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Original Essays

Rachel Sherman

Living Room is a disarmingly direct portrait of a family in trouble. With the tone of a modern-day Jewish Ice Storm set in Long Island, imbued with Alice Munro's fascination with personal history, this is a deep exploration of the ripple effects of mental illness and a wry, wise take on suburban angst.

From "Living Room"
In my novel Living Room, I write about the pain of mothering — about mothers who do not know how to be mothers. I finished my edits on the book a week before my first child was born... (read more)

Mike Cox

The Texas RangersFollowing up on his magnificent history of the 19th century Texas Rangers, Mike Cox now takes us from 1900 through the present.

From "The Texas Rangers Versus the Texas Rangers"
My two-volume history,The Texas Rangers: Wearing the Cinco Peso, 1821-1900 and Time of the Rangers: Texas Rangers: From 1900 to the Present, is about men (and now women) who tote guns, not baseball bats... (read more)

Thomas Norman Dewolf

Thomas Norman Dewolf's Inheriting the Trade is a trailblazing memoir about one family's quest to face its slave-trading past, and an urgent call for reconciliation.

From "Family Threads: From John Alden and Drew Barrymore to Me and to You"
We are all related to each other. I mean this literally. We're one, big (sometimes-not-so) happy family. The thousands of people I've encountered in the scores of places I've visited around the country since the publication of Inheriting the Trade have convinced me that the threads in our family web may be countless and complexly interwoven... (read more)

Dexter Filkins

The Forever WarIn The Forever War, prize-winning New York Times correspondent Dexter Filkins chronicles a remarkable chain of events that begins with the rise of the Taliban in the 1990s, continues with the attacks of 9/11, and moves on to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

From "History, Past and Present"
A decade ago, in a far corner of the world that hardly anyone seemed to know about, I sat in a football stadium and watched a group of strange men perform an amputation and an execution before a large assembled crowd... (read more)

Donald Worster

A Passion for NatureIn Donald Worster's magisterial biography, A Passion for Nature, John Muir's "special self" is fully explored, as is his extraordinary ability, then and now, to get others to see the sacred beauty of the natural world.

From "Knowing Nature with John Muir"
For the past seven years I have been busy writing, in my nonteaching hours, the life story of the great California naturalist John Muir. Part of the reason it took me so long is that he left hundreds of personal letters and unpublished journal fragments, much of which had never been carefully examined or put in their full historical context. But also I wanted to see as much as possible of what Muir saw of the natural world... (read more)

Roger H. Martin

Racing OdysseusAfter surviving a deadly cancer against tremendous odds, college president Roger H. Martin enrolled at St. John's College, the Great Books school in Annapolis, Maryland, as a 61-year-old freshman. Racing Odysseus is the moving story of a man who faces his fears, fully embraces his second chance, and in turn rediscovers the gifts of life and learning.

From "A College President Becomes a Freshman Again"
Four years ago, I took a rather unusual sabbatical leave. After 18 years as a college president, and at the age of 61, I enrolled as a freshman at St. John's College, the Great Books School in Annapolis, Maryland. For six months, I attended freshman seminar, where I read Homer, Plato, Aeschylus, and Herodotus... (read more)

Michael Greenberg

Hurry Down SunshineHurry Down Sunshine is a mesmerizing account of the extraordinary summer when, at the age of 15, Michael Greenberg's daughter, Sally, was struck mad. Unsentimental and deeply humane, this work chronicles Sally's journey into and out of psychiatric wards and its effect on those closest to her. Booklist calls it "a startling piece of writing, by turns sobering and surreal."

From "Hurry Down Sunshine"
The writing of a memoir is a tricky proposition, and not only because the form has been dragged through the mud by its own practitioners in recent years. Philip Roth has a passage in his novel The Counterlife about "the strange bind" in which the family members of a writer find themselves... (read more)

Brendan Short

Dream CityA dazzling tale featuring a colorful cast of heroes, villains, and damsels in distress (both real and make believe), Brendan Short's debut novel Dream City poses the most dangerous of questions: What happens when one man finally discovers what he's spent his entire life searching for? Library Journal calls it "an impressively mature first effort....Highly recommended."

From "My Life as a Collector"
A week ago, on my train ride home, a coworker asked me if I had been one of those kids with his nose always in a book. "Isn't that the deal with writers?" she said... (read more)

Diane Hammond

Hannah's DreamIn the tradition of Water for Elephants comes Diane Hammond's Hannah's Dream, an "irresistibly touching, delectably uplifting" (Booklist) story of an aging caretaker and his beloved elephant, with an extraordinary cast of quirky characters centered around a dilapidated zoo.

From "When a Killer Whale Becomes an Asian Elephant"
When is a killer whale not a killer whale? When it becomes an Asian elephant. But allow me to digress. If you lived anywhere in the Pacific Northwest between 1996 and 1998, and especially if you spent any of those years in Oregon, you probably remember Keiko, the killer whale star of the hit movie Free Willy... (read more)

Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop

DecemberIn December, Elizabeth Hartley Winthrop's novel of spellbinding emotional power, 11-year-old Isabelle hasn't spoken in eight months. As characters spiral desperately around Isabelle's impenetrable silence, she herself emerges, in a fascinating, boldly original portrait of an exceptional child. "A captivating read, peopled with characters hard to forget," hails Booklist.

