The art of time travel

I time travel quite a bit.

No, seriously, I do. It’s cheap and you can do it whenever you want, really. So long as you have photographs….

My father, the great photographer and organizer, died last year. While he was still with us I did a time capsule for him…here he was seventeen. Here he was in his twenties, and then in his late twenties and a soldier in uniform … one when he met my mother and then in his early thirties holding toddler me in his arms, and then in his forties still young and full of gung-ho optimism about the world flying out into adventure under the flag of the United Nations into Africa with wife and daughter in tow – and him in his fifties, and then his sixties, and then the later ones, in his seventies, thin and spare and white-haired…

…This is a time machine for the soul. And it looks back, only back

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Five hundred new fairytales
King Golden HairSpinning a yarn … King Golden Hair – Illustration: Barbara Stefan

A whole new world of magic animals, brave young princes and evil witches has come to light with the discovery of 500 new fairytales, which were locked away in an archive in Regensburg, Germany for over 150 years, Victoria Sussens-Messerer reports in The Guardian.

The tales are part of a collection of myths, legends and fairytales, gathered by the local historian Franz Xaver von Schönwerth (1810–1886) in the Bavarian region of Oberpfalz at about the same time as the Grimm brothers were collecting the fairytales that have since charmed adults and children around the world.

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Curch BookstoreImages courtesy of Joop van Putten and Hans Westerink

Medieval cathedral converted into a book shop

Completed in 2013, the 15th-century cathedral has been converted into a modern book store and can be found in Zwolle, The Netherlands. It spans over three floors and includes a shop in the former church building.

The architect radically changed the interior design of the 547-year-old Gothic building, but had to ensure they left the original features, such as the pipe organ, stained glass windows and decor intact.
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The Secrets of Jin-shei, my novel about a world based on an Imperial China that never was, has been out in 13 languages for a few years now, but is still getting new reviews.

Just yesterday, a woman in Colombia posted a review on Amazon saying: “The book is beautiful, touching, sad, sweet and magical.”

I love it when a reader discovers a book of mine like this… and makes it young again.

28 Brilliant Works Of Literary Graffiti

Daniel Dalton of BuzzFeed collects examples of graffiti from Animal Farm to Slaughterhouse-Five.
Alice In WonderlandAlice’s Adventures In Wonderland – Lewis Carroll. London, UK.

Samuel BeckettSamuel Beckett – Camden, London.

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Secrets of the Creative Brain

A leading neuroscientist who has spent decades studying creativity, shares her research on where genius comes from, whether it is dependent on high IQ—and why it is so often accompanied by mental illness.

Nancy AndreasNancy Andreasen

Doing good science is simply the most pleasurable thing anyone can do, one scientist told me,” Nancy Andreasen says in an article in the Atlantic. “It is like having good sex. It excites you all over and makes you feel as if you are all-powerful and complete.”

Among those who ended up losing their battles with mental illness through suicide are Virginia Woolf, Ernest Hemingway, Vincent van Gogh, John Berryman, Hart Crane, Mark Rothko, Diane Arbus, Anne Sexton, and Arshile Gorky.

Some people see things others cannot, and they are right, and we call them creative geniuses. Some people see things others cannot, and they are wrong, and we call them mentally ill.

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Whence fantasy?

I was born on the same continent that gave us the stories, legends, myths, and fairy tales that underlie things like Lord of the Rings, Narnia, Wheel of Time, and, hell yeah why not, Game of Thrones (yeah, Khal Drogo. But the Dothraki have a definite patina of Here Be Exotics…)

Those, and more, and any number of EFPs (Extruded Fantasy Product).

The definition of classical fantasy rests on people taking long journeys on tree-lined dirt roads with European seasons hanging in the tree tops and the clouds, and stopping for bathroom breaks in generic Ye Olde Inns with ale on tap and the generic stew bubbling in a cauldron over the fire. It is entirely surprising that Europe never ran out of rabbits, the amount of stews that were on the boil all the time. And we won’t talk about the Magic Potatoes which make their way into European stews while their real life counterparts still existed only in Hy Breasil or whatever they called that land far beyond the western ocean…

The thing accepted as and feted as classic fantasy is rich but it has been very well mined. And so it is not surprising that so many readers are looking for places and things and stories which *they haven’t seen before* — the “silk road” fantasy oeuvre. Anything that isn’t obviously rooted in the cheerfully misrepresented and romanticized European High Middle Ages.

