"Being nominated for an award feels the way I imagine winning the lottery must feel: You’re deeply grateful and a little disoriented, you feel very lucky, and you know that it could just as easily have been someone else." Our own Emily St. John Mandel writes about "the vast distance between literary prizes and literary work" and reading Norman Mailer for The Atlantic's By Heart series (which we've covered many, many times before).
New this week: And the Mountains Echoed by Khaled Hosseini; The Redeemer, a new Harry Hole novel from Jo Nesbø (see our interview); and Abigail Tarttelin's debut novel Golden Boy. Also out: The Fall of Arthur, J.R.R. Tolkien's epic poem, and George Packer's The Unwinding.
Jessica Love writes for The American Scholar about some recent psychological studies on the art and perspective of storytelling. Of particular interest is the way "the first person does seem to encourage us to identify with the narrator, especially when that narrator is a lot like us." Not that identifying with narrators is the primary purpose of reading, as the New Yorker reminds us in a piece against "relatability," but it's something to consider the next time you pick up a novel and find a character who seems to be just like you.
"I don’t want to settle for distraction; I want to look forward to reading my book with the palpitating excitement of a second date with someone I’ve already fallen for. I want to miss my stop. Ideally, I’ll miss a few." While it can be easy to spot a beach, airplane, or cabin read, Adam Sternbergh's writes about finding the perfect "subway read" for the New York Times. From our archives: our own Nick Ripatrazone's essay on reading and writing on trains.