The Guardian’s Mars in literature – quiz

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LudditeIt’s so annoying to be called a Luddite for liking print books ~ Bustle

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Why is it always rape?


Fictional while female; The rape culture in fiction

I was once involved as a working pro in a workshop for beginning writers where one of the participants turned in a largely serviceable, almost good, excerpt from a novel-in-progress. But when I hit the synopsis appended at the end of the sample, I came to a screeching halt.

In his synopsis the writer wrote of his female character being assaulted, and then of the male protagonist “interrupting the rape“.

What in God’s name, does “interrupting a rape” mean?

There is no such thing as “interrupting a rape”. Rape is only a sexual assault in the most literal of literal meanings. Above and beyond that, rape is a crime of power, not sex. The sex is a means, not an end. Penetration is more or less irrelevant, once you’ve been pushed into the process of being dominated by someone, of having your person manhandled against your will, of being unable to help yourself at all. Once that process is begun, it is unstoppable. The invisible scars have already started to form.

I remember reading Guy Gavriel Kay’s Fionavar books, which contained a particularly egregious rape scene – it was oh-my-god the classic, the innocent young girl taken and raped by the Dark Lord. But although this was very much “the trope” for fictional women characters, Kay transformed it into something else. He showed what a rape was, what it could be, what it MEANT. The rapist in question didn’t just take the helpless body before him. He took the mind. In front of her agonized gaze, he changed – changed into people she loved and trusted who were now here brutalizing her – into her priest, into her father, into her greatest love.

In Kay’s novel, when his abducted girl was rescued at last, her friends stand there and gaze at what Kay describes as “the wreckage of the woman on the floor”. There were several things in play here. One important one was simply this: rape is not something that is done to *a single individual*. Rape affects lots of people who surround the victim. Why do you think there are things like honor killings?

Assaulting the person – and by inference her dignity, her standing, her social and cultural position – is also an assault on her family, her tribe, her culture, her society. Often the only way out is for the society to blame the victim and cast her out or kill her for the crime of being unable to defend herself.

Rape is, and has always been a crime of power and not of sex – if it weren’t then seven-year-olds and ninety-year-olds would never be raped. It is meaningless to start pointing fingers at how the victim was dressed. A pair of jeans is no more a defense than the briefest of mini skirts or a pair of bloomers. It’s a dominance thing, and it does not matter what the victim was wearing. It hinges on consent and a woman who is actively fighting her assailant but losing the physical battle because she is not strong enough to outwrestle someone bigger and heavier than her or even a number of such people is not giving that consent, and neither is the woman who is simply too frozen with terror to attempt to put up such a struggle, or who has been drugged or otherwise intoxicated or passed out or simply made unable to communicate.

Once again, the game is power. The idea here is domination, and consent is not required. But an inability to protect or defend such a female may be a shaming thing to the men around her, and so they choose to blame her for not resisting hard enough (hence honor slaying). Or else the men will respond like one of the characters in Kay’s novel, and vow vengeance, and often ride off to their own destruction in expiation of something.

But if it is used just as a plot device to trigger such an action a rape really is trivialized – because all it is, then, is literally the thing that pushes the plot forward and the woman involved is and remains ever after a pawn in the plot chess game being moved thither and yon only as a set piece which serves as a signpost to further plot developments, especially if she gets pregnant as a result of the rape. Which in fiction happens often enough. Hey, another plot wrinkle. What are we going to do with this unwillingly pregnant woman and this child born of violation?

And if a writer DOES use it to focus the vision of a piece of writing on the woman-as-character, then it seems she is left with two choices and two choices only. Either she can knuckle under and crumble and be a victim, thus circling back into pawndom, or else she can be “changed utterly” by it and turn into a badass queen bitch who goes out with an Uzi and a machete and mows down anyone in her path (and this, although it seems like she’s taking the responsibility for her own actions, is almost as much pawndom and basic flimsy two-dimensionality as the other. I mean, really, is surviving a rape the ONLY thing that will turn a woman into a Ramboette?)

Our young writer from the workshop wasn’t even thinking about it. When I called him out on the rape he did go to THAT place – that it was a “non-lethal” thing, that it was something “big” that would “change” her.

Dear lord, why is it always rape? Aren’t there any other big things that can change a woman?

