Jane Austen never lacks for attention, but with the 200th anniversary of her death coming up, her perennially popular work is tackled in several titles this season. Keeping with the theme of old favorites, other authors recount the creation of classics including Jane Eyre, Les Misérables, and Sentimental Education.

Top 10

The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats

Allen Ginsberg, edited by Bill Morgan. Grove, Apr. 4

Ginsberg’s own perspective on the beats is given in this edited collection of lectures.

Flaubert in the Ruins of Paris: The Story of a Friendship, a Novel, and a Terrible Year

Peter Brooks. Basic, Apr. 4

Brooks uses letters between Gustave Flaubert and his friend George Sand in France’s “terrible year”—summer 1870 through spring 1871—to explore Flaubert’s Sentimental Education.

The Making of Jane Austen

Devoney Looser. Johns Hopkins Univ., June 15

Joining a group of books marking the 200th anniversary of Austen’s death, this book explores her making as an author and a literary legend.

More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers

Jonathan Lethem, edited by Christopher Boucher. Melville House, Mar. 14

Lethem embraces both cult and canon in this collection of his writing on writers, including Chester Brown, Herman Melville, and Lorrie Moore.

The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables

David Bellos. Farrar, Straus & Giroux, Mar. 7

Bellos recounts the birth and many later lives of one of the world’s most popular novels.

The Secret History of Jane Eyre: How Charlotte Brontë Wrote Her Masterpiece

John Pfordresher. Norton, June 27

Pfordresher asks why Brontë tried to conceal her authorship of a book that was a bestseller from its first publication, teasing out the parallels between writer and heroine.

Somebody with a Little Hammer: Essays

Mary Gaitskill. Pantheon, Apr.

PW gave a starred review to Gaitskill’s new collection of essays written over the past two decades, praising her “surprising, nimble prose” and “candid, unflinching self-assessment.”

South and West: From a Notebook

Joan Didion. Knopf, Mar. 7

A diligent notebook keeper throughout her career, Didion shares her entries from a 1970 road trip through the South and a 1976 stint covering the Patty Hearst trial for Rolling Stone.

Sunshine State: Essays

Sarah Gerard. Harper Perennial, Apr. 11

Gerard, already acclaimed for her fiction, shines a light on Florida’s Gulf Coast in all its strangeness and darkness.

Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish: Essays

Tom McCarthy. New York Review Books, May

McCarthy chooses his best recent essays, on authors, artists, filmmakers, and musicians.

Essays & Literary Criticism Listings


In Other Words: 40 Years of Writing on Indonesia by Goenawan Mohamad, trans. from the Indonesian by Jennifer Lindsay (May 2, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-1-62872-731-9) is a wide-ranging essay collection by one of Indonesia’s foremost public intellectuals, from 1968 to the present day and touching on literature, faith, mythology, politics, and history.


Flaubert in the Ruins of Paris: The Story of a Friendship, a Novel, and a Terrible Year by Peter Brooks (Apr. 4, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-465-09602-2). A literary historian examines Gustave Flaubert and George Sand’s correspondence during France’s “terrible year”—summer 1870 through spring 1871—of external defeats and internal chaos.

Blue River

Once Upon a Time It Was Now: The Art & Craft of Writing Historical Fiction by James Alexander Thom (May 1, trade paper, $17.99, ISBN 978-1-68157-051-8). Historical novelist Thom (St. Patrick’s Battalion) lays out the tools of his trade, instructing aspiring authors on how to set readers in the midst of bygone events.

Center for Hellenic Studies

The Tears of Achilles by Hélène Monsacré, trans. from the French by Nicholas J. Snead (May 8, trade paper, $22.50, ISBN 978-0-674-97568-2) contrasts Western ideals of inexpressive manhood to Homer’s presentation of Achilles and his warrior companions. Pursuing the paradox of the tearful fighter, Monsacré examines the interactions between men and women in the Homeric poems.

Coffee House

The History of the Future by Edward McPherson (May 16, trade paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-1-56689-467-8). The author of The Backwash Squeeze and Other Improbable Feats gives a subversive take on American places, exploring the space between history, experience, and myth.


The Romance of Elsewhere: Essays by Lynn Freed (June 13, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-61902-927-9). Freed, who grew up in South Africa and first came to the U.S. as a teenager on an exchange program, explores a quintessential question: what makes a home?