Embers of Heaven


I didn’t set out to write that, but my “Secrets of Jin Shei” and “Embers of Heaven” were set THERE, a mythical land inspired by imperial China rather than anywhere closer to home.

Yes, it made things more difficult because there was THAT much more research that needed to be done before I could be comfortable telling a story set in a milieu so distant from my own cultural heritage.





Similarly, my Worldweavers books take place in the U.S. and are infused with Native American myths. And my new series, The Were Chronicles, invokes modern life in The New World by Weres far distant from their ancient European roots.

But dammit, it’s worth it, when the resulting stories shine with a brighter glow. It is ALL our world, after all, and it is high time some cultural shut-ins learned that there is more out there than just stew in inns crewed by the likes of jolly red-cheeked Butterbur of Bree.

Speaking from the inevitably Euro-based divide that dictates standards of beauty – which is all too prevalent, in both fantasy and Real Life (TM) – It is high time that it was accepted that a woman whose heritage is South East Asian or Central African, rather than red-haired Celtic, can, should, and must be called beautiful too – and may step up to the adventure gate in her own right.

It is high time that we looked at “other” and saw something worthy of curiosity and honor and respect rather than just the differences that frighten and repel and lead to dehumanization and slaughter. It is high time we all learned… how to  be human together. It is time the OTHER stories get told. Make room by the fire, there – those of you who have had plenty of chances to speak – and learn how to listen, instead.

Paul Weirmer explores the same thing at SF Signal

Silk Road Fantasy and Breaking the Great Wall of Europe

Wolf on the Steppes


Tired of nearly every secondary world fantasy being set in a world that seems to borrow only from Medieval Europe, especially Western Europe? Most especially Northwestern Europe (England, France, perhaps the Low Countries)? … So am I. And I’d like to tell you about fantasy that transcends that barrier.


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From Stand-Up to Twitter, a New Generation’s Fresh Take on Storytelling

If we make it through this time of climate crisis and economic upheaval, the new storytellers will deserve some of the credit, Sarah van Gelder writes at Yes! Magazine.

The new storytellers are writers, poets, musicians, documentarians, radio producers, and others who are reporting the story of a new world being built around the frayed edges of the old….a new society is emerging from the bottom up, born of the hopes and hard work of many people who have been excluded from the old society and who yearn for a more just and life-affirming world.

arundhatiArundhati Roy said it beautifully at the World Social Forum in 2003: “Another world is not only possible, she’s on the way and, on a quiet day, if you listen very carefully you can hear her breathe.”


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Every cliche you know about a woman’s handbag is probably true.

I am just SO not a fashion bunny, not the Duchess of Cambridge who has to have a matching bag and shoes. I have been carrying the same damn bag – season in, season out – for, uh, well, yeah, years.

The other day I decided that I  wanted a change, hauledl out another bag, and started to transfer stuff.

Ho. Ly. Cow.

I found receipts in there dated. 2013. 2012 … 2008, and some so faded that they were blank. At the very bottom of the bag there was a folded piece of paper which was the itinerary for when my aunt came over to visit from Europe… almost four years ago.

There was a charger for a defunct cellphone, and a silver cigarette lighter engraved to my Dad for winning a chess toiurnament which I nicked just after he died as a memento fully intending to put it somewhere safe when i got home. My father has been gone for almost a year now.

I felt a little like Mary Poppins, half convinced that the next thing I was going to pull out was a Tiffany floor lamp.

Speaking of Mary Poppins…
Mary PoppinsAunt Sass in fiction … Julie Andrews in the 1964 film of Mary Poppins. Photograph: Everett Collection/Rex

The real-life model for Mary Poppins will be published this autumn

The tale of ‘stern and tender’ Aunt Sass appears in a PL Travers story originally written as a private Christmas gift, Alison Flood writes in The Guardian. The resemblance to Travers’ most famous creation, the nanny whose spoonful of sugar made the medicine go down for the Banks children, is no coincidence.