In this instance her rape really was something that was a plot mover not for her but for his (male) protagonist…) Why is “oh yeah, rape” thrown in just as a general reason for motivations and personality changes which the writer might otherwise be too lazy or too incompetent or thinks it is too much trouble to get into, especially if it’s only a secondary character and oh hey it’s an easy out.

Rape is NOT trivial. And yes, it might be non-lethal in some circumstances but it can be very dangerous in others – and in too many instances leaves the victim, as it were, on trial. But rape is a crime with many victims – a spreading circle of them around the single individual who has been assaulted directly – and in one sense a “literary” rape between the covers of a book also has that circle, the readers of that book. The readers who might well have a closer acquaintance with rape than an author who has never experienced one or been close to somebody who has and who thinks that it’s okay to just use that as “an experience” even if it has no direct plot relevance other than just to give the storyline a shove in a general desired direction.

In literature, as in life, rapes and assaults will happen. But in literature they will happen as a plot device, as something “non-lethal” to throw at a character – which is all too often the consequence of being Fictional While Female – the author shies away from giving that female character protagonist agency in her own right so rape is flung at her at random just for something nasty to happen to her, or to trigger something nasty to happen to those close to her. And when the trap is sprung she then either overreacts, or shrugs off the experience in a startling manner as though it had happened to someone else entirely and is perfectly happy to be necking with the hot! young! protagonist! in the very next chapter without even appearing to remember, let alone recoil away from the thought of, somebody else being intent on pulling mostly the exact same moves but in very different context only a few pages before, giving the reader a bad case of mental whiplash.

Rape is not trivial. If it happens, in a story, it had better have a good reason for being there. Those good reasons are very few indeed, and you really have to make a case for one.

Can we just agree that it’s time to start treating the women in fiction as human beings and not just a potential set of bones to jump when the plot going gets sticky for the rest of the story?


(Author’s note. This was excerpted from a longer post I did on LiveJournal three years ago.)


Quote of the DayQUOTE Trollope~~~~~

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Erotic Curiosities?

At The Telegraph, Michael Deacon offers us

Sex, murder and ‘bulbous salutations’

List Of The Lost


Or, the weirdest moments from ‘List of the Lost’, the former Smiths singer’s unreadable debut novel.

Among the others:

“I have erotic curiosities,” topspins Ezra.



Read them all HERE

At BuzzFeed, Gena-mour Barrett ponders

If Disney Movies Were Way More Accurate And Badass
Disney Save MyselfWalt Disney / Gena-mour Barrett / BuzzFeed

“Mulan! Mulan!” cried Mushu. “We’re in great danger! Only a man can save us!”
“I can do it!” said Mulan, confidently.
“No, they need a man!” Mushu replied. “Here’s a great idea – maybe you should dress up as a man! Then everybody wins!”
Mulan fell silent and began to slowly pack up her clothes.
“M-Mulan?” said Mushu. “Where are you going? We can’t do this without you!”
“Exactly,” said Mulan. “RIP you.

See all the movies HERE

Social MediaNovels that reflect the influence of social media

MeatspaceAt Electric Literature, Nikesh Shukla, author of ‘Meatspace’, a novel about the frailties of social media identities, was asked if he worried about the technology dating his book.

He answered that the story is about identity, confusion and loneliness, and is pretty timeless and adds, “People still study Jane Austen. And her books are filled with letters. Dracula is collated diaries, letters, journals and articles. How outdated are all of these?”

RandomSince the first novel in my series The Were Chronicles, ‘Random’, relies heavily on my young protagonist’s blogging to drive the story, it’s something I’ve also given some thought to, but I worry even less about being outdated.

All novels are set in a time and place and they will always be dated by the technology of the era. That’s inevitable, and it’s not a bad thing.

Shukla selects ten novels “that ooze social media. Because, even if you’re not a heavy Twitter user or Instagrammer, you can’t ignore their prominence in the way we live.”

See all his selections HERE

At Bustle, Alex Weiss picks

10 Book Quotes That Will Make You Instantly Happier

“It’s better to look at the sky than live there.” Truman Capote, Breakfast at Tiffany’s

See all the quotes HERE

Tony Ballantyne, the author of ‘Dream London’, the Penrose series and the Recursion series, offers a monthly series of guest posts on

How Writers Write

I was delighted to join in with my experiences, and in answer to a question about when I write, I said:

Alma On Laptop“On the whole the answer to that question is, WHENEVER IT IS NECESSARY, and the explanation of that statement is simply IT IS NECESSARY ALL THE TIME. So whatever I am actually doing in any given moment… I am probably, on some level, writing.”