On the Sofa with Jane Austen by Maggie Lane (May 1, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-7198-2058-8). First published in Regency World magazine, these essays celebrate the quirkiest corners and cleverest contrivances of Jane Austen’s art. The 21 topics range from coiffure to crime, gossip to grandmothers.


A Little Book on Form: An Exploration into the Formal Imagination of Poetry by Robert Hass (Apr. 4, hardcover, $29.99, ISBN 978-0-06-233242-4). The former U.S. poet laureate, Pulitzer Prize, and National Book Award winner dissects poetic form, traditional and modern, aiming his thoughts at students, enthusiasts, and newcomers alike.


Gutenberg’s Fingerprint: A Book Lover Bridges the Digital Divide by Merilyn Simonds (Apr. 11, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-77041-352-8) asks what is lost and what is gained as paper turns to pixel, looking to three earlier seismic shifts in human communication: the inventions of writing, of the alphabet, and of mechanical type and the printing press.

Farrar, Straus and Giroux

American Originality: Essays on Poetry by Louise Glück (Mar. 14, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-374-29955-2) is the poet’s second book of essays, after 1993’s Proofs and Theories, and focuses on contemporary American poetry.

Housman Country: Into the Heart of England by Peter Parker (June 20, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-374-17304-3) investigates the particularly English sensibility of poet and classical scholar A.E. Housman (1859–1936), best remembered for the collection A Shropshire Lad, published in 1896.

The Novel of the Century: The Extraordinary Adventure of Les Misérables by David Bellos (Mar. 7, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-374-22323-6). Tracing the life of one of the world’s most popular novels, Bellos brings a century of scholarship to a wide general readership, recounting Les Misérables’s origins, creation, and later manifestations on stage and screen.

FSG Originals

Too Much and Not the Mood: Essays by Durga Chew-Bose (Apr. 11, trade paper, $15, ISBN 978-0-374-53595-7). Inspired by Virginia Woolf’s April 11, 1931, entry in A Writer’s Diary, Chew-Bose makes a self-portrait of a young writer shutting out the din in order to find her own voice.


The Best Minds of My Generation: A Literary History of the Beats by Allen Ginsberg, edited by Bill Morgan (Apr. 4, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-8021-2649-8). In 1977, Ginsberg decided to create a course on the beat generation. This book presents the lectures in edited form, showing the beats as Ginsberg knew them: as friends, confidantes, mentors, and fellow revolutionaries.


Printer’s Error: Irreverent Stories from Book History by Rebecca and J.P. Romney (Mar. 14, hardcover, $26.99, ISBN 978-0-06-241231-7) is a humorous history of printed books as told through absurd moments in the lives of authors and printers, collected by Rebecca Romney, rare book expert for TV’s Pawn Stars.

Harper Perennial

Sunshine State: Essays by Sarah Gerard (Apr. 11, trade paper, $15.99, ISBN 978-0-06-243487-6). A Los Angeles Times First Fiction Award finalist uses her experiences growing up along Florida’s Gulf Coast to illuminate the struggles of modern human survival: physical, emotional, environmental.

Harvard Univ./Belknap

A New Literary History of Modern China, edited by David Der-wei Wang (Apr. 17, hardcover, $45, ISBN 978-0-674-96791-5), features more than 140 contributors and emphasizes Chinese authors’ influence on foreign writers, as well as China’s receptivity to outside literary influences, offering contrasting voices and points of view.


The World Broke in Two: Virginia Woolf, T.S. Eliot, D.H. Lawrence, E.M. Forster and the Year that Changed Literature by Bill Goldstein (July 4, hardcover, $30, ISBN 978-0-8050-9402-2) is a narrative of the intersecting lives and works of four revered authors during 1922, the birth year of modernism.

Johns Hopkins Univ.

The Making of Jane Austen by Devoney Looser (June 15, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-4214-2282-4). Going back to the roots of Jane Austen’s lasting literary fame, Looser shows how she was influenced in her own time, popularized for later eras, and studied by generations of scholars.


South and West: From a Notebook by Joan Didion (Mar. 7, hardcover, $21, ISBN 978-1-5247-3279-0) presents two never-before-seen excerpts from Didion’s notebooks, one tracing a road trip in June 1970 through Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama, and the other the “California Notes” that began as an assignment from Rolling Stone on the Patty Hearst trial of 1976.

