The bookstore business is supposed to be dying, but Ann Patchett begs to differ. She discussed her independent shop, Parnassus Books, and the future of bookstores for The Daily Beast’s “How I Write” series. “I can’t remember the last time I was in a bad bookstore. The future of independent bookstores is strong. We need to be small. The day of the 30,000 square foot bookstore is over, but the day of the 3000 square foot bookstore has arrived.” Patchett was also interviewed for The New York Times “By the Book” series, where she said Charlotte’s Web had such an impact on her as a kid that she got a pet pig and became a vegetarian.
There’s been a lot of talk recently about the possibilities for contemporary war literature, especially in light of the success of Phil Klay‘s Redeployment. Now Flavorwire considers “a crop of fiction that approaches the question of American intelligence, torture, and military intervention slantwise,” particularly Mark Doten’s The Infernal, which was included in our 2015 Book Preview.
In 2013, Mo Yan became China’s first resident Nobel Laureate in Literature, which prompted a huge swell of interest in his books in the West. In the Times, Janet Maslin reviews Frog, his latest novel to get an English translation. Sample quote: “Mo Yan, whose real name is Guan Moye, says everything he needs to about the Cultural Revolution with a scene in which Tadpole and other schoolboys eat coal and claim to find it delicious.” You could also read Alan Levinovitz on modern Chinese literature.
“Why do we spend so much time with stories whose endings we already know?” Derek Thompson writes about nostalgia and culture for The Atlantic, and his piece pairs well with Katy Waldman‘s Slate essay about “thinking that you’re not getting as much from reading as you used to.”
Edmond Caldwell, a longtime Millions commenter and member of the golden age of lit blogging, has passed away. Caldwell was the founder of The Chagall Position and Contra James Wood. Read a tribute to Caldwell by his friends Boyd Nielson and Joseph G. Ramsey at Dispatches, here.
Authors, including Jennifer Egan, George Saunders, Ali Smith, and our own Chigozie Obioma, chose their Best Books of 2017 in a two-part series for The Guardian. If you enjoyed that list, make sure to check out our Year in Reading: 2017 series all throughout December.
For a boy wizard whose saga ended six years ago, Harry Potter is in the news a lot lately. The Chosen One got a makeover by Jim Kay, and now J.K. Rowling is working on a stage play based on Potter. Don’t expect a stage set of Hogwarts because the play will focus on Harry’s early years at 4 Privet Drive.