Check Tony’s site for other writers guest posts and

Read my whole post HERE

At Off the Shelf, Emma Volk talks about

11 Musical Novels That Hit All The Right Notes

“As a rule, printed words stay on the page and music stays in the air,” she writes. “But every once in a while you come across a truly gifted writer who can make their sentences sing. Experience some of that magic with these eleven books that take classical music as their inspiration.”

For example
Bel Canto

Bel Canto, by Ann Patchett

The last notes of a solo by opera’s most mesmerizing soprano are still lingering in the air when a band of terrorists storms the decadent birthday celebration at which she is performing and holds the international partygoers for ransom. Joined only by the common language of music, captives and captors alike form unlikely bonds in this lyrical and profound homage to the transcendent powers of art, beauty, and love.


See all the books HERE

Living underground
Singapore UndergroundA design for Singapore’s Underground Science City (Credit: JTC Corporation)

As cities get more crowded, why not build down? Kieran Nash profiles some of the world’s most unusual underground constructions for the BBC, from Australian rock homes to Beijing’s subterranean spaces.

Read the whole story HERE

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Literature on the map

A 17-Year-Old Artist Created This Incredible Map Of Literature

Martin Vargic’s intricate cartography is basically porn for book lovers.
Map Of Literature 1Map Of Literature 2“The Lord of the Rings and the Song of Ice and Fire series are my all-time favourite books.”

Read Daniel Dalton’s BuzzFeed story HERE

At Buzzfeed, Arianna Rebolini offers us some young adult books for our bucket list.

Number one in the Buzzfeed list is, of course, Harry Potter — and the Potter phenomenon is incredible. Certainly it is the most remarkable of our time, perhaps of all time. But a number one ranking inevitably implies a lot more, that it is a book, a series of books, a series of films, that puts it up there with Shakespeare and other greats of literature.

Personally, I’m not inclined to go that far. J. K. Rowlings has a massively vivid imagination and is a fab storyteller, but she is not one of the great writers. And yet these books land on every list, in #1 position virtually every time.

The list contains a number of books that have stood the test of time and that I would personally put on any such list. Others I’ve never heard of. A few of those, however, sound intriguing and I may have some reading to do.

What do you think of the following list?

37 Books Every YA Fan Needs To Read Before They Die
Little Women

Little Women by Louisa M. Alcott

What it’s about: The classic novel, based on the author’s life, follows four sisters whose family fortune is lost in the midst of the Civil War.

Top quote: “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”


See all the books HERE

Why Harry Potter fans are leaving secret notes in books

At, Ann Lee Potter reports that a fan site, MuggleNet, has started a new movement using the hashtag #PotterItForward with readers sneaking notes into library and donated books explaining what JK Rowling’s novels meant to them in these secret notes.

Now that is something any author would love to see happen to their books.

Read the whole story HERE

You’re never too old to read young adult fiction
YA For AdultsYA novels are brimming with brilliance, enthusiasm and pile-driving plots – it’s no wonder so many of them are enjoyed by older readers.

The biblio number-crunchers at Nielsen have just released the news that 80% of YA (young adult) fiction is bought by the simply A, Lucy Mangan tells us in The Guardian.

“Of course, it’s likely that some of this is being bought by adults for the young people in their lives (possibly after reading it themselves – who buys anyone a book they don’t read first?), but that still leaves a huge number being consumed by those outside the intended demographic.”

Read the whole story HERE

10 Story Collections That Evoke Place

Eudora Welty once said, “Every story would be another story, and unrecognizable if it took up its characters and plot and happened somewhere else.… Fiction depends for its life on place.”

At Publishers Weekly, Andrew Malan Milward picked several books for us.

For example:

Battleborn by Claire Vaye Watkins

“Wow. That’s what I thought after reading the first story in Watkins’s debut collection, and I continued to have that visceral and not particularly insightful reaction after nearly every story in the book, which mines the history and present of the American west, particularly her home state, Nevada.

“One of the things I love about a book like this is that it shows me the incredible-ness of a place I’d never really given much thought. As someone from a state largely considered a fly-over afterthought, I appreciate when a writer like Watkins is able to entice us to look closely at a place and see how truly remarkable it is.”