Travers writes in the previously unpublished story about the moment she heard of her aunt’s death. “I thought to myself, ‘Some day, in spite of her, I shall commit the disrespectful vulgarity of putting Aunt Sass in a book.’ And then it occurred to me that this had already been done, though unconsciously and without intent. We write more than we know we are writing. We do not guess at the roots that made our fruit. I suddenly realised that there is a book through which Aunt Sass, stern and tender, secret and proud, anonymous and loving, stalks with her silent feet,” wrote the author. “You will find her occasionally in the pages of Mary Poppins.”

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Sergeant Milunka Savic stands her ground

In 1912, when Milunka Savic was 24, her brother was called up to serve in the first Balkan War, Therese Oneill writes at Mental Floss.

We’re not sure if Milunka took his place or just went along, but we do know that she assumed a male identity and became a highly decorated soldier in the Serbian army.

Sergeant Milunka SavicShe apparently kept her gender a secret through the First Balkan War and into the Second, when a Bulgarian grenade wounded her so severely that her gender was revealed to the field surgeons.

Sgt. Savic was called before her commanding officer. They didn’t want to punish her, because she had proven a valuable and highly competent soldier. The military deployment that had resulted in her gender being revealed had been her tenth. But neither was it suitable for a young woman to be in combat. She was offered a transfer to the Nursing division.

Savic stood at attention and insisted she only wanted to fight for her country as a combatant. The officer said he’d think it over and give her his answer the next day.

Still standing at attention, Savic responded, “I will wait.”

It is said he only made her stand an hour before agreeing to send her back to the infantry.

She fought for Serbia through World War I, receiving honors from several different governments for her distinguished service. Some believe her to be the most decorated female in the history of warfare. She was decommissioned in 1919 and fell into a life of relative obscurity and hardship. She died in Belgrade in 1973 at the age of 84.

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Amazon Manifest Destiny?

“I’m here to tell you that working with the power who is out to destroy you will never, ever end well,” Aaron John Curtis says. Mohawk by birth, he offers ten reasons why Amazon’s takeover of online retail mirrors the slaughter of Native Americans.
tobacco-david-and-goliathThe “Threat” Will Take Care of Itself

Some tribes, upon seeing the European’s appetite for tobacco consumption, believed there was no “white problem.”  Left to their own devices, Europeans would smoke themselves to death before they did any permanent damage.

When Amazon began gobbling up book sales, some indie booksellers opined that Amazon was too large.  It would overreach, expand too far too fast, and succumb to the sprightly indies who could respond more quickly to changes in the marketplace.

Hey, guess what?  The spry booksellers and Just Say Nohawks were both wrong.

mexico-cityUrban nightmare (Mexico City)

The End Game
    “Your people are driven by a terrible sense of deficiency. When the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted; when to breathe the air is sickening, you will realize, too late, that wealth is not in bank accounts and that you can’t eat money.”Alanis Obomsawin, Abenaki Nation

Amazon’s Manifest Destiny

The Power of Cherokee Women

Cherokee Mother-and-ChildEuropeans were astonished to see that Cherokee women were the equals of men—politically, economically and theologically, Carolyn Johnston, author of Cherokee Women in Crisis, says.

“Women had autonomy and sexual freedom, could obtain divorce easily, rarely experienced rape or domestic violence, worked as producers/farmers, owned their own homes and fields, possessed a cosmology that contains female supernatural figures, and had significant political and economic power,” she writes.

“Cherokee women’s close association with nature, as mothers and producers, served as a basis of their power within the tribe, not as a basis of oppression. Their position as ‘the other’ led to gender equivalence, not hierarchy.”

Cherokee Women

This Is Your Brain on Writing

alma writing rik-Durham-reverse-layup









A novelist scrawling away in a notebook in seclusion may not seem to have much in common with an NBA player doing a reverse layup on a basketball court before a screaming crowd, Carl Zimmer writes in the New York Times. But if you could peer inside their heads, you might see some striking similarities in how their brains were churning.

