99 Young Adult Books To Read

This was written to suggest a reading list for last summer, but it’s good any time.

The original title of the piece was “95 Young Adult Books To Read Instead Of Reading Harry Potter AGAIN” and the author, Rebecca Eisenberg, admits, that the list does actually include the Harry books. “But so are a lot of other really good books that you probably haven’t read yet. Instead of rereading your old favorites, why don’t you pick up something new to read.”

My own YA books. the Worldweavers series, are not on her list, but I’ll suggest them anyway, particularly now that the fourth in the series, Dawn of Magic, is nearing publication. You can find the first three here.

95 YA books (plus four)

Some Of The Most Powerful Images Ever

These 30 photos from Bored Panda are gripping and unforgettable because of the volumes they speak about the human condition, about the best and worst moments of contemporary human existence.

Eternal loveThe Graves of a Catholic woman and her Protestant husband, Holland, 1888
Image credits: retronaut.com

Unforgettable images

Killer Websites that can make you brilliant — well, look brilliant anyhow

There are countless websites out there that are geared to make you smarter for low or no cost, Jon Negroni writes in Technology, and lists 25. Things like Cooking for Engineers, Nerd Fitness, Speed Reading, etc.

Get smart

Native American travels across U.S. photographing citizens of tribal nations

As a potential legacy of, and tribute to, what may be changing and even vanishing cultures, often steam-rollered by “progress” and modern society, this is an awesome project.

1st AmericansCourtesy Matika Wilbur – Jenni Parker, right, and granddaughter Sharlyse Parker of the Northern Cheyenne tribe pose in Lame Deer, Mont., in August.

The first Americans

Women writers who served time

Writing can be a scandalous art. Numerous lists abound of famous male authors who have gone to prison, and most can probably name a few pretty quickly — Miguel de Cervantes, Jean-Paul Sartre, Antonio Gramsci, Fyodor Dostoevsky, and Oscar Wilde, for instance, have all spent time behind bars.

Imprisoned women writers seldom come to mind. Emma Goldman, for example, learned the hard way that sometimes expressing your mind is a criminal offense.

Imprisoned women writers
25 Everyday Things You Never Knew Had Names

There are so many things out there that we deal with or see everyday, but have no idea what they are called. Fear not, Buzzfeed has the answer.

Crepuscular RaysCrepuscular Rays: Rays of sunlight coming from a certain point in the sky. Also known as “God’s rays.”

Petrichor:Petrichor: The way it smells outside after rain.

But in my mind that’s not the exact definition of ‘petrichor’. I think of it as the way it smells outside after the first rain after a long dry spell.

It has a name

Tears of joy and tears of sadness

They look different under the microscope, Casey Chan tells us on Sploid.

Onion tearsTears from onions

Tears under a microscope

Quote of the Day

The reason a writer writes a book is to forget a book and the reason a reader reads one is to remember it.” ~ Thomas Wolfe
Alma Alexander

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Jane Austen’s Tarts

Several books have been written about the meals Austen might have eaten, based on the hints from her letters, Nicole Villeneuve, writes for Paper and Salt.
Jane Austen's tartsShe mentions legs of mutton, lobster, pea soup, and chows down on more than a few apple pies. But my favorite food moment is when Austen and her nieces …order a local specialty: “some cheesecakes, on which the children made so delightful a supper as to endear the town of Devizes to them for a long time.”

(The) cheesecakes are not what you’re probably expecting. The original recipe was actually a helpful way for cooks to use leftover cake, combining the crumbs with a custard base and pouring it all in a pastry shell. It’s like a smoother, creamier, cake-ier bread pudding.

Jane Austen Tarts

Everything I Knew About Dating I Learned From 19th Century Novels. Huge Mistake.

Any reader of fiction knows how powerfully a great book can shape your view of the real world, Claire Fallon, Deputy Blog Editor, The Huffington Post, writes.

