If you’ve ever read anything by Charles Bukowski, you no doubt remember the feeling you had the first time you came across his work. For better or worse, Bukowski is one of those authors who you don’t easily forget or ignore. Very few people are ambivalent about him.

I have enjoyed reading Bukowski since I picked up South of No North out in the California high desert town of Joshua Tree more than 20 years ago and read the entire thing without once moving from the ratty old couch I was slouched into. You could say I became a fan that day.

Bukowski died in 1994. But he was a ridiculously prolific poet, so his publisher, Black Sparrow Press, continued to release “new” poetry collections for 15 years after his death. Sounds like a sweet deal, doesn’t it? A seemingly endless stream of new books from a popular poet.

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Dec 10, 2021

From classics such as the sci-fi writer Stanislaw Lem, the celebrated reporter Ryszard Kapuscinski, and Nobel Prize winning author Olga Tokarczuk, to contemporary queer and feminist writers, see our picks of the Polish novels and non-fiction writings that have charted new boundaries and challenged literary norms.

Dec 2, 2021

Remember that one time Amazon went full Orwell by removing ‘1984’? That was just the beginning.

Dec 1, 2021

This April, the Iowa Department of Corrections issued a ban on charities, family members, and other outside parties donating books to prisoners. Under the state’s new guidelines, incarcerated people can get books only from a handful of “approved vendors.” Used books are prohibited altogether, and any new reading material is subject to a laundry list of restrictions.

The policy is harsh, but far from unique. In fact, it’s only the latest in a wave of similar bans. In 2018, the Michigan prison system introduced an almost identical set of rules, and Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Washington have all made attempts to block book donations, which were only rolled back after public outcry. Across the United States, the agencies responsible for mass imprisonment are trying to severely limit incarcerated people’s access to the written word—an alarming trend, and one that bears closer examination.

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Nov 30, 2021

We call the great conflagration of 1914–18 the “First World War”, but there are several earlier conflicts competing for that dubious accolade. For example, the mid- eighteenth-century Seven Years War, which Winston Churchill famously christened the first “world war”, is a plausible candidate. It was fought not only in Europe, but also in India and North America. But the pre-1914 struggle with the best claim to the title is surely the Napoleonic Wars. As Alexander Mikaberidze reminds us in his engrossing and authoritative new “global history”, this conflict may have been centred on Europe, but it reached into almost every corner of the globe, including North and South America, Africa and Asia, and almost every sea and ocean, including the Baltic, the Mediterranean, the Atlantic, the Indian Ocean and even the Great Lakes.

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Two unrelated people, with quite different political views, recommended Pyotr Kropotkin’s Conquest of Bread to me recently more than six months ago, and since the theme dovetailed with topics I had been thinking about I decided to follow their advice and read it. This post is the result of that exercise, combined with some contextualisation of my own position with regard to these topics (which is a complicated way of saying that I will burden you with my opinions).

I read the following online version which is hosted by some nice anarchists, and so can you: The Conquest of Bread.

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Nov 6, 2021

If your writing grows popular enough, sparking feelings in the hearts of admirers is an occupational hazard—and so is having to turn those admirers down. So Walt Whitman did to Anne Gilchrist, a writer and mother of four who had recently lost her literary critic husband to scarlet fever. When William Rossetti, in the process of publishing the English edition of Leaves of Grass, shared the volume with Gilchrist, she was “entirely spellbound;” she first published an anonymous essay in Boston’s Radical, titled “An Englishwoman’s Estimate of Walt Whitman” (the estimate was high), and then, after two years, began writing to him personally.

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Oct 22, 2021

On the occasion of its 170th publication anniversary, here are the very first reviews of Herman Melville’s leviathan-sized opus of obsession, revenge, and meticulously detailed whaling practices.

Oct 9, 2021

In 2012, jihadists—armed to the teeth with weapons seized in Libya after the fall of Muammar Qaddafi—overran northern Mali and established a brutal, sharia regime in Timbuktu. Once a center of learning and culture, the city housed a priceless collection of manuscripts: volumes of poetry, encyclopedias, and even sexual manuals that invoked the name of Allah. Threatened with destruction, the manuscripts were spirited out of the city to safety in a thrilling, cloak-and-dagger operation.  

Sep 7, 2021

Is the manuscript tucked away somewhere? Was it destroyed? Or are the few known chapters all that ever existed? A deep dive into one of literature’s most enduring riddles.

Sep 1, 2021

Forty years after his breakout story, “Johnny Mnemonic,” the father of cyberpunk remains one of the best writers around…

Aug 25, 2021

WHEN MY FRIEND Charles McNair and I met the great Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges in New Orleans, he was 82 years old. As aspiring novelists, we were drunk on the work of the Latin American magic realists. Borges’s cryptic, compressed tales such as “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” and “The Garden of Forking Paths” were the olives in our Latin martini.

Born in 1899, blinded in the 1950s by a congenital disease, Borges had come from Buenos Aires to lecture at Tulane University on aesthetics and the notion of meaning. The place he most wanted us to take him was Preservation Hall, the small stuffy room just off Bourbon Street where the last remnants of old-style Dixieland are still performed. He stood in the back letting the “waves and waves of jazz” roll over him.

On the morning we met him in 1982 in his suite at the Fairmont Hotel, he was attended by Maria Kodama, the lovely young Japanese Argentine factotum who later became his second wife. (When he died in 1986, polite Argentina was outraged that he left his entire estate to her.)

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Aug 17, 2021

A new study shows that the more people read any kind of fiction the better their language skills are likely to be. Researchers found that people who enjoyed reading fiction for leisure and who identified as a reader scored higher on language tests, whereas those who read to access specific information scored more poorly on the same tests.