From "December"
Most of my memories are organized and stowed away like so many snapshots, and as I flip through the album of my mind, I am struck by the difference between childhood memories and recent ones. Of course, to a certain extent this is to be expected; our experiences as adults are different from our experiences as children, as are our interpretations of events... (read more)

Jennifer Haigh

The ConditionThe long-awaited third novel from the bestselling, award-winning author of Mrs. Kimble and Baker Towers, PEN/Hemingway-winner Jennifer Haigh's The Condition explores the immutable bonds of family witnessed through one turbulent year in the lives of New England's McKotch family. "Compelling; highly recommended," praises Library Journal.

From "Another Family Story?"
I am often asked why I keep writing about families. The truth is, I don't do it on purpose. I always start out writing about something else: in Baker Towers, the tragic decline of a mining town; in Mrs. Kimble, a mysterious drifter who steals women's hearts... (read more)

Paul and Anne Ehrlich

The Dominant AnimalHumans are unquestionably the dominant animal. Why, then, are we creating a world that threatens our own species? In The Dominant Animal, renowned scientists Paul and Anne Ehrlich tackle the fundamental challenge of the human predicament and offer a vivid and unique exploration of humanity's origins, evolution, and its potential future.

From "Too Many of the Dominant Animal?"
It's been four decades since The Population Bomb was published in May of 1968, and we've recently had occasion to revisit the topic of the human future. Writing our new book, The Dominant Animal: Human Evolution and the Environment, which tells where humanity came from... (read more)

Alex Prud'homme

My Life in FranceMy Life in France is a delightful memoir of celebrated chef Julia Child's years in Paris, Marseille, and Provence that opens with Paul and Julia — a tall, wide-eyed girl from Pasadena who can't cook and doesn't speak a word of French — disembarking in Le Havre, and ends with the launching of the two "Mastering" cookbooks and Julia winning the heart of America as "The French Chef." Co-writer (and grandnephew of the Childs) Alex Prud'homme discusses how My Life in France came to be written in his original essay for

From "Timekeeper"
A few days ago, an old friend handed me a watch that no longer keeps time. It's plain looking, a timepiece from the 1970s, with a solid silver-plated body and a linked wristband. It has a blue face and white arms stopped at 12:04. The date is becoming Monday the 10th (of which month, and which year?). "It was Paul's," my friend said. "I don't know what to do with it. Maybe it will mean something to you." (read more)

Elena Forbes

Die with MeDie with Me marks the start of an original detective series in the style of "Prime Suspect" from Elena Forbes, a new talent from the U.K. In its starred review, Booklist declares that Forbes "renders crisp prose, a clever plot, and an unsettling portrait of a charismatic psychopath. She is definitely one to watch."

From "The Darker Side"
As a writer, I am always being asked: 'Where do your ideas come from?' Sadly, there is no simple answer. But when those moments of inspiration strike, as if from nowhere, often when I am in the oddest of places, it is one of the greatest excitements of my day... (read more)

Anthony Lappe and Dan Goldman

Shooting WarShooting War, written by Anthony Lappe and illustrated by Dan Goldman, is an irreverent and unflinching graphic novel satirizing network news, the Iraq War, and the burgeoning "citizen journalism" movement that Rolling Stone magazine calls "a scary-smart take on what the horrors of the future may hold."

From "No One is Safe"
Shooting War is the story of an indie-media heartthrob named Jimmy Burns. The year is 2011, and the Brooklyn-based videoblogger gets his big break as he happens to be uploading a live rant in front a Starbucks when a suicide bomber blows the coffee joint to kingdom come... (read more)

From "Closing the Invisible Distance"
There was a constant thread of responsibility running through my creation of the visuals for Shooting War, a nagging need to do enough homework to make the war-torn streets of Baghdad in 2011 ring as true as possible... (read more)

Justin Taylor

These are the ways the world ends. Edited by Justin Taylor, The Apocalypse Reader offers 34 new and selected doomsday scenarios: an enthralling collection of work by canonical literary figures, contemporary masters, and a few rising stars (including respectively Joyce Carol Oates, Michael Moorcock, and Neil Gaiman), all of whom have looked into the future and found it missing.

From "Big-League Doom: Stephen King's Apocalypses"
This is what happened. In the fall of 2006, the Avalon Books spring preview catalog came out. The page devoted to The Apocalypse Reader, an anthology I was editing, contained several errors, not least among them the inclusion of Stephen King's name on the list of contributors. Much to my chagrin — and despite my placing several irate phone calls and emails — this misinformation resurfaced again at publication time on the websites of internet booksellers. (Powell's, I'm happy to note, was the first to post the correct information after I sent it to them.)... (read more)

Ellis Avery

The Teahouse FireIn The Teahouse Fire, Ellis Avery composes sweeping debut novel, drawn from a history shrouded in secrets, that follows two women — one American, one Japanese — whose fates become entwined in the rapidly changing world of late-19th-century Japan.

From "Tea and the Writing of The Teahouse Fire"
If I had known that Japanese tea ceremony was a living art, I would have studied it in college: I grew up with my mother's enthusiasm for Japan and majored in Performance Studies, a cross-cultural mix of anthropology, theater, and religion. And, then as now, I loved tea: my college best friend and I held a tea every Friday afternoon... (read more)

Abby Ellin

Teenage WaistlandIn her frank, compassionate, witty debut, Teenage Waistland, Abby Ellin, a former fat camper turned journalist, investigates current approaches to and attitudes toward weight loss to illuminate how they do and don't address the logistical, psychological, and emotional realities for overweight teens.

From "One Size Does Not Fit All"
I knew I would write this book, way back when I was 12 years old and my grandmother refused to let me visit her in Florida unless I lost ten pounds. Knew I would write it the second I set foot on the grounds of Camp Colang, the very first Weight Watchers camp I attended in 1984, when I was 16 and wanting to lose 20 pounds... (read more)

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