That’s one of the implications of new research on the neuroscience of creative writing. For the first time, neuroscientists have used fMRI scanners to track the brain activity of both experienced and novice writers as they sat down — or, in this case, lay down — to turn out a piece of fiction.”

Your Brain on Writing

Rejected Princesses

Wu ZetianWu Zetian

Introducing Wu Zetian, first and only Empress of China — seen here poisoning her infant daughter, Imgur tells us.

Now, that’s actually a bit of a historical inaccuracy, we’re told: the generally-accepted truth was that she *strangled* her young daughter, to frame the old queen and get her out of the way. It worked — both the old queen and the old queen’s mother were executed.

From there, she ascended to be Emperor Gaozong’s predominant consort, and set about eradicating all other claimants to the throne. Early on, her method of choice was a slow-acting poison. As time went on and her influence grew, however, she took to engineering treason charges for her opponents, summoning them to the throne room and making them kill themselves in front of her.

More Rejected Princesses

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The only regret I will have in dying is if it is not for love.” ~ García Márquez , Love in the Time of Cholera

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Who invented…?

How authors from Dickens to Dr Seuss invented the words we use every day

The English language didn’t just spring from nowhere, Paul Dickson notes at The Guardian. So who introduced such gems as cojones, meme, nerd, butterfingers, gremlin, and Jin-shei?

Well, OK, that last one is mine and certainly doesn’t have the currency of nerd. But I have seen it used to mean ‘sisters of the heart’ by some of my readers.
AuthorsWordsmiths: Charles Dickens, George Eliot, Dorothy Parker and Ernest Hemingway are all the surprising sources of some of our everyday words. Getty Images/Alamy/Sportsphoto Ltd – Allstar/Guardian montage

As for “butterfingers,” Charles Dickens used the term in his 1836 The Pickwick Papers (more properly called The Posthumous Papers of the Pickwick Club): “At every bad attempt at a catch, and every failure to stop the ball, he launched his personal displeasure at the head of the devoted individual in such denunciations as ‘Ah, ah!—stupid’—’Now, butter-fingers’—’Muff’— ‘Humbug’—and so forth.”

Invented words

The modern history of swearing: Where all the dirtiest words come from

As society evolves, so do our curse words, Melissa Mohr writes at Salon. Here’s how some of the most famous ones developed — and a few new ones.
Bad word(Credit: Imgorthand via iStock)

History of %#@^*)

104 Famous Novels With Catchy First Lines

The opening lines of a novel can prove crucial, and many authors spend an inordinate amount of time considering how their books will begin.

From Dickens’s A Tale of Two Cities to Melville’s Moby Dick, often the opening sentence or two of a book will become the most frequently quoted and iconic passage from the entire novel. This list from has the best novels with great first lines, bound to make the best impression on readers. e.g.
Dawn Treader“There was a boy called Eustace Clarence Scrubb, and he almost deserved it.” ~ The Voyage of the Dawn Treader

How many do you know?

Opening lines.

35 brilliant short books Anyone can find the time to read

If you lead a busy life, Alex Morris muses at Lifehack, then settling down to read a book may seem unfeasible. But you can find solace in the less demanding world of novellas that despite their diminutive nature,  have amassed many classics. Here are 35 such books anyone can find the time to read.




The Call of the Wild by Jack LondonA tale of primitive reawakening. Buck, a domesticated dog, grows increasingly wild after he is stolen from his owner. An exhilarating read.







Themes of humanity and reality run throughout as protagonist Rick Deckard hunts down humanlike replicants. The film Blade Runner is loosely based on Dick’s novella.




Books for harried readers

Famous Authors’ Most Dramatic Breakups

Former schoolmates and lifelong besties Charlotte Brontë and Ellen Nussey traded more than 500 letters during their friendship, Alison Nastasi writes at Flavorwire.

In 1839, nearly a decade before Brontë’s Jane Eyre was published, Nussey’s brother Henry proposed marriage to the author. She rejected him in a letter, which the website Brain Pickings perfectly describes as “a bold defiance of oppressive gender ideals, packaged as the ultimate it’s-not-you-it’s-me gentle letdown. Leave it to the wildly creative literary types to pen the best breakup letters.”

