Talking About Books . . .

I always include numerous items in my “Talking About Books” post, but I could probably stop with the one item below if I wanted to (but I don’t) since it will keep you captivated for a considerable amount of time.

In these 15 insanely useful infographics for book lovers you will learn a lot including the facts that Tolstoy’s War and Peace contains 600 named characters and that it should take you 32.63 hours to read its 587,287 words. It will take me much longer to read that book since I’m one of the world’s slowest readers.

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“In 1994, I visited Hiroshima’s Peace Memorial Museum. The then-director spoke of the controversy at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum surrounding a coming exhibition of the Enola Gay to mark the end of World War II. He accused the Smithsonian of sanitizing history, giving short shrift to Hiroshima’s civilian deaths out of deference to U.S. veterans. As compelling as his point was, I was thinking of my own search within the Hiroshima museum for mention of Pearl Harbor. I failed to find it.” That’s a quote from a thought provoking article by author and educator Ted Gup about how we pick-and-choose what we believe about the past. “History, he laments,” is now a cafeteria: Take what you like, leave the rest.” One of the real-world consequences of this pick-and-choose attitude toward history is that the contents of history books used in schools throughout the United States vary to reflect the social, political, and religious beliefs of those in power.

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William Styron is probably best known for his novels Sophie’s Choice and The Confessions of Nat Turner and for Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness his nonfiction 1990 account of his worst bout with depression. Random House has just published a collection of Styron’s nonfiction in a book titled My Generation. While this new book does not contain Darkness Visible, it does contain some related pieces including his op-ed piece for the New York Times about the suspected suicide of author and WW II concentration camp survivor Primo Levi in 1987. Book Page has a review of the book.

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In “Secret Histories,” the first of twelve collections of pieces from the archives of The New Yorker magazine, we are treated to stories that deal with “the hidden lives of historical events.” Authors of these stories include Alice Munro, Edna O’Brien, and Salman Rusdie. Click on “this collection” in the first line of the second paragraph to visit the page that lists all of the articles in the “Secret Histories” collection.

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Judy Blume has been writing books so long that many of today’s authors read her works when they were children. A New York Times article features comments by a few of those authors about what her books have meant to them. Note: some of their comments – like some of her works – are sexually explicit.

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Writer Saul Bellow was born exactly 100 years ago today. NPR recently aired a segment about Bellow which also includes two appreciations of him that aired shortly after his death at age 89, and an essay by Alan Cheuse about Bellow’s works and their lasting influence.

The Atlantic featured a more in-depth article about Bellow in the May 2015 issue.

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I was fascinated by the article “True Blue” in The Paris Review, so I’m including it here. In it author Ravi Mangla gives us a brief history of ultramarine that will astound you.

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Though some of you won’t believe it, there was a time before the internet was invented when we would call our local library with questions we couldn’t answer. We had the questions; they had the books. An article in The Guardian showcases some of the “quirkiest inquiries” that the New York Public Library has received over the years.

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