See all the books HERE

18 Maps That Will Change How You See The World

Including this one which has some disturbing news for America
World ThreatA map showing the results of a survey asking the world who they see as the biggest threat to world peace

See all the maps HERE

English magic: how folklore haunts the British landscape
Folklore ChanglingsSome fictional characters – Dracula, say, or Peter Pan – are so vivid that they detach themselves from their origin and become part of our common heritage. “But a folk tale is something different, Frank Cottrell Boyce writes in the New Statesman. It demands that we believe it has some truth in it. We go to see the claw marks of the Black Dog on the church at Blythburgh. We listen for the church bells of the drowned village. We want there to be a monster in the loch. We yearn to know that there really was a king called Arthur, even if he wasn’t all gussied up in armour and sitting at a round table.”

Read the whole story HERE


You Can Now Rent a Room in H.P. Lovecraft’s Former Home

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Growing Up~~~~~
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‘Dick and Jane’ vs Dr. Seuss

I was born too late to know ‘Dick and Jane’ — not to mention that I came from an entirely different culture, and taught myself to read long before entering school.

My husband, who is American born and …errr, a tiny bit older than me… remembers the reading primers very well and found them boring. By the time he was a parent himself, he had realized the ‘look-say’ approach that totally ignored phonetics was a poor way to teach kids to learn to read, and worse, a bad way to instill a love of reading.
Dick and Janeimage credit: Rare Book School

But the inevitable backlash against Dick and Jane gave us Dr. Seuss and ‘The Cat in the Hat.’

“I have great pride in taking Dick and Jane out of most school libraries,” Theodore Seuss Geisel subsequently said. “That is my greatest satisfaction.”

Read the whole Mental Floss story HERE

Game turns players into poets and writers
Elegy1Photos: Elegy

What do British Romantic Era poets and video games have in common? Teodora Zareva asks at Big Think.

The answer is “Elegy for a Dead World”, an unlikely game that leaves the players with “no game to play,” but to explore three long-dead civilizations, observe, and make notes… or stories — or poems — or songs.”

The three lost worlds feature beautiful scenery, moving music, and are inspired by Percy Shelley’s Ozymandias, Lord Byron’s Darkness, and John Keats’ When I Have Fears That I May Cease to Be. They create a strong, moody atmosphere that becomes the breeding ground for feelings and ideas.

Read the whole story HERE

New Looks for Classic Books

From Dante’s Inferno to Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes, classic novels have sparked readers’ imaginations for centuries, The MOO Blog tells us.

Stories like these conjure different mental images for different people — and the team behind Recovering the Classics is determined to capture those visual interpretations through a campaign called 50×50.
Classic CoversRecovering the Classics covers on display at an event at New York Public Library. Photo: Drew Levin

The organization is crowdsourcing original covers for books in the public domain works that are free to download and read thanks to expired property rights. Designers across the world have re-imagined titles in the years since, and the group has launched a campaign to showcase 50 classic book covers in all 50 states.

“The reason why these books are in the public domain”, Jennifer Lee, one of the creators says “is that they’ve been around for so long. These are stories that have stood an amazing test of time and become cultural touchstones for all of us to have a common cultural vocabulary.”

Read the whole story HERE

Set In Stone But Ever-Changing: Sculptures Reshaped By The Tides
UnderwaterThe Silent Evolution, by Jason deCaires Taylor, off the coast of Cancun, Mexico

You probably never will see most of Jason deCaires Taylor’s public art projects firsthand — at least, not without goggles and fins.

Most of his sculptures stand at the bottom of the sea. His life-size statues — ghostly figures of men, women and children — seem to walk the ocean floor as they hold hands, huddle, even watch TV.

Read the whole NPR story HERE

Ursula K. Le Guin on Aging and What Beauty Really Means

At Brain Pickings, Maria Popova explains:
Ursula le Guin
Ursula K. Le Guin by Laura Anglin

Le Guin contrasts the archetypal temperaments of our favorite pets:

Dogs don’t know what they look like. Dogs don’t even know what size they are. No doubt it’s our fault, for breeding them into such weird shapes and sizes. My brother’s dachshund, standing tall at eight inches, would attack a Great Dane in the full conviction that she could tear it apart….

Cats, on the other hand, have a wholly different scope of self-awareness:

Cats know exactly where they begin and end. When they walk slowly out the door that you are holding open for them, and pause, leaving their tail just an inch or two inside the door, they know it. They know you have to keep holding the door open. That is why their tail is there. It is a cat’s way of maintaining a relationship.

