nonfiction

Mary Norris has spent the past 20 years working as "a page OK'er" at The New Yorker, a position she says is unique to the magazine. Essentially, she's a highly specialized proofreader and copy editor on the publication's elaborate author-to-print assembly line. Alternate job descriptions include "prose goddess" and "comma queen."

When it came time for Chucky Taylor to propose to his girlfriend Lynn, he didn't bother with embellishments. After having spent most of their relationship an ocean apart — he in Liberia, she in Pine Hills, Florida, where they'd met — Chucky drove Lynn to a beach in Monrovia and handed her not a ring but a bag of uncut diamonds.

Justine Sacco. Jonah Lehrer. Mike Daisey. The names sound vaguely familiar, like an old college friend or distant relative.

Clive James' most anthologized poem is commonly known by its first two lines: "The Book of My Enemy Has Been Remaindered/And I Am Pleased." Those lines tell the uninitiated almost all they need to know about the pleasures to be found in reading James: chief among them, his wit and his appreciation of the underlying absurdity of so much literary effort — including his own.

Who doesn't love a good ghost story? The unseen hand moving a cup or the shadow climbing a staircase promises an existence beyond our mundane realities. Hannah Nordhaus' new book, American Ghost, is an offbeat mishmosh of memoir, cultural history, genealogical detective story and paranormal investigation, but it opens in the classic manner of spooky tales — with a sighting.

Cults and religions exist on a continuum, not in clearly delineated categories. It's even hard to claim that the distinction between the two comes down to "knowing it when you see it." For the most vulnerable people, the victims of groups that sit nebulously on the divide between cult and religion, that kind of clarity is what's often lacking.

The Ecstatic, Erotic Joy Of Reading 'Girl In The Dark'

Mar 12, 2015

Anna Lyndsey lives in the dark. She was living a pleasantly ordinary life, working for the British government, when she began to feel a sensitivity to light: At first, computer screens seemed to burn her face, and then artificial lights, and then, finally, sunlight.

Loss is the rough tie that binds two memoirs that, otherwise, are as different as day and night. What Comes Next and How to Like It is a sequel of sorts to Abigail Thomas' best-selling 2006 memoir, A Three Dog Life, which chronicled the one-two punch death of her husband — by her account, a sweetheart of a guy who took their dog out for a walk one afternoon in New York and was hit by a car. He suffered brain injuries and lingered for five years. Even after that catastrophe, more losses now loom for Thomas.

J.C. Hallman's audacious B & Me: A True Story of Literary Arousal, is a textbook example of "creative criticism" — a highly personal form of literary response that involves "writers depicting their minds, their consciousnesses, as they think about literature." Hallman, who has championed creative criticism in two anthologies, has written a wildly intelligent, deeply personal, immoderate — and somewhat belabored — exploration of Nicholson Baker's entire oeuvre, reading in general, and the state of modern literature.

"I am homesick most for the place I've never known," writes Kent Russell in his debut essay collection. He's referring specifically to Martins Ferry, Ohio, his father's childhood hometown — but it could be anywhere. The essays in I Am Sorry to Think I Have Raised a Timid Son find the young author miles away from his native Florida, at a music festival in Illinois, on a small island near Australia, and other out-of-the-way locales. He never seems to feel quite at home, or maybe he hasn't yet decided what home really is to him.

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