Year in Reading contributor Kevin Smokler’s new essay collection, Practical Classics, explores the benefits of revisiting the first books you read (even if you hated them). In fact, the difficult and excruciating books have a particular value. “Books aren’t all supposed to be our best friends,” says Smokler in a new Rumpus interview. “Sometimes they’re supposed to be that difficult friend who encourages us to do things that we don’t feel are rational or grown-up.”
Why is it okay to say “I’m working on a novel” but not okay to say “I’m working on my novel”? The former is a normal, straightforward, expression, while the latter smacks of arrogance and self-absorption. At Bookforum, Jesse Barron writes about the oddity of Working on My Novel, a collection of retweets (you read that correctly) of writers telling the world about their labors. It might also be a good time to read Dominic Smith on the number of novelists at work in America. (h/t Arts and Letters Daily)
New this week: Loitering by Charles d’Ambrosio; The End of Days by Jenny Erpenbeck; Windows on the World, a collection of Paris Review essays illustrated by Matteo Pericoli (Karl Ove Knausgaard’s contribution is excerpted here); The Heart Has Its Reasons by María Dueñas; A Woman Without a Country by Eavan Boland; Love Poems by Bertolt Brecht; and Family Furnishings, a new selection of short stories by Nobel laureate Alice Munro. For more on these and other new titles, check out our Great Second-half 2014 Book Preview.