Of course this is always an ongoing discussion about which books will endure, and which books are the best. Such talk is fueled by annual “Best Of” lists. But what did that conversation sound like… in 1898?
It’s not a commonly held opinion, but Hilary Mantel thinks Henry VIII was a romantic. In a brief interview with Jamie Sharpe, the Wolf Hall author dispels the common view of the oft-married king as a philanderer. “He thought that he had to shape his life and shape his kingdom for each woman,” she says. “Men didn’t think that way in those days.” You could also read Damian Barr’s interview with her at The Millions.
The true story of the Whaleship Essex – which was deftly recounted in Nathaniel Philbrick’s 2000 book In the Heart of the Sea – will soon be adapted into a 90-minute documentary for the BBC. As avid whale watchers already know, the plight of the Essex is what ultimately inspired Herman Melville to write Moby-Dick. You can get an overview of the disaster at Melville House’s blog, Moby Lives. (How appropriate!)
Maya Angelou is a rapper now. The late writer’s poems have been layered with hip-hop beats for a new album, Caged Bird Songs. The album uses previous recordings of Angelou and a few made last year. “She saw (hip-hop) as this generation’s way of speaking and conveying a message,” her grandson Colin A. Johnson said. Pair with: Our tribute to Angelou.
We recently offered a look at the odd history of the book blurb here at The Millions. Now the New York Times is looking at this peculiar custom, inviting four contributors to discuss their merits and pitfalls. Among them is our own Bill Morris, who revisits his 2011 essay “To Blurb Or Not To Blurb” about the dilemma he faced when asked to blurb a friend’s book.
The Telegraph catches up with John Simpson as he prepares to retire from his role as chief editor for the Oxford English Dictionary. “I used to keep a notebook in my pocket in case I came across new words,” Simpson says at one point. “That worked until I put my trousers in the washing machine.”
“Book lore and book history and everything around them, to do with libraries or culture, I think it centers so much of civilization.” Atlas Obscura interviewed journalist Alex Johnson about his forthcoming title, Book Towns, which explores off-the-beaten-path towns bursting with bookshops.
Year in Reading alumna Parul Sehgal’s column for The New York Times debuted last week with her reflections on the great Czech writer Bohumil Hrabal. As she puts it, “He is a spider of a writer: subtle and sly, patient, with invisible designs. He never proclaims — he never needs to. He envelops.” Pair with John Yargo’s Millions essay on Hrabal’s fiction.