For Teacher Appreciation Week, Joumana Khatib at The New York Times asked writers about the books they were recommended to read by their teachers. Poet Ada Limón was given Ray Bradbury‘s The October Country by her high school English teacher. “I had never read stories like this,” Limon says. “The sense of surprise. The distrust of human beings. How the enemy could be the wind or a crowd, or how a farmer could be forced to cut wheat that isn’t wheat at all with his giant scythe. I also learned the word scythe! It was just weird enough for me at 13. Just forbidden enough. Just dark and morbid enough to keep my interest. I still think about those short stories, their strange and eerie turns, how it gave the world another magical (and creepy) possibility.”
We hear a lot about the books writers read while drafting their own novels and stories. But we don’t hear as much about the music, TV shows and other forms of art that kept them going throughout the process. At Page-Turner, Amy Bloom catalogues the influences on her latest novel.
Guernica’s latest issue is devoted to the American South. As the issue’s introduction states, “The American South is at once a geographical distinction and a bright spot in the imagination, where burden vies with birthright, and where ignorance and renaissance exist side by side.” The issue features a Kiese Laymon essay on inequality and language, Ed Winstead on the Southern accent in writing, an interview with Jesmyn Ward, fiction, and more.
Can’t wait for this year’s Morning News Tournament of Books? The staff announced their shortlist and panel of judges this morning. The shortlist includes, among other books, Redeployment by Phil Klay, which took home this year’s National Book Award, as well as our own Emily St. John Mandel’s Station Eleven.
Recommended Reading: This excerpt from The Work of the Dead: A Cultural History of Mortal Remains by Thomas Laqueur. In it, Laqueur explores the cultural peculiarities of mourning and the necrobotany of the yew tree, or “tree of the dead.”