July 7, 2013 Austrian writer Adalbert Stifter's 1845 novella Rock Crystal is the seemingly simple tale of two children who get lost in a snowfall on Christmas Eve. But author Susan Choi says the story perfectly captures humanity at its humblest and most resilient.
July 28, 2013 Bohumil Hrabal's novel, I Served The King Of England, about a Czech waiter who barely survives World War II, may sound dire but author Anthony Marra says that if you allow yourself to be sucked in, you'll enter a story so ethereal you'll practically float.
August 11, 2013 Science fiction has long offered us the image of "the final frontier," but some sci-fi authors have mapped frontiers of their own. Author Stephen Burt says James Tiptree Jr. (pen name of Alice Sheldon) was a pioneer in writing about gender and sexuality when most sci-fi authors were male.
September 1, 2013 Author Ann Kirschner first read Anthony Trollope's Palliser series as a graduate student. Now, returning to it after more than 20 years, she finds her impression of the Victorian tale has transformed along with her life.
September 15, 2013 Shirley Hazzard's 1980 novel Transit of Venus tells a sweeping, decades-long tale of two Australian sisters and three men, with a dash of astronomy thrown in. Author Roxana Robinson says the novel entranced her with tragedy, complexity and elegant, arresting prose.
October 13, 2013 Author Antoine Wilson suggests bypassing Proust in favor of a far shorter choice: Nicholson Baker's 1988 novel, which shares the internal monologue of a businessman on an escalator. Shoelaces, drinking straws and the corporate culture of men's bathrooms undergo thorough analysis in this slim book, which Wilson calls "relentlessly perceptive."
November 10, 2013 There are plenty of memoirs of China's Cultural Revolution written from the perspective of elite intellectuals. But Hong Ying's story is different; in her youth, the writer was the sixth child in a crushingly poor family. Novelist Karen Ma says Hong Ying's memoir, Daughter of the River is unflinching, unapologetic and incredibly powerful.
December 1, 2013 Napoleonic Wars? The Royal Navy? Yawn. Novelist Nicola Griffith had low expectations when she started reading Patrick O'Brian's Master and Commander. But soon she was tearing through the 20-volume series, reveling in the deeply rendered friendship between the characters Jack and Stephen. It's a masterpiece, she says: "Jane Austen on a ship of war."