Reading and understanding literature is as integral to self improvement as
math and science. Many of the most ground-breaking, long-lasting
ideas were first posed as questions in what are now recognized as
literary classics. Great novelists were, and still are, great
thinkers. From times past, to today, new ideas are sometimes more
easily expressed as stories than as sound bytes. The news cycle is
about 24 hours long. A great book and its ideas may persist for
hundreds of years. When Kate Chopin published The Awakening
in 1899, the book caused a storm of fury from readers. Chopin is now
recognized as one of the earliest writers of the women's movement.
Reading literature classics and new works teaches in a way that a
The New York Times Book Review: www.nytimes.com/pages/books
The NYTBR is the go-to place for reviews of new books, new translations of old
books, essays and commentaries on classic and modern literature.
Check out their website for the most current, most talked-about
books, and see if the books live up to their publishing week hype.
Reading literature for self improvement requires the classics and new
works. The NYTBR helps readers keep an eye on the latest and the
greatest. Knowing what is out there and talked about frequently will
help anyone perform winningly in business and party conversation.
The Poetry Foundation: www.poetryfoundation.org
Harriet Monroe started publishing Poetry magazine in 1912. Works from
the greatest writers and poets have been featured in the magazine.
Ruth Lily gave the foundation a multi-million charitable gift in
2003, allowing the Poetry Foundation to expand its operations and
bring poetry to the masses. Their website is a fantastic place to
start for those new to poetry, or those keeping their fingers on the
pulse of poetry today.
Book Sense/ Indie Bound: www.booksense.com
Book Sense started in 1999 as a consortium of independent booksellers. It
has matured into Indie Bound. Each provides a look at new literature
from a non-corporate perspective.
The Millions: www.themillionsblog.com
This blog is edited by C. Max Magee. He started the site in 2003, and now
blogs about, reviews and enlists a super band of contributors to
canvas the entire publishing world. For the most current information
on the literary world, visit The Millions.
GradeSaver.com is a compendium of study guides about classic literature. They also
offer a variety of editing services. We list this site, as it is one
of the most reputable sources of summaries and information regarding
classic literature. Sometimes, when you are reading Faulkner, you
need help. GradeSaver provides an accurate leg-up on the material so
that you can understand and enjoy what you are reading.
Beware—reading a summary is meant to help you read the entire
work—not replace it!
Tips for Success
- Read classics and modern literature. Each benefits the reader in
different ways. Reading the classics helps you understand where
certain ideas had their beginnings. Reading current best-sellers,
new books from acclaimed authors and first-time novels helps you
stay current with pop culture, and new trend-setting,
- Join a book club. Book clubs push members to read things they might not
normally tackle on their own. Perhaps the most extreme example is
of a book club that is reading James Joyce's Ulysses, and
has been, for decades. They make it through about 14 pages a year.
Most book clubs read a book a month and meet to discuss it.
- For personal, local reviews, find an independently owned local bookstore
and make friends with the clerks. Librarians also make good
resources. Each knows the up and coming most talked about books,
and the classics.
- Add poetry to your reading plan. At first, reading poetry might seem
confusing. Relax and read, letting the words break over you like
waves. A poem can be fun, funny, silly, sad, and by definition,
economical. Poets must make every single word count, and much can
be learned from their techniques.
- If you are tackling a particularly meaty classic, and you are having a
difficult understanding, do research. The introductions to new
additions are sometimes dry and boring. Go to the internet for plot
and character summaries, themes and the book's cultural
significance. Then go back and read the book. Even widely read
individuals do this.
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