A master of bridging the playful and the poignant, Le Guin returns to the human condition:

A lot of us humans are like dogs: we really don’t know what size we are, how we’re shaped, what we look like. The most extreme example of this ignorance must be the people who design the seats on airplanes. At the other extreme, the people who have the most accurate, vivid sense of their own appearance may be dancers. What dancers look like is, after all, what they do.

Read the whole story HERE

Going on a ‘Blind Date With A Book’

Elizabeth’s Bookshops, an Australian secondhand bookshop chain, has conceived of a brilliant idea to help you spice up your reading life, Dorothy Tan reports at Design Taxi.
Wrapped BooksImage via krstinasaurusrex

If you are having problems deciding on which book to read next, the “Blind Date with a Book” project consists of books that have been wrapped up in plain brown paper—the only thing one can know about them are from the clues written on the wrappings.

This project has been so popular that th­­­e bookshop is extending it online.

Read the whole story HERE

Vintage Library Ads Man OverboredAmazing Vintage Library Ads

“Do you have a recent picture of Jesus Christ?”

And other questions asked of librarians

Quote of the DayArtists Are...~~~~~
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When Booksellers Speak

The BuzzFeed staff has assembled 21 witty bookstore signs like this one.
Booksellers SpeakSee all the others HERE

What did they find in SubTropolis?

This story caught my eye because they delved deep under Kansas City, and I had to wonder — did they wake the dread thing that lies under the earth?

It would be a lesser Lord of the Rings fan than me who did not look upon this underground realm and not have this conversation instantly leap to the forefront of my mind:

“Ai! Ai!”wailed Legolas. A Balrog! A Balrog is come!”

Gimli stared with wide eyes. “Durin’s Bane!” he cried, and letting his axe fall, he covered his face.

“A Balrog,” muttered Gandalf. “Now I understand.”

For those of you not wholly versed in Tolkien lore, a little later Legolas elucidates:”It was a Balrog of Morgoth,” said Legolas, “of all elf-banes the most deadly, save the One who sits in the Dark Tower.”

If I should visit SubTropolis I would be looking over my shoulder constantly for the creature of shadow and fire with his deadly sword… for I have always been an Elf-friend, and the monster would smell their presence in me, and it would be a perilous place for me. But I digress…

Welcome to the SubTropolis of Kansas City

Patrick Clark writes at about the hundreds of people who spend their workdays in an excavated mine the size of 140 football fields buried under Kansas City.
SubTropolisJourney to the center of the earth—or at least, to EarthWorks, a place where kids learn about the Midwest’s natural habitats. One of the many businesses in SubTropolis. Photographs by Connie Zhou/Bloomberg Business

The walls of SubTropolis are carved out of 270-million-year-old limestone deposits and help keep humidity low and temperatures at a constant 68 degrees, eliminating the need for air conditioning or heating.

Read the whole story HERE

And THIS caught my attention because it is the stuff of fantasy novels.

Chiara Vigo: The last woman in the world who makes sea silk
Sea Silk 1Photographs by Andrea Pasquali

Sea Silk 2At the BBC, Max Paradiso Sardinia reports that while silk is usually made from the cocoons spun by silkworms, there is another, much rarer, cloth known as sea silk or byssus, which comes from a clam. Byssus is mentioned on the Rosetta stone and said to have been found in the tombs of pharaohs. Chiara Vigo is thought to be the only person left who can harvest it, spin it and make it shine like gold.

Read the whole story HERE

13 Bookish Movies

“As book lovers, we tend to be skeptical about film adaptations,” Tolani Osan writes at Off the Shelf, “but we are fans of both the thirteen books on this list and their cinematic counterparts. Read the book, then stream the movie.”

One example:

One DayOne Day, by David Nicholls:

Emma and Dexter meet by chance the day they graduate from college. We meet them on the anniversary of that day for the next twenty years.

At its heart, this is a story about what we hope for and how our lives actually play out. David Nicholls wrote the novel and the script of the charming film.





See the other 12 books and flicks HERE

Found in a Junk Shop: Secrets of an Undiscovered Visionary Artist

MessyNessy reports on the extraordinary story of Charles Dellschau, known in his lifetime only as the grouchy local butcher.