The novels I’ve read over the years have informed my beliefs about the world around me — including the world of dating. In the course of my literary education, I plowed through classic marriage-plot-centered novels, and no scrap of apparent romantic wisdom was left behind in my wake. Jane Eyre, Elizabeth Bennet — these were my role models in the realm of dating. The results were catastrophic. It turns out that trying to recreate the plotlines of romances written 200 years ago wasn’t the best strategy for finding love.

Austen PrideDate a guy who thinks you’re just attractive enough to tolerate. (Pride and Prejudice, Jane Austen) He’s willing to hook up with you, so does it really matter that he once told your friend he thought he could snag a hotter girlfriend than you?

19th century Dating models

F. Scott Fitzgerald lists essential books of 1936

Let’s see, there are:
Sister Carrie, by Theodore Dreiser
A Doll’s House, by Henrik Ibsen
The Maltese Falcon, by Dashiel Hammett
The Plays of Oscar Wilde

and…almost a score more. Most still readable and read. How many have you read?

Essential books of 1936

Meet the Man Who Wrote a 260-Page Biography on His BlackBerry

Geordie Greig  wrote his Lucian Freud biography, Breakfast with Lucian, on his BlackBerry, Laura Bennett writes in the New Repblic.

Greig found that the most convenient time to write was in bed between the hours of 2 and 3 a.m. when tapping away on his BlackBerry Bold seemed less likely to wake up his wife than working on a computer.

He’d write an entire chunk of book as an email and then send it to himself so he could smooth out the prose later. It took him two years to finish the book, squeezing in miscellaneous writing sessions on his phone while sitting on park benches or during a ferris wheel ride at a fair with his children. “The rather snotty New York Times guy seemed to think the BlackBerry comment in my book was a casual sort of boast,” Greig said. “Actual it was a practical necessity. I’m sure Dwayne or Dwight writes brilliant prose without pause. But I, mere reporter, write to rewrite.”

Writing a book on a BlackBerry

The Year the Monarch Didn’t Appear

ON the first of November, when Mexicans celebrate a holiday called the Day of the Dead, some also celebrate the millions of monarch butterflies that, without fail, fly to the mountainous fir forests of central Mexico on that day, Jim Robbins reports in the NYT. They are believed to be souls of the dead, returned.

This year, the monarch butterflies began to straggle in a week later than usual, in record-low numbers. Last year’s low of 60 million now seems great compared with the fewer than three million that have shown up so far this year. Some experts fear that the spectacular migration could be near collapse.
The missing monarchMicah Lidberg

The missing monarch

The library without books

San Antonio’s BiblioTech offers computers, Internet access, and technology classes, Jeff Glor reports at Cnet, but zero books — no printed books that is.

The library lends out inexpensive e-readers, permits downloads from home, and conducts technology classes.

The library is the brainchild of Judge Nelson Wolff who says BiblioTech costs less to operate than traditional libraries. It needs less space and fewer workers. “We’re able to focus more on patrons and community outreach and we don’t have to do the physical processing of the books,” said head librarian Ashley Eklof.

Bookless libraryPlenty of screens but zero books in Bexar County  library. (Credit: Bexar Bibliotech)

The bookless library(Credit: Bexar Bibliotech)

Bookless library
Alma Alexander

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Gifts: Books are Best

This is the time of year when gift books suggestions and “best of” lists begin to appear.

io9 offers us: “Holiday Gift Books for Lovers of Science and Science Fiction”


Earth from spaceEarth from Space: This is an incredible collection of satellite photography of the Earth, revealing gorgeous patterns and incredible landscapes.

SF & Fantasy

Middle EarthMiddle Earth Envisioned: This unique and richly-illustrated book explores the artistic legacy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s series, from the world of theater to painting. It’s a great homage to the books, and will introduce fans to adaptations they’ve probably never heard of.

For Sci abd SciFi lovers

In the Guardian, writers and critics recommend the books that impressed them this year

Barbara Kingsolver

The Golem and the DjinniThe Golem and the Djinni

I love surprise finds, so I’ll recommend two debut novels that swept me away. The Golem and the Djinni by Helene Wecker (Blue Door), has the detailed realism of historical fiction, the haunting feel of a folk tale, and is one of only two novels I’ve ever loved whose main characters are not human. (The other was The White Bone by Barbara Gowdy.) And Susan Nussbaum’s Good Kings, Bad Kings (out in March 2014 from Oneworld Publications) is a ferociously honest, funny, completely unstoppable trip through an institutionally corrupt home for disabled teenagers. I had no intention of going where they took me. That’s the thrill of fiction.