Not a breakup exactly, but a fascinating story nevertheless:







Emily Dickinson and Otis Phillips Lord: Dickinson was a recluse, but a romance with her father’s close friend revealed another side of her. Otis Phillips Lord traded a series of passionate letters with the author after his wife died. Dickinson was 47 at the time. “I will not wash my arm, twill take your touch away,” she penned at one point. “I confess that I love him — I rejoice that I love him. . . .“ Lord died months later, closing the chapter of their relationship most dramatically.

Breakup letters

Bookshop memories: your pictures and stories

When The Guardian asked readers to share anecdotes and photos of their favourite independent bookshops, the stories poured in. From romance surrounded by Shakespeare to an encounter with a falconry-loving policeman, here is a selection of the best bookshop memories.
SebastionPhotograph: Katrina Shilton/GuardianWitness

From Foyles with Love, by Katrina Shilton – “My six year old bibliophile boy, Sebastian, discovers a copy of my book in Foyles, the only non-online bookshop in the world to stock it.

Bookshop memories

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Fantasy, the new science?

Science in fantasy novels is more accurate than in science fiction, Annalee Newitz postulates at io9. (See link below.)
dragonImage by Todd Lockwood from the cover of Marie Brennan’s Voyage of the Basilisk

As a fantasy writer, I’m not unbiased, but I think that is absolutely true.

Hard science fiction can fall into one of two traps: either it becomes infatuated with its own tropes and throws in things that LOOK scientific but could not possibly be, or it finds it has to break known science rules because otherwise the story it is trying to tell crumbles.

For example, if a story takes place in more than one star system, it depends on FTL space travel. Without Faster Than Light travel, it is arrant nonsense because of all the relativity issues, and because the speed of light does not permit easy back and forth travel between suns on a time scale that is compatible to human participation.

The genre itself thus falls lower on a scale of science than a really good well researched self-consistent fantasy which postilates a science that may be science of magic, but still a science with its own rules — and it then STICKS to those rules and does not break them. Marie Brennan’s “Natural History of Dragons” is a beautiful example of this.

In the Were Chronicles, my new Young Adult series, I’m going back to my own science roots and working out the genetics of the Were phenomenon – exactly how humans turn into beasts.

It’s been fascinating. I hope the readers are going to agree. Book 1 of the new series, “Random”, will be published this fall. But it’s in book 2 that the real science of my story spreads its wings and flies. It’s worth waiting for…

Scientific fantasy

40 Coolest Sci-Fi Book Covers

Cool coversThe science fiction book cover is a hard one to get right.

Shortlist has picked some of the very best sci-fi book covers, ones that are “exciting, clever, vivid and unforgettable.” Do you agree with their choices?
After the RainAfter The Rain, Author: John Bowen
Copied a million times over by Hollywood disaster movies, this artwork by an unknown artist for Bowen’s 1958 novel is a classic science fiction image – a stricken Statue of Liberty with arm aloft above violent and energetic waters.

Cool covers

The Green City
Green LondonThis isn’t a Utopian Vision,” Annalee Newitz says at io9 about my favorite city in the world, “it’s actually what London is like today.”

There’s a common sense idea that cities are the opposite of nature. And yet if you look at this visualization of green space and gardens in London, what you’ll find is that this giant metropolis contains more plants and wildlife than buildings.

London is an incredibly diverse place. 8.3 million humans speaking 300 languages share the city with 13,000 wild species as well as lots of cats and dogs. You may be excused of thinking there was not much space for all these Londoners, but 60% of London is open land and 47% of Greater London is green. As well as the 3,000 parks, 142 local nature reserves, 36 sites of special scientific interest, 4 UNESCO World Heritage Sites and 2 National Nature Reserves within the city’s limits, there are 3.8 million private gardens. For its size, London is one of the very greenest cities in the world.

Green London

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Dream Director Quits

The dream was the usual bizarrerie that inhabits my sleeping subconscious.

There was a – a – THING – there was a sort of pictogram I was loking at – the brown circles represented “normal” people and the green circles were another kind of “normal” people but the white circles were the rare outliers, the weird and special ones, the X-Men, if you like.

