Though implausible, the most chortlingly funny book I’ve read in years is about graduate school. Elif Batuman’s story-telling is disarming and her relentless enthusiasm for books is contagious. In the seven essays of The Possessed: My Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them (Farrar, Straus and Giroux, $15), Batuman, a Turkish-American, recaps her immoderate enamorment with Russian literature and how this love leads her to Stanford’s Comp Lit department and a cohort which she likens to the spiraling madness of Dostoevsky’s Demons (a k a The Possessed). Her love also takes her farther afield, to a mystifying summer in Samarkand studying Old Uzbek epics; to an International Tolstoy Scholars Conference and suspicions of foul play; and to the Neva River to investigate the curiously sinister backstory of an ice palace for The New Yorker. Familiarity with Babel and Bakunin aren’t prerequisites; Batuman’s book is a clever treatise on the reasons we read.

The Possessed: Adventures with Russian Books and the People Who Read Them Cover Image
$16.00
ISBN: 9780374532185
Availability: In Stock—Click for Locations
Published: Farrar, Straus and Giroux - February 16th, 2010

A New Literary History Of America (Harvard Univ., $49.95) is an immense critical achievement. The more than 200 essays commissioned by the editors, Greil Marcus and Werner Sollors, capture the plurality of American historical and cultural experience in all its complexity, fluidity, and contradiction. The editors broadly and flexibly interpret “literary,” applying the term not only to texts and authors, but to cultural moments and ideas. A stadium-sized roster of essayists, including Jonathan Lethem, Arnold Rampersad, Kara Walker, and Camille Paglia, explore such disparate topics as Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” the origins of the European concept of a “New World,” and an exploration of “hardboiled” as a state of mind. The book’s amazing diversity is unified by a single thread, which is simply, as Marcus and Sollors state, “speech, in many forms.” Thus, this anthology represents America as an intersection of voices and experiences speaking to each other, calling out, protesting, creating, and recreating anew. This is a vital book for any student (or product) of American culture.

A New Literary History of America (Harvard University Press Reference Library) Cover Image
By Greil Marcus (Editor), Werner Sollors (Editor)
$49.95
ISBN: 9780674035942
Availability: Special Order—Subject to Availability
Published: Belknap Press - September 2009

A New Literary History of America (Harvard University Press Reference Library #16) Cover Image
By Greil Marcus (Editor), Werner Sollors (Editor)
$28.00
ISBN: 9780674064102
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Belknap Press - May 7th, 2012

Elaine Showalter, a prominent literary scholar who recently served as the chair of the Man Booker International Prize, throws all stuffiness to the winds with A Jury Of Her Peers (Knopf, $30), her exceptionally readable literary history of American women writers from the mid-1600s through the 20th century. Showalter is always opinionated (Gertrude Stein she describes as “unreadable, self-indulgent, and excrutiatingly boring”), and she encapsulates her assessments with such wit, passion, and erudition that reading her personal choices of the 250 female writers she wants in her literary hall of fame is a consistently fresh and lively experience. Some of these authors were overlooked in their time, and others are rediscoveries; this compendium offers readers a whole new library to explore.

A Jury of Her Peers: Celebrating American Women Writers from Anne Bradstreet to Annie Proulx Cover Image
$18.00
ISBN: 9781400034420
Availability: Not On Our Shelves—Ships in 1-5 Days
Published: Vintage - January 12th, 2010

Pages