My introduction to Shakespeare’s JULIUS CAESAR was when my sixth-grade teacher made our class read the play aloud for “dramatic effect.” I read the part of Calpurnia. There is something searing about watching a painfully awkward sixth-grade boy theatrically cry out, “Et tu, Brute?” Needless to say, I never forget the Ides of March. This year I’m celebrating with 15 other works of fiction with dramatic and memorable betrayals.
Every year on March 14th, math lovers around the world celebrate Pi Day (3/14, get it?) by reciting the digits of pi, doing math activities, and eating pie. I’m no mathematician, but I can definitely get behind a holiday that involves delicious baked goods. In honor of the occasion, we’re cozying up with some dessert and reading these pi—and pie—related books.
In my own internal reference library, the brilliance of Denis Johnson’s minimalism is almost without compare. He fashions his most arresting prose from moments of tough, heartbreaking realism. In TRAIN DREAMS, Johnson depicts the hard-fought life of Robert Grainier, a gentle-natured day laborer in the Great Northwest during the first half of the twentieth century. This stunning epic novella brims with striking and spontaneous outbursts of beauty.
It’s easy to romanticize the hustle and bustle of big-city living, but sometimes you find yourself jostled around on a crowded New York City subway car and the glamour abruptly drops; suddenly, you remember the litany of frustrations that come with city living: the sea of crowds, constant diversions and compulsions to see everyone and do everything. It’s moments like these I find myself reaching for books with women who have deliberately chosen to pursue their own adventure, their own truths. These women live way outside the norm—in fact, they’re often way off the grid. Inspiring and thought-provoking, these memoirs offer the perfect solace for those moments when you need to expand beyond your everyday life and remember that there’s a whole world outside of that crowded subway car.
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Attention, bookworms! Spring Daylight Saving is upon us, which means more time with the sun—and more time to read in it. To get you ready, here are some beloved time-travel reads that are known for turning the clock back, forward, and everywhere in between.
January’s Women’s March on Washington inspired us to read more biographies and memoirs about women who have changed history and about influential women today who are building our future. From Madeleine Albright to Ronda Rousey, here are some of our favorite record setters, rule breakers, and “first-evers” from famous women in history.
For almost a century, the world (this list writer included!) has been fascinated by Zelda Fitzgerald, the tempestuous and troubled wife of one of America’s most beloved writers. The epitome of a flapper, her legacy of rebellion and glamour are practically synonymous with the era. Now it seems that she’s getting the credit she deserves with a miniseries to bring her story to life. Here are some binge-worthy books about Zelda Fitzgerald to keep you going long after the finale.
I was scanning the nonfiction aisle at Barnes & Noble, always a sucker for the “dysfunctional family” memoirs, when THE GLASS CASTLE by Jeannette Walls caught my eye. I picked it up and opened to the dedication page: To John, for convincing me that everyone who is interesting has a past. I’m not sure I’ve ever had a book reel me in by the dedication page, but this one did.
As Off the Shelf writers, and book lovers, we spend a lot of time immersed in fictional worlds. But every once in a while we’ll finish reading a book and then long for a more familiar place—our hometowns. Whether we were born and raised there, or took such a liking that we chose to call it our second home later on in life, these 11 books are set in the many places that we call home.
When you think of the word “immigrant,” different images may come to mind: perhaps it’s of Ellis Island, or colonists landing at Plymouth, or someone getting off a plane and starting fresh. Whatever your association, one thing has been the same throughout history: people come to America to find a better life for themselves and their families. This year, I am pledging to read more of those stories, especially the ones I haven’t heard before. If you’re looking for a place to start to learn more about the stories of immigrants, we’ve collected 13 novels about immigrating to the United States from its founding to today.