Authors and critics recommend

The Best Books of 2013

The Washington Post selected the “10 best books of the year, 100 notable works of fiction and nonfiction, 5 best photography books, 6 best audiobooks, 10 best graphic novels and more.”

Ten Best Books
The best

In Canada, the Toronto Globe offered its “Globe 100 guide to the year’s best books.”

The Globe picks
Toronto Globe picks

Princess Bride memoir

Cary Elwes, lead actor of cult 1980s movie, will publish an account of making the postmodern fairy story

As You Wish: Tales From the Princess Bride apparently arose from Elwes’ enjoyment of a 25th-anniversary screening of the film at the New York film festival in 2012, The Guardian reports.

The Princess BrideLovers in arms … Cary Elwes and Robin Wright in The Princess Bride. Photograph: Ronald Grant Archive

As you wish

Famous Novelists on Symbolism in Their Work and Whether It Was Intentional

It was 1963, and 16-year-old Bruce McAllister was sick of symbol-hunting in English class, Lucas Reilly” reports in Mental Floss. Rather than quarrel with his teacher, he went straight to the source: McAllister mailed a crude, four-question survey to 150 novelists, asking if they intentionally planted symbolism in their work. Seventy-five authors responded. Here’s what 12 of them had to say.

What they said
Alma Alexander

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Authors as hucksters

Nowadays, you aren’t likely to find a famous novelist shilling for their favorite brand, Emily Temple writes for Flavorwire. For one thing, most writers just aren’t as recognizable as your average actor, and for another, well, they’re artists.

But it wasn’t always that way: quite a few writers have appeared in advertisements over the years, even lending their own words to support a product.

Mark Twain, pen salesmanMark Twain for Paul E. Wirt fountain pens

Yep, Ernest Hemingway and John Steinbeck: both sellouts. We kid, we kid. After the jump, check out a few famous writers selling everything from alcohol to… well, it’s mostly alcohol.  

Authors in ads

What else do readers of Alma Alexander read?

It seems that I am in some very good company. But there are some surprises – I am further away from SOME I would have thought to be a good match and closer to others I wouldn’t immediately have picked…

The company I keep
Their first book

Writing a book is a daunting task, Sandra Allen writes for Buzzfeed, writing a first book seems especially so.

First bookAnd yet despite so many obstacles, books do get published, lots of books — over 2,000,000 worldwide in 2011 alone, by one estimate. Here, 21 successful writers share the stories of their first published books, complete with many false starts, debacles with agents and publishers, and advice they’d travel through time to give their younger selves.

First book

Clever Signs That Will Make You Want To Buy A Book

Kaleido Books in Perth, Australia really makes an art out of shop signage, Aaron Calvin of Buzzfeed informs us.

Chalk boarda-geek-without-braces.tumblr.com /

Chalk board sign
Chalk board 3scontent-b-lga.xx.fbcdn.net / Via Facebook: KaleidoBooks

Book signs

50 Books to Read Before You Die

A selection of books from List Challenges that can be found on a stainless steel bookmark available in most book stores.

I’ve read 39 of the 50, including all of the classics on the list. The ones I failed on were the more Americentric ones.

But there are many books that *I* would have included, sometimes instead of the ones selected, for a list like this… things like “Dune” and “Left hand of Darkness” and quite possibly “A Wrinkle in Time” instead of something like “His Dark Materials”, if you want to pick genre.

But also Oscar Wilde’s fairy tales, possibly instead of the iconic Dorian Gray, and things like “Black Lamb Gray Falcon” by Rebecca West and books by Nobel Literature prizewinners, books like “Kristin Lavransdatter”and “Bridge on the Drina”. Does a book have to be familiar enough to induce a yawn when you see the title for it to qualify as being a book that you have to read before you die…?

