Classics/Award Winners

Assuming the V.C. Andrews Mantle

Twenty-nine years ago, my agent, who was also V.C. Andrews’s agent, changed my life. “We would like you to think about finishing Virginia Andrews’s latest novel,” she said. “She’s too sick to do so.”

The idea was at first overwhelming. V.C. Andrews was a major worldwide publishing success. I was, at the time, a high school English and creative writing teacher who graded papers and wrote thrillers, but I had never before been asked to write in another author’s voice. I attacked the challenge with all my research skills and spent hours reading and rereading Virginia Andrews’s works until I understood what made her writing distinct. Her vocabulary and syntax, images, and dialogues were truly special.

Read More

A Poetic Reminiscence of Love and Betrayal

You may say there is no such thing as a perfect book. You’re probably right. But the one book that comes closest to it, in my mind, is SO LONG, SEE YOU TOMORROW by William Maxwell. If you’ve not read it, you should. Immediately.

Read More

The Perfect Recipe for a Delicious Life

In 1988, I lived near the Verrazano Bridge, and whenever the temperature was above freezing I’d walk down to the Narrows and read on one of the benches that ran along the bike path. Laurie Colwin’s HOME COOKING quickly became (and remains) one of my favorite bench reads—no surprise, considering I have loved every one of her novels. Her gift for creating authentic characters extends even to herself. At the time, I was 22 years-old and the kitchen in my New York City studio apartment was barely 3 feet wide. It didn’t have an oven or cabinets, and the refrigerator was dorm-sized (with no freezer); but this didn’t stop me from loving my little oasis, and cooking every day.

Read More

A Beautiful Girl, Her Mysterious Death

New York City is rich with fascinating stories. Some are heartbreaking, some funny, and some so mysterious and odd, you would assume they are fictional.

One such story is the tragic tale of Mary Rogers—a young woman whose body was found floating in the Hudson River in 1841. Her story seems to be straight out of a Gothic mystery…perhaps because it inspired one.

Read More

Second Wives, Detached Husbands, and a House Full of Secrets

I collect ghost stories. I don’t believe in ghosts—but I’ll read any and all types of haunting stories. One of my favorites, REBECCA by Daphne du Maurier, is a Gothic novel that doesn’t technically have a ghost but features many fundamentals of a classic ghost story. There’s a huge, labyrinthine old mansion, a spooky woman in black, a mysterious death, an eerie painting, and a dead woman whose haunting presence is felt in every corner of her former home, Manderley.

Read More

The Perfect Novel to Read Before Election Day

Whenever a charismatic politician makes us uncomfortable, whenever a high-profile candidate seems dangerously powerful, Robert Penn Warren’s 1946 classic novel ALL THE KING’S MEN experiences a resurgence in popularity. In bookstores across America, the novel is pulled from fiction shelves and set face-out on tables at the front of the store. Clever, ironic references appear on social media.

Read More

A Hundred Years in the Life of an American Family

Ever since I read A THOUSAND ACRES, I have loved the work of Jane Smiley. That novel has it all: love, lust, rivalry, betrayal, loss, grief, conflict, wisdom. It reworks Shakespeare’s tale of King Lear—that “fond, foolish old man.” By locating her story in a farming community in contemporary Iowa, Smiley shows us how all the best stories are timeless. They deal with what it is to be human, to find our way through a world that is often hostile and always confusing.

Read More

A Beautiful Spanish Novel for Fans of Elena Ferrante

Decades before Elena Ferrante gifted us with Lenù and Lila in her Neapolitan novels, Carmen Laforet gave us Andrea in NADA. The works have a great deal in common: in both, passionate young women try to wrench themselves from the poverty and close-mindedness of their society. The specter of World War II looms over both books, along with the reality that for many that war never ended but continued on in broken hearts and crooked streets all across Europe.

Read More

An Enchanting Story of a Modern-Day Invisible Man

Special $1.99 eBook price for Off the Shelf readers!
I recently revisited Aravind Adiga’s THE WHITE TIGER to discern what about it so riveted and enchanted me when I first read it in college. I figured it had to be the first sentence. This was a book that enraptured me with its utterly distinct and unrelenting voice, and I thought it must have been the first sentence where I got a glimpse of that.

Read More

Get Book
Recommendations