A D Jameson asked HTMLGIANT readers to name “the best story that [they’d] read in the past few years,” and then he handily rounded up all of the answers and arranged them chronologically. He even provided links when he could. I guess we’ll see you guys next month!
As a child, Xiaolu Guo hunted birds and toads to survive. Now, as a writer in Britain, she’s written a memoir about her difficult childhood, which you can read more about in this review in The New Statesman. Sample quote: “Perhaps it is no coincidence that the reason that Guo gives for deciding to write in English is to be free of Chinese government censorship, a process that she describes as the wearing down of a rock’s sharp edges to a smooth pebble.”
In 1986, six years before the publication of The Secret History, Donna Tartt was chosen as the student speaker of her graduating class at Bennington College. A typewritten copy of the speech was recently unearthed, in which she looks back upon her education and the college campus that inspired her first novel. Pair with this comprehensive list of the artworks in Tartt’s The Goldfinch.
“Magic I think for me is kind of personal. Like, as soon as magic is in play, then I am given permission to imagine a different world, one in which magic things might happen—one where maybe I get some magic to wield if I’m lucky. Where cool stuff might happen at any given moment, cool stuff you wouldn’t even guess at. And for as long as the story holds, I’m kind of living in that world.” John Darnielle talks with Colin Winette about E.R. Eddison‘s The Worm Ouroboros, reading high fantasy and writing Wolf in White Van.
When John Steinbeck wasn’t busy writing 600-page novels, he might have been a Cold War CIA spy. In 1952, Steinbeck approached the CIA and suggested he could do some spying on an upcoming European trip. “The pace and method of my junket together with my intention of talking with great numbers of people of all classes may offer peculiar advantages,” he wrote to an agent.
Christopher Higgs was teaching Grace Krilanovich’s The Orange Eats Creeps, and one of his students was inspired to make a mixtape featuring “the twisted, crusty, and often sublime characters found within the novel.” (The book, by the way, was one of my selections for Year in Reading last year.)