Lion Hudson

The Spirituality of Jane Austen: Her Faith Through Her Life, Letters and Literature by Paula Hollingsworth (Apr. 1, trade paper, $16.95, ISBN 978-0-7459-6860-5) explores Jane Austen’s gentle but strong faith and its effect on her life and writing, making the case that Austen’s disparaging characterizations of individual clergymen were not attacks on Christianity as a whole.

Melville House

More Alive and Less Lonely: On Books and Writers by Jonathan Lethem, edited by Christopher Boucher (Mar. 14, hardcover, $25.99, ISBN 978-1-61219-603-9), is a selection of acclaimed novelist Lethem’s (A Gambler’s Anatomy) writing on the subject of writers and writing, from Melville’s Moby-Dick to David Foster Wallace’s Infinite Jest.

Mercer Univ.

A Man’s World: Portraits by Steve Oney (May 1, hardcover, $26, ISBN 978-0-88146-618-8) collects 20 profiles of fascinating men by author and magazine writer Oney, written over 40 years for such publications as Esquire, GQ, Premiere, Time. Subjects include Harrison Ford, Robert Penn Warren, and fallen Marine Corps corporal Christopher Leon.

Startled at the Big Sound: Essays Personal, Literary, and Cultural by Stephen Corey (Mar. 1, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-88146-617-1) is the first prose collection by Corey, a widely published poet and editor of the Georgia Review. The pieces, written across three decades, meditate upon his concurrent lives as family member, author, and observer of the broader world.


Walking in Berlin: A Flaneur in the Capital by Franz Hessel, trans. from the German by Amanda DeMarco (Mar. 17, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-262-03635-1). Hessel’s 1929 book, in its first English translation, collects essays that mostly take the form of a walk or outing, and in the process capture the rhythms of Weimar Berlin.

New York Review Books

Typewriters, Bombs, Jellyfish: Essays by Tom McCarthy (May 9, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-68137-086-6) is McCarthy’s own selection of the best essays he has published over more than a decade, with essays on writers, of course (Laurence Sterne, James Joyce, and Kathy Acker among them), but also on Gerhard Richter, David Lynch, and Sonic Youth.


Writers Who Love Too Much: New Narrative Writing 1977-1997, edited by Dodie Bellamy and Kevin Killian (Apr. 4, trade paper, $24.95, ISBN 978-1-937658-65-6). This anthology of the New Narrative era in American writing offers classic texts from Bob Gluck to Kathy Acker and shows the movement as infused with the twin strains of poetry and Continental theory.


The Secret History of Jane Eyre: How Charlotte Brontë Wrote Her Masterpiece by John Pfordresher (June 27, hardcover, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-393-24887-6) shares the enthralling story of how Brontë wrote Jane Eyre and why she tried so vehemently to disown it, tying the book’s composition to her troubled family and romantic life.

Michael O’Mara

To Be or Not to Be: A Celebration of Shakespeare’s 400-Year Legacy by Liz Evers (Apr. 1, hardcover, $14.95, ISBN 978-1-78243-483-2) is a gift book that aims to show how and why Shakespeare’s work remains such an integral part of popular culture and the English language.

Oxford Univ.

The Story of Be: A Verb’s-Eye View of the English Language by David Crystal (May 4, hardcover, $19.95, ISBN 978-0-19-879109-6). Explaining that the unassuming-looking verb “to be” is jam-packed with more different meanings, forms, and uses than any other English word, Crystal offers intriguing nuggets of information to lovers of words and language.


Somebody with a Little Hammer: Essays by Mary Gaitskill (Apr. 4, hardcover, $24.95, ISBN 978-0-307-37822-4) assembles pieces written over the past two decades on matters literary, social, cultural, and personal, from Anton Chekhov to Celine Dion.


Rosalind: A Biography of Shakespeare’s Immortal Heroine by Angela Thirlwell (Mar. 14, hardcover, $27.95, ISBN 978-1-68177-335-3) is a unique “biography” of the heroine of Shakespeare’s As You Like It, exploring her influence on drama, fiction, and art, and featuring interviews with actors who include Vanessa Redgrave, Kenneth Branagh, and Rebecca Hall.


You, Too, Could Write a Poem by David Orr (Feb. 7, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-0-14-312819-9) presents reviews and essays from the past 15 years by the New York Times poetry columnist, covering contemporary masters, rising young poets, and even celebrities from outside the world of poetry.


