Essay of the week: Are women-only book prizes necessary?

Maybe for a century or more to come, we’ll continue to need cultural spaces in which “women’s writing” is protected and encouraged to flourish as something separate from “men’s.” But that same small part of me fears that the gated-off arena can too easily become a prison. There’s something ironic, and a little depressing, in the fact that the digital archive of a major American university now displays the poems of the boldly gender-­ambiguous, literary-drag-­wearing Currer, Ellis and Acton Bell under the festively decorated but irredeemably patronizing heading “A Celebration of Women Writers.”

via Does an Award Like the Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction Help or Hurt the Cause of Women Writers? – NYTimes.com; quote by Dana Stevens; Zoe Heller also answered the question.

Recommended Reading: A Tale for the Time Being by Ruth Ozeki

I absolutely loved this book. It’s got all the elements I enjoy, if done well: story within a story; fabulous settings; a writer character; the multiverse; a slipstream quality; and even Buddhism. Reviewed on Books Worth Reading.

Recommended Reading: Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler

Unexpected Stories by Octavia Butler, two never-before-published short stories available only as an ebook, is recommended for fans of Butler and fans of well-written fantasy shorts. Read my full review on my book review blog.

Become a friend of your library

Following on my last post, I agree with Neil Gaiman that libraries are of vital importance to our society. Like many readers, I grew up in a library, basically, quickly graduating from the kids’ section to the adult books. I remember systematically reading my way through every Agatha Christie (she wrote something like 85 of them). For a kid like me, the library was my refuge.

Libraries are frequent targets for budget cuts by government officials who don’t understand the vital link between reading and developing minds that can think, imagine, and innovate. Many children don’t have access to books and computers in their homes, and libraries are the only place where they can foster a love of reading. That’s why it’s vitally important for those of us who love books and reading, and who understand just how important they are, to support our local libraries as much as we possibly can. A good way to start is by joining the library’s Friends group. Take part in library activities. Support events featuring writers or aimed at improving children’s reading experiences. I recently joined the Board of our Friends of the Library group, and it has been a wonderfully enriching experience for me as I take part in supporting library programs and our local literary scene.

Books and reading are my primary passion in life. Even though almost everything I read now is on the Kindle, I believe the need for strong libraries is greater than ever. Libraries are the repositories for our culture, the archives of our rich wealth of information, and increasingly, librarians are the experts who help us navigate it all. Libraries create future readers, and they in turn become the thinkers and innovators that make our civilization strong. What could be more important?

Essay of the week: Neil Gaiman’s manifesto on reading

“I’m going to tell you that libraries are important. I’m going to suggest that reading fiction, that reading for pleasure, is one of the most important things one can do. I’m going to make an impassioned plea for people to understand what libraries and librarians are, and to preserve both of these things.”

This was actually published in 2013, based on a lecture Gaiman gave to the Reading Agency, but it so wonderfully expresses why reading, and especially reading fiction, is absolutely critical for the future of our society and why we all need to support libraries as much as we can, that it bears reading and rereading and constant reinforcing: Neil Gaiman: Why our future depends on libraries, reading and daydreaming | Books | The Guardian.

Recommended Reading: Trigger Warning by Neil Gaiman

Trigger Warning, Neil Gaiman’s latest collection of short fiction and poetry, is recommended for readers who love creepy stories, fairy tales and well-written fan fiction. Read my full review on my book review blog, Books Worth Reading.

PS Thanks to my friend Samantha Bryant for giving me a copy of this book. Samantha has a new book out: Going Through the Change: A Menopausal Superhero Novel. Check it out!

Essay of the week: The meaning of “natural”

Why ‘Natural’ Doesn’t Mean Anything Anymore – NYTimes.com, a really interesting essay by food writer Michael Pollan on the meaning of the word natural.