50 years of Mario Puzo’s The Godfather

 The landmark crime novel (or is it a family novel?) was a smash hit in its own right and spawned an even more acclaimed and influential movie series. It changed the way America thought about organized crime, birthed some memorable quotes and entered our consciousness like few other works of modern fiction. Here are 50 bullet points to celebrate 50 years of the Godfather phenomenon.

        The Godfather was published on March 10, 1969.

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Behind the Book: Maid by Stephanie Land

Written in raw, masterful, heart-rending prose, Maid is the story of one woman’s tenacity to survive and break free of the grips of the welfare system to give her child a better life. Stephanie Land’s work gives voice to the working poor. Her compassionate, unflinching writing is fueled by her own struggle as a low-income single mother who aspired to use her stories to expose the reality of pursuing the American Dream while being held below the poverty line. We had a chance to catch up with Stephanie Land and ask her some questions for our Behind the Book series

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What inspired you to put pen to paper and actually write down your experiences? Was there a certain catalyst that made you want to write this book?
I’ve been writing about my experiences since I was 10 years old, but it was almost entirely in a private way by journaling and not allowing anyone to read it. By the time I decided to take writing (and consequentially publishing) seriously, I’d been a daily writer for over 25 years. Maid came from an essay I’d published in Vox that went incredibly viral. I guess from all the interest it was clear that a book was bound to happen! Continue reading

The Revolution Will Be Written: A New Class of Contemporary African-American Authors

From medicine to the arts and all areas in between, African Americans have contributed to the distinct fabric of the United States of America. The culture’s significance has been nationally celebrated during the month of February since its inception in 1970, however, its impact on literature alone could easily span a complete calendar year.

Frederick Douglass overcame the decree that it be illegal for slaves to read, penning his best-known work, Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. W.E.B. Dubois overcame segregated academia to become the first African American to earn a doctorate degree from Harvard and produce his acclaimed essay collection, The Souls of Black Folks. Zora Neale Hurston burst onto the scene of the Harlem Renaissance with the classic, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Nikki Giovanni amplified the frustration felt during the Civil Rights and Black Power movements with the eloquent prose of her collections, Black Judgement and Re:creation…and current African American authors continue to carry the torch, using literature as an expansive tool to express social commentary, celebrate shared experiences, grieve lives assaulted and lost due to ignorance and injustice and inspire new generations to continue to push forward with pride.

 

Below is a mere fraction of our favorite contemporary African-American authors, each of whom are doing their part in securing a place for people of color in the “Best of” literary lists for this era.

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Behind the Book The Minimalist Home by Joshua Becker

Editor’s Note: Popular minimalist blogger and author Joshua Becker provides methodical instruction on how to turn your home from a storage unit into a place of peace, contentment and purposeful living. His new book, The Minimalist Home, helps you to declutter your home and learn how to address the underlying issues that contribute to over-accumulation in the first place. We are delighted he provided us with more insight below! Minimalist Home Book Jacket

Why did you write The Minimalist Home?
I’ve been writing my blog (Becoming Minimalist), teaching minimalism, and speaking about the joys of owning less at conferences around the world for a decade now. And I’ve seen repeatedly, more times than I can recall, that there is an almost magical effect when people right-size the quantity of their possessions—in the process, the people themselves are changed in positive ways. Owning less creates opportunity to live more. I wrote The Minimalist Home to give people a practical guide to help them experience that. At its best, minimalism is about transforming your home so you can transform your life. Continue reading

Behind the Book: Watching You by Lisa Jewell

Editor’s Note: Having started her first novel for a bet in 1996, Lisa Jewell has grown into one of the UK’s most beloved and popular fiction authors. Jewell’s writing is addictive, her characters fleshed out and her storylines original. We were thrilled she agreed to write this piece about the inspiration behind her latest novel, Watching You. Read on to discover how this book came to be!
Lisa Jewell- Watching You cover

The first glimmer of the genesis of Watching You was a feeling that there seemed to be an awful lot of news stories about very suburban people in very suburban love triangles committing murder. Either the mistress would kill the wife, or the husband would kill the wife, or the wife would kill the mistress or some other combination of the three.

So, if I was to write about suburban love triangles then I needed a suburb, and that was when the book really started to take form in my head; there is a suburb of Bristol in the UK called Clifton which is famous for its high set rows of brightly painted houses. It used to be a rough area, but has become increasingly gentrified over recent years and is now so “chi chi” that it has its own branch of the Ivy (an upscale restaurant chain in the UK). Continue reading

Behind the Book- Once Upon a River by Diane Setterfield

Editor’s Note: Diane Setterfield is a magical storyteller. The way she weaves her stories makes readers demand more, more, more! We are delighted to be able to present an in-depth review of the inspiration behind her latest novel, Once Upon a River.