Aug 16, 2021

Before we get to the books you’re recommending, is assassination ever politically effective and, if it is, are there particular conditions under which it works?

Well, I believe in contingency, and so I think it often has unforeseen consequences. Take the classic assassination of Julius Caesar; the people who killed him were middle aged senators who thought he was going to live a long time—he was only 56—and arrogate more and more power to himself. They saw themselves as acting to defend a venerable republic of several 100 years’ standing. In fact what they did was plunge the Republic into an extremely vicious civil war, which then spread out beyond the Republic into the Empire, leading to the rise of Octavian Caesar, Julius Caesar’s adopted son. After a long hiatus in which he appeared not to want to be an emperor, he acquired all the powers of an emperor and eliminated the assassins who hadn’t committed suicide. It took 13 years, but he tracked the last one down, a poet, and had him killed in Athens. At the end of it all you had a system of imperial rule, and a ruling dynasty. That goes on for several 100 more years in the Western Empire and right down to 1453 in the case of the Eastern Empire. So the assassination had enormous ramifications.

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Aug 2, 2021

One afternoon while browsing in the English bookstore, located midway between two of the offices where he worked for a few hours nearly every day, Fernando Pessoa spotted a copy of James Joyce’s Ulysses. The scandal generated by its partial publication in The Little Review, between 1918 and 1920, may not have reached Pessoa’s attention, but by 1933 he knew all about its celebrity status as a banned book, judged obscene and still unavailable in the United Kingdom and the United States. The copy he saw—​and purchased—​was of the two-​volume Odyssey Edition, published in December 1932, in Germany. Both volumes have come down to us in pristine condition, without so much as a fleeting pencil mark. The only evidence that Pessoa actually read Ulysses, or enough of it to know that he wanted to read no more, is the laconic commentary he scribbled, in Portuguese, on a scrap of paper:

The art of James Joyce, like that of Mallarmé, is art preoccupied with method, with how it is made. Even the sensuality of Ulysses is a symptom of intermediation. It is oneiric delirium—​the kind treated by psychiatrists—​presented as an end in itself.

A literature on the brink of dawn.

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Jul 26, 2021

When the ever elusive Fernando Pessoa died in Lisbon, in the fall of 1935, few people in Portugal realized what a great writer they had lost. None of them had any idea what the world was going to gain: one of the richest and strangest bodies of literature produced in the twentieth century. Although Pessoa lived to write and aspired, like poets from Ovid to Walt Whitman, to literary immortality, he kept his ambitions in the closet, along with the larger part of his literary universe. He had published only one book of his Portuguese poetry, Mensagem (Message), with forty-four poems, in 1934. It won a dubious prize from António Salazar’s autocratic regime, for poetic works denoting “a lofty sense of nationalist exaltation,” and dominated his literary résumé at the time of his death.

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Jul 15, 2021

We are engaged in a battle for the classics. There is a faction arguing that classics are at the root of the racial distress of our country. But let me reveal the truth of what it has been like growing up as a Christian Black woman in the United States. I can provide a new perspective on the role classics have played in my life and the life of my ancestors. Beyond fighting to show their general relevance to society, my goal is to show that this thinking, that classics are at the bottom of our racial crises, is based on a fallacy. It is the people who have misused the classics that are racist, not classics themselves (the Bible included). It is my hope that I can show others how the classics have been used as a tool for liberation for African Americans. To accomplish this, I thought the most credible testimony would be my own. Why is this necessary? In the introduction of his book The Battle of the Classics, Eric Adler says classicists must “muster disparate sorts of arguments to stave off the demise of their disciplines. Different circumstances – and different audiences – will require the use of different tactics.” This resonates with me; my testimony is that tactic. Through examples in my life and the examples of my ancestors, I will show how classics are a major part of the African American narrative and to cancel them, we run the risk of canceling an integral part of the African American story.

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Jul 13, 2021

On Facebook, I recently came across a book that I never expected to see for sale outside of an auction or a fancy rare-book dealer. The book in question was one of the four volumes of the first edition of The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola, printed in 1689. The book’s author, Janez Vajkard (German spelling: Johann Weikhart) Valvasor, used to gaze at Slovenians from the 20-tolar banknote; nowadays we have the euro, but a bunch of places across Slovenia, ranging from libraries to restaurants and mountain cabins, continue to carry his name. It makes sense: Glory is an unprecedented magnum opus that summarized just about everything there was to know about the Slovenian heartland province of Carniola. A full set of the recent Slovenian translation will cost you several thousand euros, as will a well-preserved set of the 19th-century reprint. However, the seller of this first-edition volume admitted quite candidly that he wasn’t sure if his book was worth anything at all.

Where’s the catch? It’s true that the binding was almost gone, but that’s what we have bookbinders for. Even a rebound copy of a rare book can still be worth a lot of money. The real problem was that the book was extremely incomplete. Not only were all the fold-out panoramas and maps missing from it, but a bunch of pages with text were gone as well, so that you couldn’t even really call it a reading copy anymore. The title page was present, and you could still use the book to boast that you have a Valvasor first edition at home. However, for most bibliophiles, having such a miserable gutted volume on the shelf would simply be…sad.

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Jul 12, 2021

This article aims to cover one simple thing: What are the must-read psychology books that someone curious about understanding how the human psyche works should check.

As a passionate reader, online librarian, a person who summarized over 100 books, and also researcher. I was curious, myself, what books are considered must-reads on human psychology. That’s why I took a wild ride in the online world to compile this list of the best psychology books.

So, without further ado, here is a list of must-read psychology books I consider vital for anyone looking to become an expert on how we are designed to operate:

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A community for discussing your favorite books, old and new.

Created on Jun 17, 2020
By @gurlic