Tag Archives: Literature

Connecting through Literature: A Story of a Teacher and Her Student

9780812997316By Michelle Kuo, author of Reading with Patrick (Random House, July 2017).

Every teacher has likely experienced two emotions: the feeling that you’ve gotten through to a student and the feeling that you’ve let him down. In the first, the classroom is a powerful place of human connection, and the lightbulb that has gone off in the kid’s head is hot and radiant. In the second, life proves too complex, too full of barriers and missteps, and the teacher, with regret and perhaps some shame, retraces her decisions, dissecting what went wrong. Continue reading

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On Historical Fiction


by David Mitchell, acclaimed author of several novels, the latest of which is The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet: A Novel (Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2011)

Around Christmas in 1994 in Nagasaki I got off at a wrong tram-stop and stumbled upon a greenish moat and cluster of warehouses from an earlier century.  This was my first encounter with Dejima, the Dutch East India Company’s furthest-flung trading ‘factory’ and its most exclusive bragging point: during the two and a half centuries of Japan’s isolation, this man-made island in Nagasaki harbour, no bigger than Trafalgar Square, was the sole point of contact with the West.  Dejima went to seed after the Japanese opened up other ports to international trade from the 1850s onwards, but a full-scale reconstruction is now underway.  (No mean feat of engineering, this – reclamation projects have pushed the shoreline hundreds of yards away.)  Back in 1994 I wasn’t a published writer, but the place crackled with fictional potential, and twelve years later I begun to reconstruct Dejima myself in a book now published as The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet.  I didn’t set out to write an historical novel just for the heck of it – you’d have to be mad.  Rather, only within this genre could the book be written.  This being my first, I read a number of others to avoid reinventing wheels.  Small hope, but my reading led me to a new respect for a genre which Continue reading


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The Right Answer, And Other Nonexistent Things


by Thomas Mullen, author of  Last Town on Earth (Random House, 2007).

When reading works of fiction, students often think that there’s a right answer for how they’re supposed to respond to the book.  Surely (as they’re sometimes taught in high school) there’s a specific meaning F. Scott Fitzgerald had in mind with The Great Gatsby’s “green light,” and therefore there’s a right way to read the book and a wrong way.  A novel is a riddle, just a more creative version of a math problem, and students need to figure out the right answer, explain it in a paper, and then they’ll earn their A.  At which point they’re free to put the book away and never think about it again.

But English isn’t Algebra, and sometimes there are lots of right answers.  Or maybe—gasp—there’s no right answer.  Or perhaps it isn’t the answer that’s so important as the journey the reader takes to get there.  The travels with the characters, the experience of viewing the world through someone else’s eyes, the various lessons this act imparts—these will all lead different readers to different opinions, emotions, revelations.  This is true not only with our interpretations about whether a literary symbol has a certain meaning but also our determination as to whether characters did the “right” thing or not. Continue reading

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Why Jane Austen is THE Best Novelist of Our Time


by Susannah Carson, author of  A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen (Random House, 2009).

“Can Jane Austen’s novels be considered the best novels of our time?”

“Why yes,” I responded, with the bewildered expression of someone who’s just been asked if she breathes air, “of course.”

But ever since that snippet of conversation I’ve been turning the topic over and over. Is it simply a devout preference? Or is it also a fact of literary history?

If we want to make the move from personal belief to universal truth, we’ll have to define our terms… Continue reading


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Why do YOU read Jane Austen?

A Truth Universally Acknowledged

A Truth Universally Acknowledged

For so many of us a Jane Austen novel is much more than the epitome of a great read. It is a delight and a solace, a challenge and a reward, and perhaps even an obsession. For two centuries Austen has enthralled readers. Few other authors can claim as many fans or as much devotion. So why are we so fascinated with her novels? What is it about her prose that has made Jane Austen so universally beloved?

Send an e-mail to rhpg@randomhouse.com and explain (in 500-1000 words) the significance Jane Austen has had on the literary world and in your own life, and you will be entered for the chance to win a signed copy of A Truth Universally Acknowledged: 33 Great Writers on Why We Read Jane Austen, along with The Complete Novels of Jane Austen, volume 1 and The Complete Novels of Jane Austen, volume 2.

Read the official rules here.


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