His story is one shrouded in mystery, almost lost forever, intertwined with secret societies, hidden codes, otherworldly theories and seemingly impossible inventions before his time. Unseen for decades and salvaged by a junk dealer in the 1960s from a trash heap outside a house in Texas, his entire body of work would later go on to marvel the intellectual world.
Charles Dellschau 2Charles Dellschau

He had arrived in the United States at 25 years old from Hamburg in 1853, MessyNessy reports, and worked as a butcher.

After his retirement in 1899, he took to filling his days by filling notebooks with a visual journal of his youth. He called the first three books, Recollections, and recounts a secret society of flight enthusiasts which met in California in the mid-19th century called the ‘Sonora Aero Club’.


Read the whole fascinating story HERE



Harvard researchers say light-emitting ebooks lead to next-day grogginess


Orcs of New York Facebook Page Attracts Over 52,000 ‘Likes’

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Free libraries crisis

Free LibrariesCracking down on the monstrous evil of tiny Free Lending Libraries

It’s good to know, Charlie Jane Anders reports at io9, that people are focusing on what’s really important. Some local governments have looked past the problems of homelessness and crumbling city services to tackle the real crisis: people are putting up tiny “take a book, leave a book” libraries.

Los Angeles, Shreveport, LA and Leawood, KS have all tried to levy fines and other sanctions against people who put up these tiny birdhouse-like lending libraries.

Read the whole story HERE

“US Company will be Cursed if Ancient Fairy Fort is Destroyed”
Stone RingfortStone ringfort, “Ring of Kerry” in Ireland. (Francis Bijl/CC BY 2.0) Representational image.

Bad luck is sure to befall a US company if it builds a new factory over a fairy fort in Ireland, warns a traditional Irish lore keeper.

West Pharmaceutical Services is building a new factory on a site situated over an ancient ringfort (rath, or fairyfort) which dates back thousands of years.

Eddie Lenihan, famed Irish author, storyteller and broadcaster, says that destruction or removal of the fairy fort would spell dire consequences and bad luck for all those involved in construction or clearing the ancient dwelling, according to the Irish Examiner.

Read the whole story HERE

Stories are addictive
The Story

Photo by Thibaud Saintin

“Sometimes friends will be over, everybody talking, and one of the little kids will get antsy so I’ll pick up a book and start reading,” Ann Finkbeiner writes in Last Word on Nothing. “…pretty soon nobody is talking any more, everybody’s listening to Winnie the Pooh and Piglet track the Heffalump. I’ll bet you can sit in any small coffee shop, open a book, start reading aloud “Once upon a time,” and by the third paragraph, the whole coffee shop will be dead silent.

“Stories.  I’ve always thought of them as addictive entertainment for which – for some reason – we happen to be hardwired.”

Read the whole essay HERE

Native AmericansMatika Wilbur, Darkfeather, Bibiana and Eckos Ancheta (Tulalip), 2014. Inkjet print 16 x 20 inches. Courtesy of the artist.

Indigenous Americans Without the Stereotypes

Three years ago photographer Matika Wilbur, a member of the Tulalip and Swinomish tribes, set out on a vast road trip across America to photograph members of all 562 of America’s federally-recognized tribes, Natasha Donovan wrote in an article in Yes Magazine.

Her collection so far includes images from more than 200 tribes she has visited in the course of traveling 80,000 miles around the western United States.

Read the whole story HERE

The classical jokes hiding in your favorite children’s books

From Harry Potter to Winnie the Pooh, many well loved children’s books look back to the classical world in unexpected ways, Frances Myatt writes at The Guardian.

For example:
DracoTom Felton as Draco in Harry Potter:

JK Rowling actually studied classics and French, so it’s unsurprising the Harry Potter books are packed full of classical references. Most of the exotic sounding spells are really just simple commands translated into Latin – for example “crucio” means “I torture”, “evanesco” translates as “I vanish” and “accio” means “I summon”. Rowling also drew on the ancient world when naming many of her characters.Take Draco – not only does his name mean “serpent” or “dragon”, but in ancient Athens there was a famously vicious lawmaker called Draco who put people to death for stealing fruit or just being lazy.

Read the whole story HERE

Quirky characters on the streets of Ann Arbor  
Light ReadingDavid Zinn stalks the streets of Ann Arbor, Michigan, creating temporary illustrations with chalk and charcoal, Christopher Jobson tells us at Colossal.

