For two weeks last summer, Colin Dickey sailed around the coast of Svalbard in the Arctic Circle. On one occasion, his voyage was stalled by heavy fog, and his group was obligated to anchor near Amsterdamøya. As one does, he used the occasion to ruminate about scurvy – or “polar night disease” – which claimed the lives of many sailors buried in the area’s graves.
In the spring of 2006, John Unsworth taught a graduate seminar on "Twentieth-Century American Bestsellers." It led to one of history's finest class projects--a browsable database of bestsellers, 337 in all. As with any bestseller lists, you'll find a range of titles, everything from Thomas Wolfe to Tom Clancy, but click through and find that each entry includes an extremely detailed description of the book's history (these were compiled by graduate students, after all); a mini-essay on its reception; images of covers, page layouts, and even some ads; and more. It is, in short, bibliophilic crack. (Thanks Craig)
Recommended Reading: Lydia Davis's new short story, "Old Men Around Town," in the New Statesman. "He stops to tell us that he must be up early in the morning – to get down to the factory. The factory is gone, his men are gone, but he still seems to be in charge of something." For more Davis, check out her new collection.