If you’re having trouble picking your next read, or just looking to expand your taste-range, consider subscribing to an online book club. Many will send the book right to your door. Here are a few you might want to check out:
The Book Riot team strives to pick unique works of fiction every month for open-minded readers. They’ll also send along a few hand-picked items that fit the book thematically, as well as a personal letter describing the month’s theme and the significance of each item. Never boring. Last month’s pick: Lucky Us, by Amy Bloom.
Emily Books is a unique ePublishing venture founded by Emily Gould and Ruth Curry. A refreshing break from the world of big publishing, Emily books publishes just one book a month, e-only. You can buy individual books through the Emily Books app, or subscribe and automatically receive an eBook every month.
Powell’s focuses on new titles beloved by the Powell’s staff. Every book is a signed first edition (nice perk). Sign up to receive a new book every six weeks. Most recent pick: The Bone Clocks, by David Mitchell
More like your classic idea of a book club: a bunch of people getting together to talk about a book, new or old. But @NormsBooksClub takes place in the Twitterverse. That being said, the discussions are surprisingly deep and tamer than you’d imagine. Most recent pick was a few short stories: “A Perfect Day for Bananafish,” by JD Salinger; “Lost in the Funhouse,” by John Barth; and “In Dreams Begin Responsibilities,” by Delmore Schwartz.
Brad Listi, founder of The Nervous Breakdown, interviews a writer every Sunday and Wednesday. Charming, self-effacing, and deadpan, Listi’s interviews (and monologues) are addictive. Writers (and sometimes editors and publishers) discuss their work, but also their history, family, fears, and predilections. Each conversation is a revelation and a gabfest, making you feel an oddly close connection to both Listi and the interviewee. We recommend: #316 with Sarah McCarry, #300 with Aimee Bender, and #227 with Kevin Sampsell.
If you’re looking for a good mix of humor, insight, and book recommendations, Bookrageous is the perfect podcast. Hosts Jenn Northington, Josh Christie, Rebecca Schinsky, Preeti Chhibber, and Paul Montgomery come from a variety of bookish backgrounds—they are booksellers, book marketers, and book bloggers, among other things—but their chief talent is discussing and recommending excellent reads. They spend an hour or so each month discussing what they’re reading and a variety of other topics—from this year’s BEA to which literary characters they’d sit with at lunch. Funny, irreverent, and inspiring, listening to Bookrageous is akin to hanging out with your best, and nerdiest, friends.
Night Vale’s town motto is: if you see something, say nothing, and drink to forget. These bimonthly radio broadcasts tell the story of an odd and often frightening town where the unusual is everyday and the everyday is unusual. Though librarians are widely considered to be malevolent, fearsome creatures, the many literary allusions and superb, serial storytelling cement Welcome to Night Vale’s place on our three favorite literary podcasts.
“Desire is transformative, and transgressive: whether it’s an unpeeled onion or a noble lover, to want something, especially for women, can never be entirely benign.” A short article on hunger in fairy tales.
If you’ve ever felt fundamentally out of place, you’ll feel a kinship with Chapman’s nameless narrator. Threaded together with repeating imagery and scientific details, these vignettes create a picture of profound displacement that is simultaneously discomfiting and entertaining.
This pseudo-scientific assessment of fast food hamburgers is endearingly ironic and utterly thorough. Worthen gives equal focus to his burger, his surroundings, and the feelings that both produce—which include, but are not limited to: self-abuse, nostalgia, deep satisfaction, and existential despair. I read this four part review more than a year ago, and I still find myself recalling it with fondness and delight every time I pass a Five Guys.
With a fishhook for a first line (“not grace, / but torque and gristle”), this piece wastes no time establishing its raw, candid energy. This is the animating force of art, the physics guiding the pirouette, the life beneath the artifice. McLaughlin’s poem is a frank look at a lapsed relationship, and a commentary on the very nature of partnership: “The truth: that / I don’t miss you, / but would feel relieved / to see you again”
While the first two stanzas are essentially a summary of dramatic action in film, this poem truly peaks with its concluding stanza. The litany of war-film tropes is an insane march toward ruin, but the poet brings us back to a moment of grace. As the engine turns over, the young hero is suspended in time, at the emotional peak of his sure-to-be-brief life. Confused. Eager. Animated.