Zinn improvises each piece on the spot and makes use of found objects, street fixtures, and stair steps to create trompe d’oeil illusions. You can see others in his 2013 book Lost & Unfounded: Street Art by David Zinn.

See more examples HERE

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Is one book enough?

One store, one bookOne-Book StoreImages by Miyuki Kaneko. Via Takram

Ebookfriendly tells us about a unique Tokyo bookstore that sells one book, and only one book, for six continuous days, from Tuesday to Sunday. Every evening an event is organized to discuss the book and connect its author with readers.

The one-book bookstore makes an old truth clearly visible: Every book is worth reading. In fact, every book on every shelf in every bookstore or a library in the world is worth reading. There is only one condition, very hard to meet. You need to focus on this single book for longer than a moment.

Read the whole story HERE

Tokyo Bookstores TourTokyo has endless attractions ranging from food to historic temples and unique architecture — and numerous bookstores.

One entire district, Jimbocho, is dedicated to used books and publishing. It’s Japan’s equivalent of a booktown and it is pure heaven for booklovers.

Read the whole story HERE

12 Essential Books About Race in America

At Off-The-Shelf, Eloy Bleifuss Prado says that talking about race isn’t easy. It’s personal, it’s political, it’s visceral. However, literature has the power to provide a window into this most difficult of subjects. Prado offers twelve books that have changed the way we talk about race in America.

One example:

The Lone Ranger And Tonto


The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven, by Sherman Alexie

Elegantly depicting the struggles of Native Americans to survive in a world that remains hostile to them, this is the book that made Sherman Alexie a literary star. Told through twenty-two interconnected stories that reveal different aspects of life on a Spokane Indian reservation, it runs the emotional gamut from humor to loss to a stubborn will to survive.


See all the books HERE

Hobbit NoteThis fabulous note was found inside a copy of The Hobbit

The Cross-Dressing Heiress Who Decamped to the Algerian Desert

“I will never be content with a sedentary life; I will always be haunted by thoughts of a sun-drenched elsewhere,” wrote Eberhardt in ‘The Nomad: The Diaries of Isabelle Eberhardt’.Isabelle EberhardtIsabelle Eberhardt in the Sahel desert, circa 1900. (Photo: Wikipedia Commons)

Just as the 19th century was drawing to a close, a penniless 22-year-old explorer and author named Isabelle Eberhardt left an unhappy life in Switzerland to roam Algeria, join a mystical Sufi Muslim sect, and dress as the male Arab she saw herself as, Ailsa Ross writes at Atlas Obscura.

Following an assassination attempt against her, the woman sometimes referred to as “the first hippie” died in a flash flood in the Sahara at the age of 27. Her vivid writings and travelogues were published posthumously.

Read her whole fascinating story HERE

Why we need nature writing

A new ‘culture of nature’ is changing the way we live, Robert Macfarlane writes in the New Statesman.

“This culture is not new in its concerns but it is distinctive in its contemporary intensity. Its politics is not easily placed on the conventional spectrum, so we would do better to speak of its values.

Macfarlane Hawk“Those values include placing community over commodity, modesty over mastery, connection over consumption, the deep over the shallow, and a version of what the American environmentalist Aldo Leopold called “the land ethic”: the double acknowledgement that, first, ­human beings are animals and, second, we are animals among other animals, sharing our habitat with members of the biota that also have meetable needs and rights.”

Read the whole thoughtful essay HERE


Pronounce it, I dare you

That looooooong Welsh name that takes up half the map of Europe if it’s spelled out on a map in letters large enough to read?

Surely you know the one….

I actually used that in a book. It’s one of those things — you NEED to use something like that somewhere in fiction, because … well because it’s just entirely too improbable to really exist in fact, isn’t it?

And so it made its way into my second Worldweavers book, “Spellspam“. No, I’m not going to tell you more. Go read it and find out.

Turns out there’s a NorAm version of a NameOfManySyllables like that, too. You can learn all about it in a song all about canoeing (but more precisely canoodling) on a lake which as best I can figure is in Maine somewhere, or at least somewhere apparently quite close to Canada because the canoe used to illustrate the video of the song has a very definite Maple on its prow.

The NorAm song can be found HERE
A song telling you how to pronounce the Welsh town HERE
And this TV weatherman nails it HERE

Alma Alexander      My books      Email me

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Forgotten Heroines

There is no shortage of women who have made their mark on history. But for every Eleanor of Aquitaine or Elizabeth I, there have been many more whose efforts have gone unrecognized, largely because of their sex.