There I was in this warehouse-like space with a woman giving birth, and it was likely to a white circle person. I finally drifted outside of the structure because I was bored with waiting, and just as I wafted past an outside wall I heard a newborn baby cry out so I bolted back inside.

Up on a dais, a child was being held by a monstrous midwife – a huge mishappen blob of vaguely humanoid shape, its head a potato with mismatched eyes a la Picasso and fat cheeks and an open mouth which might have been smiling or else it was about to eat that child,. The thing was naked, one of its dugs hanging lower than the other, on its torso just above the baby that it was clutching in its white arms that were so fat-rolled they looked like the Michelin Man.

At this point I was informed by a disembodied voice that the person who usually directs these dreams had left to take up a better-paid position with a video game company. This actually explains a lot.

How to Quit Amazon and Shop in an Actual Bookstore

And why you damn well should
A real storetravisl90/Instagram

Purchasing print books in a brick-and-mortar building is something of a lost art, like taking snuff or drinking brandy after dinner, Stephen Marche writes in Esquire. But buying books in a bookstore is one of life’s great, quiet pleasures. It leads to the purchase of better books. It leads to a deeper relationship to reading. It is a joy in and of itself.

Therefore, for those who need reminding, and for those who perhaps are too young ever to have been in a bookstore, a short guide to buying books in them:

Buying books

The Absolute Worst Way to Teach Your Kids to Read

Reading kid

Apps that force kids to log book time as a way to earn Internet and TV access are a huge mistake, Laura Miller says at Alternet

Photo Credit: VP Photo Studio via


Recently, while cooling my heels at the airport, I overheard a boy of about 6 begging his mom to let him play with the family iPad. “No screen time until you do one hour of reading first,” was her reply. The child flung himself back in his seat and opened a paperback book with a disgruntled sigh.

I winced. Of course parents need to supervise their kids’ use of digital devices and the Internet. God only knows, plenty of adults have a hard enough time managing their own screen time, including people with a fundamental investment in literary culture, like novelists Zadie Smith (who uses the Internet-blocking software Freedom) and Jonathan Franzen (who has disabled the Ethernet portal on his writing computer. But there’s the rub: Reading should not be a chore.

Getting kids to read

30 of the Best Parents in Literature

Linda Rodriguez McRobbie picks the best parents in literature — and real life. One of her choices for Mental Floss is a biography.

Cheaper by the DozenThe Gilbreths // Cheaper By The Dozen by Frank Bunker Gilbreth, Jr., and Ernestine Gilbreth Carey

The Gilbreths were actual people, not fiction, and this charming book, published in 1948, is a biography written by their children. But—and we mean this as a compliment—the parents are so lovely as to almost seem made up. Frank Gilbreth and his wife, Lillian, are world-famous efficiency experts whose studies in time and motion changed the way people worked. If Frank had his way, they would have also changed the way people raised children, especially after their incredible fecundity produced 12 kids. Having an even dozen children meant that the Gilbreths could apply some of their expertise in their Montclair, New Jersey, home. Hilarity ensues, as does an overwhelming sense of warmth and happiness.

The two children wrote a follow up book, Belles on Their Toes, recounting what happened after Frank’s death in 1924, which left Lillian with a house full of children, the youngest just 2 years old, and a business to run. Mother Lillian managed to keep it all together, with good humor and warmth, and the book manages to stay away from the maudlin.

A Wrinkle in timeAlex and Kate Murry // A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle

Tesseracts are real, and Meg and Charles Murry’s scientist father has disappeared into one—and it’s up to these two brilliant but socially awkward children to save him. When it was published in 1962, A Wrinkle in Time was a sci-fi gift to all those nerdy kids out there for whom Star Trek hadn’t yet been invented. And the Murry parents—beautiful and smart microbiologist Kate and tesseract physicist Alex—made being scientists seem so cool. Who wouldn’t want parents like that?