50 books to read

In the digital age the period has become aggressive

The period was always the humblest of punctuation marks, but recently, it’s started getting angry, Ben Crairsays says in the New Republic.

You text your girlfriend: “I know we made a reservation for your bday tonight but wouldn’t it be more romantic if we ate in instead?” If she replies,

    we could do that

Then you can ring up Papa John’s and order something special. But if she replies,

    we could do that.

Then you should probably drink a cup of coffee: You’re either going out or you’re eating Papa John’s alone.

On text and instant message, it seems, punctuation marks have largely been replaced by the line break.

No period
Alma Alexander

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First They Were Bedtime Stories

Before these classic children’s books ended up on your kid’s shelf, they were told to children tucked in bed, Stacy Conradt writes in Mental Floss.

Pippi coverImage courtesy of Amazon

Pippi Longstocking and her famous plaits were born when Astrid Lindgren’s daughter Karin was bedridden due to an illness. “Tell me a story about Pippi Longstocking,” Karin told her mother, pulling a funny name out of thin air. “Since the name was remarkable, it had to be a remarkable girl,” Lindgren later said. Her own bed rest due to a sprained ankle inspired Lindgren to put the story down on paper in 1944, and Pippi was published in 1945.

Image cbabar coverCourtesy of Amazon

In 1930, Mathieu de Brunhoff told his mother he wasn’t feeling well. To help him feel better, Cecile de Brunhoff told little Mathieu and his brother a story about an orphaned elephant visiting Paris. Excited about the tale, the boys repeated it to their book illustrator father the next day, who thought the story had legs as a children’s book. Although it was slated to be published in 1931 with a byline for both Jean and Cecile, Cecile declined to take any credit, saying her role in creating the classic character was negligible.

The origins of some children’s books are bittersweet. Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Graham, for example.

Grahame began The Wind in the Willows as a bedtime story for his young son, Alastair, which he later continued over a series of letters while Alastair was away at boarding school. But this may not be as charming as it sounds—some historians suggest that Grahame hid behind the stories in order to avoid dealing with his son’s emotional issues. For example, after Alastair begged his parents to allow him to visit for his birthday, Kenneth wrote, “I wish we could have all been together, but we shall meet again soon and then we shall have treats. Have you heard about the Toad? He was never taken prisoner by brigands at all. It was all a low trick of his…”

While attending Oxford in 1920, Alastair committed suicide by lying down on nearby train tracks and letting an oncoming train decapitate him.

Bedtime stories
Bizarre Publishing Stories of 24 Famous Authors

Had a rejection lately? Feeling blue?… try browsing these stories. Smith Publicity has a fun webpage. “We tell stories anonymously so you can guess who it may have been.,” Brian Smith says.  “Then you hover your mouse over the card and it tells you which author it was.”

For example:
Criticized by his fellow writers for not being educated. Took over ten years to gain credibility and respect. Second most quoted writer. Who was that?

Well, I’ll give you that one:
But who is the FIRST ‘most quoted writer’???  Oscar Wilde, mayhap…? Mark Twain? Who?

Rejection Blues

London to Get Benches Depicting Famous Books

London is one of the most touristed cities in the world — some 3.4 million people visited our fair city in the first three months of 2013. During the spring and summer you can hardly walk down the sidewalk without tripping over a gaggle of tourists. Now, the literary charity National Literary Trust, “an independent charity tackling low literacy levels,” in partnership with Wild in Art (specialists in public art sculpture trails), is planning to add 50-70 “BookBenches” to London’s landscape, shaped like and depicting scenes from famous books.

Book bench frontBook bench illustrated







Book bench

How they become their favorite fictional characters

Psychologists have discovered that while reading a book or story, Christine Hsu tells us in Medical Daily, people are prone to subconsciously adopt the behavior, thoughts, and beliefs of fictional characters as if they were their own.

Stories written in the first-person can temporarily transform the way readers view the world, themselves and other social groups.