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Once upon a time, a long time ago, I wrote a novel called The Thirteenth Tale.  People took this book to their hearts in an extraordinary way and I spent over a year travelling to meet readers all over the world. It was a very special time, and when the last trip was done I came home buzzing: so many readers and bookshops, so many cities, countries, continents. What I needed now was to get my feet back on the ground, recalibrate myself for normal life lived at a normal pace. I needed to slow down. I needed a holiday. Continue reading

Behind the Book- Queen of Air & Darkness by Cassandra Clare

Editor’s Note: From the master of young adult fiction comes the final novel in the #1 New York Times and USA Today bestselling The Dark Artifices trilogy, Queen of Air and Darkness. This magnificent conclusion to a spellbinding series involves dark secrets and forbidden love, which threaten the very survival of the Shadowhunters. We had the opportunity to catch up with Cassandra Clare and ask her some questions about the series and Shadowhunters.

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What first inspired you to write about Shadowhunters?
The idea came to me one afternoon in the East Village. A good friend of mine was taking me to see the tattoo shop where she used to work. She wanted to show me that her footprints were on the ceiling in black paint — in fact the footprints of everyone who’d worked there were on the ceiling, crisscrossing each other and making patterns. To me it looked like some fabulous supernatural battle had been fought there by beings who’d left their footprints behind. I started thinking about a magical battle in a New York tattoo shop and the idea of a secret society of demon hunters whose magic was based on an elaborate system of tattooed runes just sprang into my mind. When I sat down to sketch out the book, I wanted to write something that would combine elements of traditional high fantasy — an epic battle between good and evil, terrible monsters, brave heroes, enchanted swords — and recast it through a modern, urban lens. So you have the Shadowhunters, who are these very classic warriors following their millennia-old traditions, but in these urban, modern spaces: skyscrapers, warehouses, abandoned hotels, rock concerts, thrift stores. In fairy tales, it was the dark and mysterious forest outside the town that held the magic and danger. I wanted to create a world where the city has become the forest — where these urban spaces hold their own enchantments, danger, mysteries and strange beauty. It’s just that only Shadowhunters and Downworlders can see them as they really are. Continue reading

Behind the Book: The Clockmaker’s Daughter by Kate Morton

Editor’s Note: Kate Morton is the New York Times bestselling author of The Lake House. Her newest book The Clockmaker’s Daughter is the rich, spellbinding new novel that tells the story of a love affair and a mysterious murder that cast their shadows across generations, set in England from the 1860s until the present day. Special thanks to Sara Rattaro for this insight into what went in to the writing of Kate Morton’s The Clockmaker’s Daughter.

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 How did you manage to intertwine different narrative plans with such ease and without any flaws? How do you write and develop your novels?
I wrote The Clockmaker’s Daughter differently from my other novels. In the past, I have written each chapter in the same order that it appears in the published book; this time, however, I wanted the structure of the novel to support the thematic exploration of time. It was important to me from the start to show the way different layers of time had transpired within a single place. I knew up front that the novel would contain a number of short vignettes – snapshots into the lives of various residents of Birchwood Manor, the house at the novel’s heart – linked together by an over-arching first-person narrative. I wrote the historical vignettes first so that when it came time to write Birdie Bell’s story, I – like she – was privy to the experiences of all of the other characters across time. Because I wrote the past interludes simultaneously, I was better able to glimpse the silvery threads that tied them together.

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Behind the Book: Night of Miracles by Elizabeth Berg

Editor’s Note: For Elizabeth, stories provide both an escape from trouble times and an answer to problems. Her latest novel, Night of Miracles, reflects her desire to remind people of the good things in life. Read on to discover Elizabeth’s take on what has inspired her novels.

When I was nine years old, I wrote and submitted my first poem to American Girl magazine. It was called “Dawn,” and it was a stinker of a poem, even by the most lenient of standards, but it did two things. One was that it got me on the path of buying my father a Cadillac—for I thought surely the poem would be published and I would receive somewhere around a million dollars. Unfortunately, my poem was rejected, and should have been, and I did not get a million dollars, or even the pittance that the real payment must have been. But I got something else. Writing that poem showed me the pleasure of getting what I was feeling inside, out. Continue reading

Behind the Book: The Keto Reset Diet Cookbook by Mark Sisson

Editor’s Note: Mark Sisson is the New York Times bestselling author of The Keto Reset Diet, the groundbreaking ketogenic diet plan that helps to reset your metabolism in 21 days. His newest book, The Keto Reset Diet Cookbook, contains 150 keto-aligned recipes to help you slim down, get healthy and go keto the right way. We had the opportunity to catch up with Mark recently. Read on to discover his thoughts on the Keto craze and what led him to write The Keto Reset Diet Cookbook! Plus, get a sneak peek into some delicious Keto recipes! 

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Confession: Even though I consider myself to be plugged into what’s happening on the cutting edge of nutrition, health and fitness, I was caught off guard by the “keto explosion”— the surge of interest in the ketogenic diet these past few years. The general public and scientific circles can’t stop talking about keto. On the plus side, this has shined a light on the many benefits of a low-carb, real-food way of eating like the one I’ve been writing about for years. On the other hand, it seems like keto came out of nowhere to become the hottest thing around, so it’s being labeled (unfairly) as a fad. Continue reading