Arts & Letters Daily

Arts Letters Daily ideas criticism debate (1)

Screen capture of part of Arts & Letters Daily main page, as accessed on September 21, 2017

One of the things I love doing is helping connect people with books that will inform, entertain, and perhaps transform them. One of the ways I do that is through various newsletters and websites that alert me to new books as well as information about the literary world, authors, book selling, and all things related to books. At the same time, I realize that this blog can’t be a “one stop shop,” and so I also like to pass along the resources I’ve found useful in discovering news about books and all things literary.

One of my readers recently commented with regard to a post about one such site, “One more alternative to actually reading books??” His question raises a fair point. I really could spend all my time reading what is on these sites rather than reading books. But I think most of us have figured out how to skim them to discover what catches our attention. Sometimes, they inform me about books I decide I don’t need to read. Sometimes they pique my interest in something I want to read and review. And I think you will admit that I read and review a few books (over 100 so far this year).

That’s a long introduction to a site I discovered recently, Arts & Letters Daily, published by the folks who put out The Chronicle of Higher Education, which is the Wall Street Journal of the academic world. That should tip you off that you will find a high standard of writing in the articles aggregated on this website. Unlike The Chronicle, all content is available without subscribing, although there is a link in several places to “Support Arts & Letters Daily”

Like Literary Hubthis site curates articles on books and the literary and publishing world from all over the internet. It does so under three categories:

  • Articles of Note: Currently (September 21, 2017), the top articles on the page are on Hemingway in LA (from the LA Times), hallucinogenic fungi (from hyperallergic.com), and Kingsley Amis at 70 (from The Guardian).
  • New Books: The first three articles in this column currently are a review of a book on what writers wear from The Times Literary Supplement, a review of Why Poetry? from the Washington Post, and a  book on the evolution of beauty reviewed in The New York Times.
  • Essays & Opinions: Currently the first three are an article on Evelyn Waugh’s Catholicism from First Things, an article in The Jacobin on James Burnham’s journey from Trotskyite to conservative editor, and a London Review of Books review article by Pankraj Mishra on a collection of books exploring the future of liberalism in the age of Trump and Brexit.

The site is much less flashy than Literary Hub, being organized around three columns of articles under the three categories listed above. It adds no images to the article summaries and so allows for a great deal of content in a small online space.

The other feature of the site is the column of links on the left hand side of the page. From top to bottom following a box allowing you to subscribe to a weekly email newsletter, these are grouped under “Nota Bene” (a collection of miscellaneous articles), “The ALD Archives,” “Newspapers” (26 newspapers from around the world), “Breaking” (links to breaking news on various media outlets), “Magazines” (a long list), and “Book Reviews” (another long list of links). One fun feature under “Archives” is a “Random” link which randomly selects an article in the archives to show you.

Essentially, this is a portal into the literary world. I like the simple organization without the distraction of visual images that links you to content that appears of interest. The alphabetical lists of links to magazines and literary reviews is handy to have in one place.

As noted above, Arts & Letters Daily also sends a weekly email of its “Top Reads” each Friday. Here is a screen capture of the web-version of the September 15, 2017 newsletter:

Top Reads From Arts Letters Daily

The motto of Arts & Letters Daily is “Veritas odit moras,” a quote from Seneca that translates “truth hates delay.” I don’t know if this is what the editors were thinking, but the format and content of Arts & Letters Daily seems designed to get the truth out without delay, a mission ever more crucial in our day.

Discovering “Literary Hub”

literary-hub-the-best-of-the-literary-internet

Screenshot of Literary Hub from September 7, 2016 (without feature banner)

I discovered Literary Hub yesterday when I wrote about Mario Vargas Llosa’s new book, Notes on the Death of a Culture. I’ve had lots of fun looking around the website, which Literary Hub describes the purpose of as follows:

 

Literary Hub is an organizing principle in the service of literary culture, a single, trusted, daily source for all the news, ideas and richness of contemporary literary life. There is more great literary content online than ever before, but it is scattered, easily lost—with the help of its editorial partners, Lit Hub is a site readers can rely on for smart, engaged, entertaining writing about all things books. Each day—alongside original content and exclusive excerpts—Literary Hub is proud to showcase an editorial feature from one of its many partners from across the literary spectrum: publishers big and small, journals, bookstores, and non-profits.

Following this description is an impressive list of partners including a number of major publishers, booksellers, and review journals. One could probably spend an enjoyable evening just clicking through the links of all the partners!

The home page is topped by a graphic banner highlighting current top literary stories on the site. Presently these include “Writing a Novel Limited to the 483 Words Spoken to Ophelia,” “How a Self-Published Writer of Gay Erotica Beat Sci-fi’s Sad Puppies at Their Own Game,” “Death is Actually Very Funny: A Last Conversation with Max Ritvo,” “Mario Vargas Llosa: How Global Entertainment Killed Culture” (from which yesterday’s post was inspired), and “On Writing, Parenthood and Trying to Stay a Little Wild.” Probably something there will grab your attention, if not all.

In the left column, you can click on excerpts of recently released books, a good way to sample before you buy. The center column highlights a few other feature stories. The right column highlights “Lit Hub Daily”, featuring on September 7:

Across the top of the page, you also have a menu which duplicates some of these items. From left to right you have:

  • Bookmarks: Clicking this takes you to visual representations of bookcovers of current books with a bookmark containing a “grade” based on an “average” of at least three reviews. Ann Patchett’s Commonwealth received an A+. On the other hand Jonathan Safran Foer’s Here I Am only rated a C+. You can click on the cover to go to a page that includes relevant excerpts of reviews with a link to the full review. Highlighted are new books, most reviewed books and best reviewed. You may also search a number of categories of books listed on the right side of the page.
  • Features: This includes a fuller list of featured articles. Since I’ve spent some time interviewing booksellers, I liked “Interview with a Bookstore: Carmichael’s Books.”
  • Excerpts: Similar to “Features”, this expands the list of excerpts from books from the few highlighted on the home page. Good feature. I read one from a book with an intriguing title. Decided the title was more intriguing than the excerpt.
  • Bookshelf includes the covers of books mentioned in articles in Literary Hub. Clicking on the cover will take you to the article. Mousing over it shows you a box telling you what article or articles the book is mentioned in. These include everything from new books to classics like Ivan Illych.
  • Lit Hub Daily is collection of the best of the literary internet collected daily. This one sounded interesting:
    • Why the man behind “Born to Run” is also “a born memoirist.” Dave Kamp profiles Bruce Springsteen ahead of his 500-page memoir. | Vanity Fair
  • The last is the already mentioned About page. In addition to the glorious collection of links to publishers, booksellers, and review journals is a link at the bottom to the “masthead” for Literary Hub.

While of course I hope that for those reading this that Bob on Books will be a kind of “literary hub,” I have to admit that I appreciated the quality of writing, the variety of features, and the breadth of content from across the literary landscape brought together on Literary Hub. I’ve bookmarked it and look forward to returning. Now, if they can just get an app for that…