You are the character

Dog Eats Student’s Homework, Requires Surgery

You knew it had to happen sometime, didn’t you?

Watch the video

The dog ate my homework

Real doesn’t mean raw

Many writers use incidents from real life in their writing, Patricia C. Wrede blogs, but it really happened’ is a terrible justification for doing anything in a novel if it’s the only justification for doing it.

There are a number of reasons for this, first and foremost the fact that real life doesn’t have to have a coherent plot (or make any sense at all, actually).

A lot of beginning writers find this more than a little confusing. They have been told repeatedly that real life is material; if it’s material, then surely it should go into their stories! What they don’t realize is that real life is raw material.

If you want to build a car, you don’t slap a bunch of iron ore, some sand, a rubber tree, and a couple of cows together and call it good; you have to take the raw materials and turn them into steel and glass and rubber and leather, and then into car parts and windshields and tires and seats, and then you have to put all those pieces together in the right places. Then you finally have a car.

Read the whole blog
Alma Alexander

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The Absence Of Serendipity…

…Or, Why Tim Worstall Hates Shopping At Amazon.

It’s an intensely irritating way to buy a book, he writes in Forbes.

Cheap, yes, convenient, most assuredly, but intensely irritating. For I’m almost never going out to buy a book that I know that I want to read. I am, rather, browsing to try and find one that I do want to read. And that is something fueled almost entirely by serendipity and in my case it’s what makes second hand bookshops near to nirvana.

Being able to flip through the first couple of pages of twenty to forty books, spotting the pile of mouldering 50s sci-fi pulps, shying from the radioactive evil of the chick lit shelves, it is this browsing that has done more to introduce me to new and interesting authors and or genres than anything else. And try as I might I cannot gain that same experience from Amazon…

Amazon and the Absence of Serendipity

A Box of Otherworldly Notes

A friend of Reddit user TramStopDan found a box discarded on the street next to the trash. When he managed to open it, Dan found a mind-boggling collection of posters, illustrations, text, maps, technical drawings and personal belongings.

So let’s take a peek at what he found…

Found in the box“It seems that the artist saw something in Tampa, FL in 1977 that changed him … This appears to be an early sketch of the event”.

Apparently the guy went slightly insane over finding extraterrestrials in the bible, TramStopDan says. He was obsessed with “living creatures” described in Ezekiel 10 that are described as having four faces: ‘the first face was the face of a cherub, and the second face was the face of a man, and the third the face of a lion, and the fourth the face of an eagle.’ I guess he really wanted for that to be an alien encounter.

A mysterious box

Maya Angelou the star at National Book Awards

Accepting the Literarian Award for Outstanding Service to the American Literary Community, Angelou dazzled the crowd, Ron Hogan reports for Shelf Awareness.

For over 40 years, I have tried to tell the truth as I understand it,” she said. “I haven’t tried to tell everything I know, but I’ve tried to tell the truth.” And, she noted, “easy reading is damn hard writing.”

James McBride, who won the award for Fiction, recalled a moment several years ago when E.L. Doctorow had spoken out against the war in Iraq during a commencement speech and was booed. To his regret, McBride said, he had done nothing. He then cited one of the key figures in his novel, the 19th-century radical abolitionist John Brown, as a “great American,” and added: “E.L. Doctorow, Toni Morrison, Maya Angelou… they’re our John Browns.”

E.L. Doctorow received the National Book Foundation’s Medal for Distinguished Contribution to American Letters. Mary Szybist won the National Book Award for Poetry, George Packer for Nonfiction, and Cynthia Kadohata for YA Literature.James

Atlantis Found?

Giant Pyramids and Sphinxes have been found in The Bermuda Triangle, a story at Altering Perspectives claims.

Two scientists using a robot submersible say that a gigantic city exists at the bottom of the ocean off the coast of Cuba. The story says “evidence points to the city being simultaneously inundated with rising waters and the land sinking into the sea. This correlates exactly with the Atlantis legend.