One Day We’ll All Be Dead and None of This Will Matter: Essays by Scaachi Koul (May 2, trade paper, $16, ISBN 978-1-250-12102-8) is a debut collection about growing up the daughter of Indian immigrants, addressing sexism, cultural stereotypes, and the universal miseries of life.

Princeton Univ.

On Empson by Michael Wood (Feb. 28, hardcover, $22.95, ISBN 978-0-691-16376-5) makes a case for British critic William Empson (1906–1984), best known for Seven Types of Ambiguity, as a great author in his own right and a pioneer of close reading.

Random House

Dear Friend, from My Life I Write to You in Your Life by Yiyun Li (Feb. 21, hardcover, $27, ISBN 978-0-399-58909-6). The first nonfiction book from novelist Li traces the course of her life from China to America, and from biologist to writer, supplying a passionate response to George Orwell’s question, “Why write?”

Letters to a Young Writer by Colum McCann (May 2, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-0-399-59080-1) proffers advice from the bestselling author and distinguished Hunter College lecturer of creative writing to especially writers just beginning their craft, but also people of any profession searching for inspiration in the world.


On Imagination by Mary Ruefle (July 11, trade paper, $9.95, ISBN 978-1-941411-47-6). Acclaimed poet Ruefle draws inspiration from sources as varied as Shakespeare, Steve Jobs, and Emily Dickinson to mount an inquiry into imagination’s different manifestations, from religion and poetry to museum exhibitions.


Falstaff: Give Me Life by Harold Bloom (Apr. 4, hardcover, $22, ISBN 978-1-5011-6413-2). The famed Shakespeare scholar examines Shakespeare’s greatest comedic character, using Falstaff’s relationship to Prince Hal (the future Henry V) to explore friendship and betrayal; he also reflects on his own shifting understanding of the character.

Simon & Schuster

Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve: And Other Experiments in Literature by Ben Blatt (Mar. 14, hardcover, $25, ISBN 978-1-5011-0538-8). Statistician and journalist Blatt brings big data to the literary canon, using a database of thousands of books and hundreds of millions of words to extract new insights from the works of famous authors.

State Univ. of New York

The Love of Ruins: Letters on Lovecraft by Scott Cutler Shershow and Scott Michaelsen (Mar. 1, hardcover, $80, ISBN 978-1-4384-6511-1) is a fresh look at the father of modern “weird” fiction. Taking the form of letters, in homage to Lovecraft’s love of the form, the book shows how Lovecraft’s own stories, through their imaginative rigor, exposed his racism’s intellectual bankruptcy.

Ten Speed

The Story Cure: A Book Doctor’s Pain-Free Guide to Finishing Your Novel or Memoir by Dinty W. Moore (May 2, trade paper, $14.99, ISBN 978-0-399-57880-9). Ohio University’s director of creative writing prescribes a regimen of cures for the most common stumbling blocks writers face when completing novels or memoirs.

Tin House

The Hidden Machinery: Essays on Writing by Margot Livesey (July 4, trade paper, $15.95, ISBN 978-1-941040-68-3). The New York Times bestselling author intends this book as a master class for those who love reading literature and for those who aspire to write it, offering close readings, arguments about craft, and personal essay.

Univ. of Georgia

Let Us Build Us a City by Tracy Daugherty (Mar. 15, trade paper, $26.95, ISBN 978-0-8203-5081-3) considers the principles of literary art in essays that focus on the nature of artistic vision and the creative individual’s relationship to the world.


Modernism in the Streets: A Life and Times in Essays by Marshall Berman, edited by David Marcus and Shellie Sclan (Mar. 14, hardcover, $29.95, ISBN 978-1-78478-498-0), traces the intellectual life of a quintessential New York City writer and thinker. These selections show Berman (1940–2013) as one of the great urbanists and Marxist cultural critics of the 20th and 21st centuries.


What Is Poetry? (Just Kidding, I Know You Know): Interviews from the Poetry Project Newsletter (1983–2009), edited by Anselm Berrigan (Apr. 11, trade paper, $25, ISBN 978-1-940696-39-3), is a selection of interviews and rare photos from the legendary Poetry Project at St. Mark’s, in time for its 50th anniversary season.

Yale Univ.

The Social Life of Books: Reading Together in the Eighteenth-Century Home by Abigail Williams (June 27, hardcover, $40, ISBN 978-0-300-20829-0). In this history, Williams shows that, two centuries before the advent of radio, TV, and film, books were an important form of popular entertainment and an integral part of domestic social life.