January 6, 2013 What attracts people to fantasy? Is it the orcs and the elves, or the rich worlds they inhabit? Author Saladin Ahmed says world-building — the craft of building a believable fictional world — provides "an almost physical sense of getting lost somewhere that isn't home, but which comes to be home."
October 20, 2012 Amazon is expanding its top 100 lists to rank writers, not just books. The new list features a funky mix of authors, from big names to children's classics to Ayn Rand. Essayist Amanda Katz wonders whether the list is silly, useful, a play for world domination, or possibly all three?
August 8, 2012 Commentator Amanda Katz muses on some seriously unbeachy beach book choices, from the guy in a Palm Springs pool reading a book on string theory, to the woman curled up on the lounge chair with William Styron's memoir of depression, Darkness Visible.
June 21, 2012 An old copy of The War of the Worlds, once belonging to rocket scientist Robert Goddard, prompts essayist Amanda Katz to muse on what we lose when we stop reading — and passing along — physical books.
May 9, 2012 A baby is snatched away by goblins in Maurice Sendak's unsettling children's book, Outside Over There. Commentator Amanda Katz says she loved this book as a child, and only later understood why it made adults so uncomfortable.
April 20, 2012 Some of the best poets of spring are masters of the minor key. So it's no surprise that the famously dour Philip Larkin wrote two of the finest spring poems of the last century, according to critic David Orr — who offers his appreciation.
April 17, 2012 To Kill a Mockingbird and Valley of the Dolls have more in common than you think. In his new book Hit Lit, mystery writer James Hall argues that best-sellers from the past century share 12 features.
April 12, 2012 The Department of Justice's lawsuit against Apple and five major publishers for e-book price fixing sent shivers through the industry — but Jason Boog says this fraught relationship between American publishers, retailers and the DOJ goes back to the Great Depression.
March 13, 2012 Sky looking a little slatchy to you? Want another helping of slang-jang? The final volume of the Dictionary of American Regional English, a 50-year project to document English across the U.S., is a treasure trove of history and local color.
February 13, 2012 Valentine's Day is a tricky occasion for poets. Granted, it's hard not to be happy about a holiday on which poems are thought to be genuinely useful. But love poetry's record as an aphrodisiac is mixed. Critic David Orr offers advice for romantic rhymers.
February 9, 2012 He's trending on Twitter, inspiring Google Doodles and hawking hoodies. Why Dickens has always inspired such adoration — and why the book business should pay close attention.