Artists interpretation AtlantisArtist’s rendering of the ‘city’

The disaster may have occurred at the end of the last Ice Age. As the Arctic icecap catastrophically melted it caused sea levels to rise quickly around the world, especially affecting the Northern Hemisphere. Coast lines changed; land was lost; islands (even island continents) disappeared.

Atlantis found?

Is the Internet Conscious?

Where consciousness come from is a question that’s perplexed philosophers for centuries and scientists for decades. How it arises from chemistry and electricity in our brains is an unsolved mystery.

Neuroscientist Christof Koch, chief scientific officer at the Allen Institute for Brain Science, thinks he might know the answer, according to a story in Wired. According to Koch, consciousness arises within any sufficiently complex, information-processing system. All animals, from humans on down to earthworms, are conscious; even the internet could be. That’s just the way the universe works.

Is the Internet Conscious?

World’s Biggest Bookstore to close

Chapters World’s Biggest Bookstore will close in February because the downtown Toronto site is being sold to a developer, Shelf Awareness reports.

World's biggest
Biggest bookstore closing

Frescoes may show early women priests

The Vatican has unveiled frescoes in the Catacombs of Priscilla said by some to show women priests in the early Christian church, Nicole Winfield reports for the AP.

The labyrinthine cemetery complex stretching for kilometers underneath northern Rome is known as the “Queen of the catacombs” because it features burial chambers of popes and a tiny, delicate fresco of the Madonna nursing Jesus dating from around 230-240 A.D., the earliest known image of the Madonna and Child.

More controversially, the catacomb tour features two scenes said by proponents of the women’s ordination movement to show women priests:

Woman priest?One features a group of women celebrating a banquet. Another fresco in a richly decorated burial chamber features a woman, dressed in a dalmatic — a cassock-like robe — with her hands up in the position used by priests for public worship.

Early women priests?
Alma Alexander

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Homes with Libraries — for billionaires

Sotheby’s International Realty listings with libraries worth studying.

Ellison BayEllison Bay, Wisconsin: Sitting on a bluff overlooking Lake Michigan, this home has a grand parlor, 14-seat theater, indoor pool and two-story wood paneled library. Only $8,750,000.

Morgan estateLos Altos Hills, California: The Morgan Estate was built in 1914. One of the finest examples of Tudor and Jacobean revival architecture in the United States, the manse has a library with mahogany shelves, fabric-lined walls and a hidden wall-mounted television. It will cost you a bit more — $27,000,000.

Homes with libraries

The sun never rises…

… in the Beinecke Rare Book and Manuscript Library in Yale University, home to 500,000 volumes of rare books and several million manuscripts, Dan Lewis tells us in Now I Know.

One of the biggest problems with caring for old books is that they will, over time, disintegrate. The library’s job? Slow down that process as much as possible. The solutions: gas, freezers, and no sunlight.

The windows are made of stone — translucent marble which glows when illuminated but protects the interior from direct sunlight. (

glass stoneDuring the day, the Beinecke Library’s walls turn amber if you’re inside.

A glass tower filled with the rarest books is air-tight to slow disintegration. Bookworms once infested the column and the typical solution — an airborne insecticide — wasn’t viable in an enclosed, air-tight space. The librarians decided to freeze (and then thaw) all the books.

Protecting the books

A ‘Lord of the Rings’-type world

Mystery humans spiced up ancients’ rampant sex lives, Genome analysis suggests interbreeding between modern humans, Neanderthals, Denisovans and a mysterious archaic population, Ewen Callaway writes in Nature.

What it begins to suggest is that we’re looking at a ‘Lord of the Rings’-type world — that there were many hominid populations,” said Mark Thomas, an evolutionary geneticist.

The ancient genomes, one from a Neanderthal and one from a different archaic human group, the Denisovans, were presented at a meeting at the Royal Society in London. They suggest that interbreeding went on between the members of several ancient human-like groups living in Europe and Asia more than 30,000 years ago, including an as-yet unknown human ancestor from Asia.

Denisova_cave_excavationAn excavation in Denisova cave in Siberia, Russia, where remains of Denisovan hominins were first discovered. RIA NOVOSTI/SPL

Our sexy ancestors
Alma Alexander

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