Book descriptions

Books by Zora Neale Hurston: Fiction, Folklore, and More

Zora Neale Hurston (1891 – 1960), the African-American author and anthropologist, was a natural storyteller. Her love of story resulted in an array of novels and short stories as well as collections gathered from the oral traditions of the Black cultures of the American South and the Caribbean. Presented here is a survey of books by Zora Neale Hurston’s — fiction,  ethnographical collections, and other writings.

Zora made a name for herself during the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920s, when she began producing novels, short stories, plays, essays, and a modest output of poetry. Upon graduating from Barnard College in 1928, she embarked on a parallel career as an anthropologist. Read More→


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A Jane Austen-Inspired Cocktail from Gin Austen by Colleen Mullaney

Gin Austen: 50 Cocktails to Celebrate the Novels of Jane Austen by Colleen Mullaney is a clever little book celebrating the exquisite novels of Jane Austen with boozy delicacies and attendant wordplay. From the publisher:

In six enduring novels, Jane Austen captured the fancies and foibles of Regency England, and this book celebrates the picnics, luncheons, dinner parties, and glamorous balls of Austen’s world. Learn what she and her characters might have imbibed, and what tools, glasses, ingredients, and skills you simply must possess.

Raise your glass to Sense and Sensibility with a Hot Barton Rum or Elinorange Blossom. Toast Pride and Prejudice with a Salt & Pemberley, Fizzy Miss Lizzie, or Cousin Collins. Brimming with enlightening quotes from the novels and Austen’s letters, beautiful photographs, period design, and a collection of drinking games more exciting that a game of whist, this intoxicating volume is a must-have for any devoted Janeite. Read More→


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Women’s Weird: Strange Stories by Women, 1890 – 1940

Just in time for settling in with a good book in front of the fireplace (or wood stove, or what the heck, even your radiator) on a stormy night, Handheld Press Ltd., based in Bath, England (onetime home of Jane Austen) will be publishing Women’s Weird: Strange Stories by Women, 1890 – 1940. This deliciously thrilling collection will be released, appropriately, on Halloween, October 31, 2019.

Edited by Melissa Edmundson, this compilation of strange tales by women authors — including some lesser-known gems by some of the classic authors on this site — will be of great interest to readers of literary ghosts stories, the supernatural, and other kinds of thrillers. From the publisher: Read More→


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Babette’s Feast: The 1958 Short Story by Isak Dinesen, and the 1987 film

It may be fair to say that the acclaimed 1987 film, Babette’s Feast, is better known than the short story by Danish author Isak Dinesen upon which it’s based. In fact, it’s possible that fans of the movie aren’t aware that it’s based on Dinesen’s story, nor even anything about her.

Isak Dinesen (1885 – 1962) was the nom de plume of this writer, best known for her 1937 memoir Out of Africa, which details her life as the owner of a coffee plantation in colonial Kenya. Born Karen Christenze Dinesen into a family of aristocrats, merchants, and landed gentry, she was later known after marriage as Karen von Blixen-Finecke. The marriage conferred on her the title of Baroness, but didn’t last. Her ex-husband’s philandering left her with the lifelong effects of syphilis.

Dinesen eventually had to give up the coffee plantation. She was above all else a storyteller, and her first book, Seven Gothic Tales (1934), was published soon after she returned to Denmark from Africa, broke, and alone. This collection of short stories was a surprise hit both in the U.S. and Europe. Short form fiction remained Dinesen’s mainstay throughout her writing career. Read More→


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Shirley by Charlotte Brontë (1849): A plot summary

Shirley was the second published novel by Charlotte Brontë. Published in 1849 under the pseudonym Currer Bell, the author had already become famous with the success of Jane Eyre (1847). While Charlotte was at work on this book, her remaining siblings died. The first to go was her troubled brother Branwell, followed by sisters Emily and Anne, who would also come to be celebrated for their literary accomplishments.

The lengthy novel has two female protagonists — the eponymous Shirley Keeldar, as well as Caroline Helstone. Set in Charlotte’s native Yorkshire, it takes place against the background of the textile industry’s Luddite uprisings of 1811 and 1812.

Shirley: A Tale, as it was originally titled, is considered an example of the mid-19th century “social novel.” The social novels that emerged from that period were works of fiction dealing with themes like labor injustice, bias against women, and poverty. Read More→


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