Sincerely, John Updike

"James Schiff, an associate professor of English at the University of Cincinnati, is working on a volume of Updike’s letters and has unearthed thousands of letters, postcards, and notes the author sent to complete strangers who wrote to him." The Guardian writes about an in-progress book of John Updike's letters that reveals how often the writer corresponded with not only his contemporaries, like John Barth and Joyce Carol Oates, but his readers as well. See also: an essay about the personal and literary relationship between Barth and Updike.

The Poem Heard Round the World

"It’s really strange to have the success of a poem be so directly tied to people processing grief. It’s a strange thing, because it’s a blessing and a curse." The Rumpus interviews poet Maggie Smith about her new collection, Good Bones, her viral poem that shares its name, and her craft. From our archives: Smith's collection was featured in our round-up of October's Must-Read Poetry.

And the Kirkus Prize Goes to…

The winners of the 2017 Kirkus Prize have been announced: Lesley Nneka Arimah's What It Means When a Man Falls From the Sky for fiction; Jack E. Davis's The Gulf: The Making of an American Sea for non-fiction; and Cherie Dimaline's The Marrow Thieves for young reader's literature. See also: Arimah's short story collection was on our 2017 Great Book Preview.

A 20 Year Overnight Success

Joe Fassler interviews recent MacArthur Genius and Year-in-Reading alum Viet Thanh Nguyen on the myth of overnight success, balancing an academic career while still finding time to write novels and the sacrifices all writers must make. Over at Electric Literature.

Mary McCarthy’s Recycled Fiction

Perhaps best known for her fiction, specifically her classic The Group, Mary McCarthy became a novelist almost by chance. "McCarthy was good at recycling – a term which she used herself – and good, also, as she admitted, at plagiarizing her own life. Nevertheless, her fiction lives, and some of it has been highly influential."  Margaret Drabble takes us through McCarthy's major works of fiction, featured in Mary McCarthy: The Complete Fiction which was released this year in a deluxe collection for the very first time.

Civil War & Historical Stupidity

Ta-Nehisi Coates wants to make America less stupid about the Civil War. He recommends five books we should all read to gain a better understanding of American history during this war and assures us that "I’ve tried to think very hard about readability, and to offer books you might actually complete." So no excuses, start here
Curiosities, New Releases

Tuesday New Release Day: Alarcón; Allende; Gary; Stillman; Berry; Hallberg

Out this week: The King Is Always Above the People by Daniel Alarcón; In the Midst of Winter by Isabel Allende; The Kites by Romain Gary; Blood Brothers by Deanne Stillman; The Art of Loading Brush by Wendell Berry; and a new edition of our own Garth Risk Hallberg's A Field Guide to the North American Family. For more on these and other new titles, go read our most recent book preview.

96 Years Later

"Her storytelling is magical and profound, creating connectivity between people and places: a signal of hope at a particularly divided moment in time.” Joining the company of Margaret Atwood, David Mitchell, and Sjón, Turkish novelist Elif Şafak has been chosen as the fourth contributor for The Future Library Project. Şafak's novel, Three Daughters of Eve, was featured in the second-half of our 2017 Great Book Preview.

The Adventures of Getting Rich Quick

"[Mark] Twain wasn’t above the contrivances of capitalism, even as he skewered them. . . From nonage to dotage, in dire straits or in the pink, he was always a capricious entrepreneur, counting the zeroes on an imaginary balance sheet." The New Yorker writes about the humor writer's many failed attempts to get very rich. From our archives: Twain and the Wild West.

The Not-So-Invisible Man

"The novel is told from the perspective of an unnamed African-American narrator who considers himself to be socially invisible due to the color of his skin," writes Variety. Following in the footsteps of its adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale, Hulu is in the beginning stages of adapting Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man. Read our own editor Lydia Kiesling on Ellison's Invisible Man.