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Tag: Shelf Life Confessional (1-8 of 8)

What fictional characters molded your personality?

A college professor once told me that when you’re young, reading fiction can count as life experience. But what if the characters molding your impressionable mind aren’t exactly exemplars of upstanding behavior? New research from Ohio State University suggests that readers may model their actions after the people they read about: “When you ‘lose yourself’ inside the world of a fictional character while reading a story, you may actually end up changing your own behavior and thoughts to match that of the character.”

That explains so much. When I was in first grade, I used to check out old Peanuts collections from the library, and I actually believe ne’er-do-well Charlie Brown turned me into a more-despondent-than-average child. A bit later, Hermione Granger from Harry Potter made me realize being a super-overachiever was a power in itself. In the second half of high school I totally became that know-it-all with my hand in the air who memorized notes and pouted over grades that weren’t A+s. (My college applications thank you, J.K. Rowling. My social life, on the other hand…) On a disturbing note, I remember thinking Patrick Bateman was kind of cool when I read American Psycho in junior high. I mean, I didn’t want to murder hookers while listening to Phil Collins, but that character taught me something about dark humor and cheesy pop culture references. (I re-read the novel recently and had a completely different takeaway.)

What literary heroes or anti-heroes made you change your behavior?

Could a book writing competition ever be a reality TV show? Here's a pitch:

Summer is the season for truly bizarre reality TV programming. The networks test out their flimsiest ideas: a show about musical chairs? The weirdly addictive Bachelor Pad? With TV viewers becoming less and less interested in unscripted shows, and so many skill-based competition series focusing on singing, cooking, and fashion, maybe now would be the time for an exec to take a crazy risk by green-lighting a competition show about writing books.

The prospect of a writing show is sometimes talked about but rarely taken seriously, because writing a book is hard, solitary work, and it would seem nothing could be more boring than watching someone do it. Even shows about writing music and writing movies, which have way more visual and cross-promotional potential than a show about writing books, have fizzled. As someone who loves writers as much as the fiction they create, I’d add a show about up-and-coming authors to my DVR if it’s done in a fun way. Here’s a ridiculously detailed pitch — half joking, half serious — for a fiction-writing competition I’d totally watch. Proposed title: Great American Author. Though a network would probably change it to The Next Best-Seller. READ FULL STORY

What explicit books did you read in secret when you were a kid?


As long as adults have been reading scandalous books, kids have been stealing them away to read under the covers. Now with the popularity of Fifty Shades of Grey among moms, you can bet the next generation of curious book pilferers are stealthily poring over the racier passages between Christian Grey and Anastasia Steele. We know from Harry Potter that nothing gives a book more allure for a kid than labeling it “forbidden,” so we asked EW staffers what “naughty” books they couldn’t stay away from when they were teens. Some popular responses were Forever by Judy Blume, Presumed Innocent by Scott Turow, and Clan of the Cave Bear by Jean M. Auel (“prehistoric porn!”). Click through to see some of the other books that traumatized, amused, and enlightened our writers in their more impressionable years — and tell us your own in the comments!

NEXT: The Secret Diary of Laura Palmer

What book took you the longest to finish?


I don’t usually remember the exact date that I begin reading specific books. But I know exactly when I read the first page of Roberto Bolaño’s 2666. The bookmark that I use in my copy of 2666 is the Christmas card that my brother wrote to me when he gave me the book. On the top of the card, he wrote the date “25 Dec 2009.” (My brother is the kind of man who writes dates in his Christmas cards. To help you complete his psychological profile, the image on the front of the card is René Magritte’s Le trahison des images. My brother is a great man.) I have been reading 2666 ever since. For two years in a row, “Reading 2666” was my pop culture resolution: See here and here. In all likelihood, “Reading 2666” will be my resolution for 2012, because I am still a couple hundred pages away from being finished. READ FULL STORY

Shelf Life Confessional: Which books have made you lose it in public?

During the weekends, New York City is a hectic, overcrowded, energetic place to be. Throw in some great fall weather and additional out-of-town marathoners and you’ve got one even more hectic, overcrowded, energetic place to be. During these sort of weekends, a quiet moment in this city is about as reasonable a thing to expect as finding an affordable apartment.

So don’t ask me why I opted to read Mindy Kaling’s quirky, sweet new book Is Everyone Hanging Out Without Me? (And Other Concerns) in a busy, bustling park and assumed my giggle fits would go unnoticed. (They didn’t.) I knew I was in trouble when even the introduction made me laugh heartily in a public setting and I only continued to do so through her funny, relatable brand of storytelling. READ FULL STORY

Borders is gone. E-books are taking over. Now help us spotlight your favorite independent bookstores!

In the wake of Borders’ long, painful death, it’s easy to assume that it’s up to the scores of new e-readers and Barnes & Noble to pick at the carcass of the once-huge bookseller. But a cautiously optimistic New York Times article posits that independent and niche bookstores could fill part of the Borders vacuum. One such local bookshop, Wakefield Books in Wakefield, RI, moved into a space formerly occupied by a Waldenbooks (a subsidiary of Borders, also defunct). A good local bookstore knows its neighborhood better than a national corporation does; the Times lays out a formula for Wakefield’s success: “The right size store for the community (2,700 square feet), a good location (patronized by residents and summer visitors), dedicated employees (the new store kept the long-serving Waldenbooks staff), and a carefully chosen mix of titles, geared toward customers’ interests and employee picks.” Perhaps a dedication to and a deep knowledge of the community could, in a small way, make up for the convenience of e-books and the lower overhead of a corporation. READ FULL STORY

A book commits suicide every time you watch 'Jersey Shore': Do you read high-brow, watch low?

What you need is a bookend! Random House, Inc. posted this funny picture and axiom on its Facebook page. If you look closely, you can see what appears to be To the Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf and an unidentified book plunging to their deaths because they refuse to exist in a world in which Jersey Shore is being watched. The photo is obviously a joke, but I refuse to believe you can’t read smart books while enjoying trash reality TV. In fact, many of the smartest people I know do both — something about being capable of holding two opposing ideas in mind at the same time.

I read To The Lighthouse this year, and while I can’t say I found it wildly entertaining, I stuck with it and felt like a better person for having finished it. Then I binged on the first season of The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills READ FULL STORY

Book abuse -- scribbling, tearing, fly-swatting: What's your worst offense?

In his New York Times column, Geoff Dyer writes not about a book’s effect on the reader, but the reader’s effect on the book, the actual physical object. He recounts the experience of finishing a particularly challenging work, Why the Allies Won, and the toll his studious read had on the binding and pages of the book. In his assessment, a battered book is the sign of a worthwhile intellectual pursuit: “… those creases became the external embodiment of the furrow-browed effort that reading it required.” Dyer even admits that the experience of reading the book literally drew blood, but not from paper cuts: ” … I can’t seem to read without picking my nose — hence the blood stains.” Gross, Geoff! Seriously!

Dyer’s admissions led me to think of how I treat my books. READ FULL STORY

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