The other day, I saw a post on Twitter about The Atlantic’s new book hub. So I thought I’d wander over and take a look. The Atlantic is one of the magazines I subscribe to for its literary and cultural commentary. It is a good “left of center” balance to my other subscription of this sort, First Things, a far more conservative and religiously oriented publication. As a reviewer, both publications put me on to books that cultural thought-leaders are discussing. This page brings all of The Atlantic’s reviews and literary criticism together in one place–sort of.
It should be noted to start with that this “hub” is not a separate website like Literary Hub but a “section” within the online presence of The Atlantic. The menu headings at the top of the page are not for sub pages within “Books” but rather for the magazine as a whole. But what you find here is still quite rich. Best of all, while they would love it and offer the chance to do so, you do not need to subscribe to The Atlantic. At least for now, the whole site operates on a “no paywall” policy.
The top of the page includes previews of feature articles, currently on a new book on Oklahoma City, and a piece of literary criticism looking at The Iliad in light of the #MeToo movement. Three other articles are highlighted below it: one on a new book on Princess Margaret, one on a graphic novel of an intergalactic tale populated by women, and one considering the current president through the novel, The Great Gatsby.
Below these in a single column are previews of fifteen more articles in a single column. Several caught my eye. One is on a new book about Nietzsche, suggesting that his work may help us live better in the mess of life (intriguing, but I’m skeptical). One centers on a single sentence in a Chekhov novel. In a review of novelist William T. Vollman, I learned not only about Coal Ideologies, a new two volume work, but the fact that this somewhat eccentric writer (once suspected of being the Unabomber) has his papers archived at The Ohio State University, in my home town. Below that is a thoughtful article on recent criticism of the works of Laura Ingalls Wilder, particularly her treatment of Native peoples. I could go on but the article at the bottom of this page, on Alfred Brendel and his essays on Beethoven caught my eye. I’ve loved listening to Brendel’s recordings of Beethoven’s work. I think I want to get the book, and then listen to the recordings with his comments in hand.
At the bottom of the page, there is a “see more stories” bar that takes you to the next page on the site. I clicked through twenty pages and did not come to an end. As a Tolkien fan, I found this piece on the 80th anniversary of The Hobbit on page 8. There is a plethora of riches here, both concerning new works, and reconsidering classics, something I particularly appreciate, since I read both.
I’m not sure how you would index this wealth of material, but that would be helpful (I’m trying to figure out how to do that with my own reviews, so I can forgive this). There is a search symbol at the top right of the menu bar. Entering a topic or author yields a Google-type listing of links to articles in The Atlantic. One thing my blog does that this site doesn’t is offer links at the end of an article to articles of similar interest. Instead you get The Atlantic’s currently most popular articles, which takes you away from their book “hub.”
I wonder if this page will evolve over time or even be spun off from the parent site. This might allow for development of the site’s features, and perhaps better utilization of what has to be a tremendous archive of reviews and literary criticism. Yet, even in its present format, I find myself more drawn to read the articles here than in the print magazine, the reverse of how I think about the rest of the content, which tends to be more long form writing. Because the magazine publishes ten times a year, you might come back once or twice a month to see what is new, in contrast to review publications that come out more frequently. When you do, you will be richly rewarded.
The url for the site is: https://www.theatlantic.com/books/