“Snow Fallen” is an efficient, affective character piece. It forces the reader to juggle hatred and sympathy for Henry, a recent father and more recent murderer. Reynolds tells this brief story with a calm, measured pace—the speed of early morning thoughts in a slowly warming house while everyone else is asleep. The accompanying audio is highly recommended, as the story’s genesis renders it even more engaging.
“Fish” is a funny, angsty, yet serious piece. Kessler’s Jenna narrates with a detached cynicism, and the reader feels she’s observing her life from outside herself. Dissatisfied and depressed, but too numb to actively change her circumstances, Jenna is resigned to her ugly and obnoxious boyfriend, her vapid best friend, and a well-meaning town that only makes her feel worse about her brutal run-in with a shark a year prior. Indeed, the shark seems to be the only entity in which Jenna can place any real feeling. Having consumed her flesh, the animal becomes an avatar of sorts.
I never read enough literary magazines before starting my own. [I’m not the writer who blindly sends their work to every journal without first glancing at its content; I’m the writer who compulsively edits, collecting pieces in a digitally dusty folder on my computer, pieces that only dream of seeing the light of a stranger’s computer screen (or home, if it’s a print magazine).] When I decided my life’s work needn’t wait until graduation, and started Petrichor, I began to dip my feet into an ocean of online lit/literary/arts & literature mags/magazines/journals. I am a collector by nature, and I hoarded magazines as browser bookmarks until I finally got a chance to read them: systematically (alphabetically) organizing them by how they print, what they print, and why they’re great (or not). And now I’m hopefully putting my hoarding, organizing, and reading to good use, by reviewing the magazines I like best.
Annalemma, and I can speak only to the online content [though I’m certain the print content is of equal quality], is excellent. I read the first five feature stories, those currently listed on the front page, and the next five from the archives. I was not disappointed by a single one, and was elated to find that the archives go on for pages. What captured me was the pure ingenuity and imagination of each plot. The writing itself is excellent too, creating a marriage of a good ideas and great talent.
Many literary reviews tell you a bit about each piece, but these are so short I prefer you just read them. Each piece can be read in a single sitting, most a matter of minutes (I read six without getting up once). And they are brilliant in their brevity. “Never Let Your Enemy Be Above You,” by Kawika Guillermo, describes “a gruesome man with cheeks that crumble together like curds of cheese.” Does that not make you shift uncomfortably in your seat? “Nutrition,” by Kyle Winkler, begins “When she came home, some ghosts were in the kitchen. What she thought were ghosts.” And the final sentence, which I will stop myself from ruining, is one of the best I’ve read. If you read the story, you might note that I wrote that in the comment section on the story’s page. Another great thing about Annalemma is this comments feature, which is actually used. More than once, I’ve left my breathless, loving comments to lie in wait, in hopes that the author checks the site – because everyone must want to know how wonderful I think they are (that’s why I’m writing this blog). As a writer I would love to be published in a journal with a well-used comment section.
I haven’t even mentioned the art yet, one piece coupled with each piece of literature, excellent on its own, but always well placed with its partner story (I wonder if they ask the artists to read the piece and then produce a work based around it. Certainly this must be the case for some stories, like “My Mother’s Boyfriends” or “Male Seeking Female”).
I have now linked you to every story I’ve read on Annalemma so far, and I recommend all of them. I certainly plan on subscribing
“Annalemma Magazine is a literary and arts journal printed biannually and updated weekly online. Founded in 2007 with the expressed mission of engaging as many people as possible in the life-changing experience of telling good stories, Annalemma’s print issues are a lavish celebration of colorful artwork and photography that accompany short stories and essays from writers of all ages, nationalities, disciplines and echelons of the publishing world.”