Scrutinizing Letters from Sylvia Plath

Anwen Crawford reflects on newly published letters from Sylvia Plath; "The belief among many of Plath’s devotees seems to be that if we can get clear of other people’s fingerprints on her texts, allowing Plath to 'fully narrate her own autobiography,' as the editors here describe it, we will at last solve the riddle of her. The extremities of her poetry will balance against the circumstances of her life; the latter will equal the former. But her griefs were ordinary; it is what she did with them that wasn’t. Plath turned her common sorrows—dead father, mental illness, cheating husband—into something like an origin story for pain itself, as if her own pain preceded the world." In the New Yorker

Ayobami Adebayo: Rising Star

Ayobami Adebayo is interviewed by Abigail Bereola for Hazlitt and it's fantastic. They discuss proverbs, romantic love, sickle cell anemia and writing your first book. "At the risk of sounding very narcissistic, I’m going to say I write for myself ultimately. And maybe my sister. I think that when I’m working, it’s very difficult for me to think about an audience, perhaps because sometimes it gets a bit overwhelming. I’m trying to figure out so many things that I really don’t start thinking about the idea that other people might read this thing until, 'Oh my God, it’s publication day' and I have a panic attack like 'Oh my God, what have I done?' I think the awareness of an audience is something I’m just coming into because this is a first book."

Asian American Writers, Generation Next

The Guardian's Max Liu highlights several rising star Asian American authors, including Year in Reading 2017 participant Jenny Zhang. "After years on the peripheries of US fiction and poetry, Asian American authors have stepped into the spotlight during 2017. Books by writers of east and south-east Asian heritage are one of the hottest trends this year. [...] Transcultural writers, born to immigrant parents in the US or immigrants themselves as children, they are channelling their experiences into writing that, with perfect historical timing, challenges readers to resist attacks on immigrants’ rights and to see refugees as individuals with unique stories."

Citizen of the Year Reading List

ICYMI Colin Kaepernick was named GQ's 2017 Citizen of the Year a few weeks ago. In light of this honor two of his closest friends "have compiled a list of 'Freedom Dream' resources spanning close to two centuries—including books, essays, films, documentaries, songs, and museums—that can help readers, viewers, and listeners to understand race as the central political, cultural, economic, social, and geographic organizing principle of our nation, past and present. For it is only when we acknowledge the centrality of race in dictating the outcomes of life and death in the United States can we begin to work toward meaningful forms of racial justice." Find the books, music and movies that helped inspire Kaepernick (and that will enlighten you too) here.

What the Bestseller List Says about 2017

Slate books and culture columnist Laura Miller looks at what this year's bestseller list tells us about 2017. One of her conclusions, "2017 was the year that the very concept of a best-seller became even more dubious." After reading her analysis, check out our Year in Reading lists, whose authors found joy in reading and viewed it as one of the few good things of this year, even if the bestsellers of the year didn't reflect those feelings.

More and More Queer YA Love Stories

The Washington Post interviews four Young Adult authors whose books go beyond coming out stories, these authors want queer love stories to be mainstream. Their books range from contemporary to historical to fantasy. "As authors get more comfortable exploring LGBT storylines, the coming-out tale isn’t disappearing. 'I think we’ll always need for the foreseeable future both types of stories,” Silvera added. “While I’ve been so happy being able to live an out life, I think a lot about teens who aren’t able to be out right now and I want to write for them.' Slipping back in time to write for teenagers gives authors the opportunity to explore first love again."  Take a look and consider adding these to your reading list.

Indies Thriving in the Age of Amazon

"While pressure from Amazon forced Borders out of business in 2011, indie bookstores staged an unexpected comeback. Between 2009 and 2015, the ABA reported a 35% growth in the number of independent booksellers, from 1,651 stores to 2,227."  Professor Ryan Raffaelli read this surprising statistic and decided to study what exactly independent bookstores were doing in order to reinvent themselves and thrive. He found it has to do with indies embracing the three Cs; community, curation and convening. The full report will be released in 2018 but you can glimpse a preview here. Three cheers for indies!