The Sacred Secret of Atheism

The Sacred Secret of Atheism

Rolando André López Torres explores Fernando Vallejo’s explosive, flinch-inducing novel The Whore of Babylon to question contempt versus mystery in religious faith and atheism:

“Here’s the key: the choice between belief and unbelief does not depend on knowledge of information; it depends on what you look for in that information, on the temperament of your hermeneutic, or interpretive lens; that is, you can choose whether to view something as mystery or as mere contradiction.”

A Golden Age of Reading

A Golden Age of Reading

There's a period—a golden age—in each reader's life when everything is new and we're convinced that there will be enough time to read everything. 

Kevin Rabalais experienced this golden age during his university studies, when he strayed to other courses' syllabi and received lessons from Tolstoy and some wise, straight-talking Jesuits.

Bread, Wine & Thou: The Wilder Dishes of Lesley Blanch

Bread, Wine & Thou: The Wilder Dishes of Lesley Blanch

We're thrilled to team up with Bread, Wine & Thou, Melbourne's newest and most beautifully designed literary periodical about food and wine culture, to present one of the featured articles from their latest issue, Maternal

When a Book Becomes a Portal to a Previous Self

When a Book Becomes a Portal to a Previous Self

It’s a special moment when a stranger gives you back the gift of a long-forgotten but much-loved book. It happened to me this week: a woman handed over The Men’s Club by Leonard Michaels, mentioning that she’d recently read Sylvia. “Sylvia!” I said, and a flood of memories—no, something stronger: a former me suddenly inhabiting and vying with the now-me—took over.

Reading Around the World: Brazil, still terra incognita?

Reading Around the World: Brazil, still terra incognita?

When the Viennese author Stefan Zweig first travelled to Brazil in 1936, he deemed the South American country “terra incognita in the cultural sense.” 

Now that we've lived with Brazil through the Olympics coverage and caught glimpses of the place and its people, we look to a variety of novels to pull us further into this diverse land.

Happy Birthday to Us!

Happy Birthday to Us!

We built this site one year ago and maintain it out of a desire to share—to share books, to trade ideas, to gush about the words that excite us and to puzzle our way through pressing, challenging ideas. The second-best thing about reading something amazing that shakes our foundations or just makes us sit back in awe is knowing that we can pass it on to others who will also feel that joy or shock or comfort or provocation.

Thank you for being our readers. We take you along every day when we visit bookstores and libraries, and we think of you with every book we pick up.

The Immensity of Worlds, or What Awaits Between the Covers

The Immensity of Worlds, or What Awaits Between the Covers

During the two years that Henry David Thoreau spent on Walden Pond, physical labors—the completion of his cabin, the cultivation of food to nourish his body—prevented much reading, the act that nourishes the spirit. “Yet,” he writes in Walden, “I sustained myself by the prospect of such reading in future.”

On My Knees (In Front of the Event)

On My Knees (In Front of the Event)

And then there are those novelists whose esteem grows with each book they fail to publish. Rumors and expectations mount. When—if—it finally appears, the book will change the way we read and write. Harold Brodkey, one of the most notorious of them all, garnered more celebrity each year, indeed each decade, that he missed deadlines for his long-awaited novel. 

Writing to Save a Life: Clarice Lispector

Writing to Save a Life: Clarice Lispector

Readers assumed it was a pseudonym. The author, some said, had to be a man. Surely it couldn’t be as simple—as complex—as it seemed: in 1943, the twenty-three-year-old Ukrainian-born Clarice Lispector, daughter of Russian-Jewish émigrés living in exile in Brazil, published a debut novel that generated the kind of literary celebrity that no longer exists. Critics and readers established a new name for this literary wonder: the author became known as nothing less than “Hurricane Clarice.” 

The Language of Light and Responsibility: Sebastião Salgado Behind the Camera

The Language of Light and Responsibility: Sebastião Salgado Behind the Camera

The Nobel Prize for Literature has never been awarded to a photographer, but over the past forty years the Brazilian-born Sebastião Salgado has traveled the globe to tell some of the world’s most pressing stories. From drought in the Sudan to genocide in Rwanda, forced migrations across borders, refugee camps in Africa, the burning oil fields in Kuwait to the glorious pristine corners and species of our planet, Salgado has given us iconic images of the past half-century. 

What Does It Mean to Act When You Have No Power?

What Does It Mean to Act When You Have No Power?

I tend to prefer, perversely, fiction that makes me uncomfortable, novels that force me to question the choices I’ve made, stories that remind me that I am the center—only—of my own tiny universe and that many other universes bump into mine and are influenced by mine, just as mine takes hits from all of theirs. Some of my favorite novels unnerve me. They make me want to take to bed for days. Or to march in the street to overthrow every wrong.

Reading Around the World: Brazil

Reading Around the World: Brazil

In a few weeks, against all odds, Brazil will try to present itself as “the land of the future,” as Stefan Zweig deemed it after his 1936 visit. Today, and in the coming weeks, we look to Brazil's literature to try to understand this complex and complicated country.