Now a new BBC series, the Ascent of Women, sheds light on the forgotten heroines of the past.

In reporting on the BBC production for MailOnline, Ruth Styles tells us about the women you’ve never heard of: From the Sumerian priestess poet to the English queen who revolutionized literature.

For example:
MIRABAIPoet: Indian princess Mirabai survived assassination attempts by her in-laws and wrote thousands of poems

MIRABAI – 1498 – 1565

An Indian saint, author and mystic, Mirabai, also known as Meera, was a Rajput princess and the only child of a minor king. When Vikram Singh took the throne, legend says he  repeatedly tried to have Mirabai killed

Despite his persecution, the princess went on to become a prolific author. Venerated by the Sikhs as well as Hindus, her many devotional poems earned her a place in the Bhakti pantheon of saints following her death and her work remains popular today

More on the forgotten women of history HERE

Readers Delight
Outdoor Reading
Sitting outside in an outdoor nook.

Arielle Calderon of BuzzFeed finds

31 places bookworms will drool over

See all the places for bookworms HERE

Bored Panda finds

15 Mind-Bending Photos That Seem Fake But Are Actually Real

If you’ve spent a decent amount of time on the Internet, you’ve probably developed a healthy skepticism – you shouldn’t always believe what you see online, because it’s fairly easy to falsify with Photoshop. These images, however, will turn your caution on its head – though all of these images look like they might be fake, each is 100% real!

Some of these images are of unexpected coincidences or exotic locations, but many also involve works of art intentionally designed by artists to subvert our certainty in what is real.

One example
Gansu, ChinaZhangye Danxia Landform In Gansu, China

See all the photos HERE

A beautiful daughter

Holly Spring took up photography after her daughter had struggled early on in life with Hirschsprung’s Disease and no left hand, Lisa Holloway writes at Bored Panda, and she took some remarkable photos. She wants to show her daughter that there are no limits to what she can achieve if she just believes in herself.

“My daughter is my muse and my heart that inspires me to follow my passion and share these unique photos and digital art with you,” says Holly.”
See all the photos HERE

At Flavorwire, Jonathon Sturgeon and Sarah Seltzer offer us

22 Essential Women Writers to Read in Translation

Noting that women writers in translation seem significantly less likely to get profiled by major literary outlets and are less likely to have their books sent for review, they put together a starter list of essential women writers, from Murasaki Shikibu to Minae Mizumura.

One example:

Elena Ferrante


Elena Ferrante’s four novels tracing one friendship between two women in Naples is causing Ferrante Fever for a reason; dense, complex, and full of high emotion and wise reflection, they are like reading in technicolor.

The Story of The Lost Child has just been published. Other novels, like The Days of Abandonment and The Lost Daughter, put her on the map.



Read the whole story HERE

High Literature

24 Mind-Expanding Drug Novels

Most of our best-known drug literature comes in the form of memoir, Jonathon Sturgeon says at Flavorwire. “But if you’re anything like me, you need the power of a robust, fictional delivery system to get the required effect of your literary drugs. With this in mind, here are 24 works of required-reading drug lit for research purposes only.”

Drug Fiend

Diary of a Drug Fiend: Aleister Crowley, who most certainly was a drug “fiend,” features a hilarious preface that includes the novel-effacing line: “This is a true story. It has been rewritten only so far as was necessary to conceal personalities.”

It is among the most impressively arrayed drug novels on this list, featuring everything from heroin to cocaine to Prussic acid (which is, admittedly, a way for the characters to kill themselves instead of facing up to addiction).



See all the books HERE

Since my signature work, The Secrets of Jin-shei, celebrates a unique form of sisterhood in an Imperial China that never was, I’m always interested in stories of friendships.

Emma Volk at Off the Shelf offers us

9 Novels That Celebrate the Joys of Friendship

The Interestings

The Interestings by Meg Wolitzer

The bond between six friends who met as teenagers at a summer camp for the arts remains strong decades later, but not all of them achieved their artistic dreams.

Can their friendship survive the envy that comes along with watching your friend succeed when you have failed?



Read the whole story HERE

THIS n THATOn The BusRomanian city offered a free ride to anyone reading a book on the bus.

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Alma Alexander     My books     Email me
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