Great parents

The real story behind the war over YA novels
Anti YA
KendraMillerPhotography/Flickr (CC BY N.D.-2.0)

Few categories of literature, S.E. Smith says at The Daily Dot, seem to receive the level of hatred reserved for young adult fiction. It is the subject of nearly endless editorials on its supposed inanity, excessive sexuality, darkness, and girlyness. It doesn’t escape notice that there’s a strong whiff of sexism underlying the wave of YA hate—the genre is heavily dominated by women, and female authors can recount their experiences with sexism first hand.

War on YA

Quiz – Can you identify the book from its map?

How well do you know your way around literature? Leonie Veerman asks at The Guardian. Have a look at these maps and find out if you know which fictional worlds they chart
Book map Which world?

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The heroic reader

The top 10 bookworms’ tales

From Hamlet through Helene Hanff to the Very Hungry Caterpillar, novelist Niall Williams browses the best books that manage to make heroes out of readers.

Don QuixotesDon Quixote by Miguel de Cervantes

In chapter one, Cervantes tells us that there is no Don Quixote. There is a man called Quexana who has read so many books about chivalry that he has lost his mind. He sells his land to buy books, renames himself Don Quixote and moves from Man of Reading to Man of Action. But he’s his own supreme fiction and part of the great joy of this astonishing book is that we know here is a bookworm who just happens to be now riding out on a horse with a lance.



Oscar WaoThe Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao by Junot Díaz

Perhaps the greatest recent addition to the humus of bookworms is Oscar Wao. Oscar’s family came from the Dominican Republic to New Jersey. He is a Casanova when he is seven and for one full beautiful week loves two girls, Maritza and Olga. But once his ménage a trois collapses, Oscar retreats from the known world and inhabits another. This one is found in the novels of Lovecraft, Wells, Burroughs, Howard, Alexander, Herbert, Asimov, and others, as well as the comic books that make up the Marvel universe. In Díaz’s brilliant narration Oscar’s bookwormery and general nerdiness are transformed into something utterly cool.


25 books to diversify kids’ reading lists

It can be easier to find talking pandas than characters of color, Aly Seidel says, noting that only six percent of children’s books published in 2012 featured diverse characters.

She has compiled 25 books that offer more choices.

The Christmas CoatThe Christmas Coat: Memories of My Sioux Childhood by Virginia Driving Hawk Sneve

As winter comes to Virginia’s reservation, she can’t wait for the charity boxes from the East, full of coats for the winter. However, her parents expect her to put other people’s needs before her own and she is devastated when her classmate takes the rabbit fur coat that Virginia wanted. This is a story about selflessness and the spirit of Christmas. Winner of the American Indian Youth Literature Award. (Ages 5+)

More diversity

The 23 Most Exciting Things To See In San Francisco During The Summer

The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” Thanks, Karl the Fog.

Exciting views from Buzzfeed
Golden GateMarin County is nice this time of the year, too. Be sure to check out the Golden Gate Bridge while you’re there!

So much to seeThere’s so much to see in the summer.

Summer views

Drink the book

Chemist Theresa Dankovich wanted to tackle a global problem from which 3.4 million people die annually – lack of clean water. She has been experimenting with a ‘book’ whose pages can filter water, killing 99.9 percent of bacteria, making it comparable to tap water in most of the U.S.
Drinkable bookEach page also has information on clean water and sanitation tips. The text is printed with nontoxic ink and will be in different languages depending on where the books are distributed. The cover of the book serves as the filter box.

Drink the book

Famous Authors Who Hated Each Other’s Writing

Mary McCarthy on Lillian Hellman: “Every word she writes is a lie, including ‘and’ and ‘the.'”

For every great author, there’s another great author eager to knock him or her down a few pegs. Although the writers on this map are typically deemed canonical by literary tastemakers, there wasn’t much mutual admiration amongst them.

Huffpost mapped out the rivalries and one-sided vendettas of many celebrated writers; just hover over an arrow between two authors to see a cutting insult directed by one to the other.
hate himAuthors hating authors

Quote of the Day

I’d rather go to an actual shop–preferably a small one–than to a harshly lit superstore, or, worse still, a website. I want beauty in my life. I want charm. I want contact with actual people. It is, for me, a large part of what makes life worth living.” ~ David Sedaris

Alma Alexander
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