A Librarian’s Guide to “Longform” Reading

Long-form journalism is a branch of journalism dedicated to longer articles with larger amounts of content. Typically this will be between 1,000 and 20,000 words. Long-form articles often take the form of creative nonfiction or narrative journalism

Publications such as Reader’s Digest, The Atlantic, and Harper’s Bazaar popularized this format of writing, which led to the founding of several new long form coverage companies such as The Atavist and Longreads. These articles tend to be categorized as “non-fiction” with a majority of the titles falling into human interest or think piece articles on a specific topic. These topics cover a broad range of subjects, including but not limited to: crime, art’s and culture, books, business and tech, current events, essays and criticism, food, profiles and interviews, science and nature, and sports.  Much like a non-fiction book, these articles are long enough to really develop a story, and inform you on topics you may not know much about. Personally, this is my favorite part about reading longform. These articles help you learn more about a topic, without overwhelming you with becoming an expert. They also give you a view into a strangers lifestyle, ideas or hobbies, which is one of the many reasons why non-fiction keeps me coming back for more.

There are thousands of articles that are as long as books, or as short as short stories, on thousands of different topics and subject matters. If you’re overwhelmed with where to start, I’ve compiled a list of my favorite “longform” websites, as well as several popular non-fiction titles available at the Cheshire Public Library.

            1. First up is Narratively, which is my favorite of all. Narratively’s tagline is “celebrating humanity through authentic storytelling”. The website works with a network of over 3,000 talented journalists and storytellers that explore the hidden stories of the world, focusing on the “underdogs” and the “overlooked tales that enlighten us”. The website has several subsections, including: hidden history, memoir, renegades, secret lives, and super subcultures. Examples of articles include “Secret Life of a Children’s Party Princess“, which explores the not so glamorous life of a part time princess, full time college student, as well as “That Time I Conducted an Autopsy Without Any Medical Training” or the mistaken identity of a med school poser. These articles, and many others, are charming, heartbreaking, and insightful. Narratively is a gem of a website, and worth coming back to again and again.

              2. Longreads and Longform are two fantastic websites that recommend longer works of fiction across the web. Each  feature in-depth investigative reporting, interviews and profiles, podcasts, essays and criticism. Both websites curate content from a variety of different publications including, The Atlantic, Harper’s Bazaar, The Guardian, and Cosmopolitan. Articles include a variety of subject matters from serious to silly, including “Taken: How police departments make millions by seizing property” (Anna Lee, Nathaniel Cary, and Mike Ellis, The Greenville News) and “I Walked 600 Miles Across Japan for Pizza Toast” by Craig Mod. Each website is updated frequently, and each hosts a fantastic array of human interest stories as well as investigative reporting.

All of these websites have a handy feature which lets you subscribe to their stories, which sends you articles by email on a weekly basis. This lets you cater your taste in articles, and lets you catch up on news when you have a moment. It’s a fantastic way to exercise your brain, and learn more about the world around you.

If you’d prefer a physical title, the Cheshire Public Library has a large collection of non-fiction titles, as well as newspapers for current events and other human interest pieces. My personal favorite is our biography section, as well as our true crime selection. A few new titles that I’ve been enjoying lately are “Three Women” by Lisa Taddeo, and “I’ll be Gone in the Dark” by Michelle MacNamara, . There are plenty of titles on a variety of subjects, and if you see gaps or something we don’t have, you can always feel free to mention it to a staff member (we’re pretty great about supplying titles our patrons suggest!)

 

Looking for more? Here are some titles from our new non-fiction section:

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Happy St. Patrick’s Day! Classic and Contemporary Titles by Irish Authors

St. Patrick’s day is more than an excuse to wear green and pinch those who aren’t, it’s also a great time to read globally, rather than locally. There are a host of traditions that are celebrated each year around the holiday, several of which include:

  • Boston – St. Patrick’s Day celebrations in Boston bring over 600,000 visitors to the city, which has a large Irish-American community. The city has one of the largest parades, which many veterans take part in, and events are held in the large number of Irish pubs in the city. The Irish Cultural Center holds a celebration, and many events feature Irish food, such as corned beef.
  • New York – New York City is the place of the oldest civilian parade, which boats over 150,000 participants. This may include veterans along with firefighters, policemen, and cultural clubs. It is led New York’s 69th infantry regiment. Another city in New York state, Pearl river, has the second largest parade in the state with crowds of over 100,000. In Buffalo, there are two St. Patrick’s parades.
  • Ireland – This celebration is more religious in nature, as it is considered a religious feast day. While it was made an official holiday in 1903, the first Saint Patrick’s Festival was held in 1996. During these recent years, the even has become more cultural and consists of many celebrations in the streets. – ( St. Patrick’s Day – The History and Traditions Of St. Patty’s Day. https://wilstar.com/holidays/patrick.htm)

If you’d prefer to keep the celebration more low key, go to your local library, pull up a chair, and tuck into some fantastic Irish titles this holiday.

1. If you’d like to start off with a bang, why not dive straight into Ulysses by James Joyce. As a staple of 20th century literature, Ulysses follows the events of a day in Dublin in 1904 and what happens to the characters Stephen Dedalus, Leopold Bloom, and his wife Molly. Ulysses is a slice of the day to day of human condition, and stands the test of time as a moment in writing that cannot be forgotten.

2. From the critically acclaimed author of The Boy in the Striped Pajamas, John Boyne, comes The Heart’s Invisible Furies . The novel tracks a man’s life in post-war Ireland and the main characters complicated relationship with Catholicism.

3. Described by The Irish Times as “arguably the most talented writer at work in Ireland today,” Lisa McInerney‘s debut novel The Glorious Heresies follows the fringe life of a city plagued by poverty and exploitation, where salvation still awaits in the most unexpected places. Following several main characters through a variety of criminal and difficult situations, McInerney captures hope in the underbelly of a small community.

4. John Banville‘s The Sea is an intimate look at the power of love, loss and the power of memory. This Booker Prize–winning novel follows Max Morden, an Irishman experiencing the loss of his wife and traveling back to his childhood seaside town. Banville does a fantastic job weaving together the history of Morden’s wife, both her life and death, into one powerful story.

5. Emma Donoghue, Dublin native and bestseller brings the story of mother and child to life in Room. Room is a tale at once shocking, riveting, exhilarating–a story of unconquerable love in harrowing circumstances, and of the diamond-hard bond between a mother and her child.

Looking for more? Check out these authors/titles you may have missed.

Unraveling Oliver by Liz Nugent

Normal People by Sally Rooney

A Girl is a Half-formed Thing by Eimear McBride

PS, I Love You by Cecelia Ahern

 Faithful Place by Tana French

Books to Cozy Up With This Winter

What, I ask you, is better that curling up inside with good book when it’s cold and blustery outside? So grab a blanket and a hot beverage, throw another log on the fire, and grab a couple of library books to cozy up with during the long winter nights ahead.

Here are ten to tempt you:

Beartown by Frederik Backman. People say Beartown is finished. But down by the lake stands an old ice rink, built generations ago by the working men who founded this town. And in that ice rink is the reason people in Beartown believe tomorrow will be better than today junior ice hockey team is about to compete in the national semifinals.

Winter Solstice by Rosamunde Pilcher. Five people, buffeted by life’s difficulties, come together at a rundown estate house in Northern Scotland during a revelatory Winter Solstice.

One Day in December by Josie Silver. Tells the story of Jack and Laurie, who meet at a bus stop and continue to circle each other’s lives seemingly fated to be together, except not actually managing it, for a ten years.
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The Snow Child by Eowyn Ivey. A childless couple working a farm in the brutal landscape of 1920 Alaska discover a little girl living in the wilderness, with a red fox as a companion, and begin to love the strange, almost-supernatural child as their own.
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The Snowman by Jo Nesbø. In Oslo, after the first snow of the season has fallen, a woman disappears, and a sinister snowman is left in her wake. Detective Harry Hole realizes that this is only one of multiple disappearances, he begins to think a serial killer may be at work.
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Shiver by Maggie Stiefvater. Sam has lived two lives: In winter, the frozen woods, the protection of the pack, and the silent company of a fearless girl. In summer, a few precious months of being human . . . until the cold makes him shift back again.
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Smilla’s Sense of Snow by Peter Høeg. Isaiah, the son of one of Smilla Jasperson’s neighbors, is found face-down in the snow outside her Copenhagen apartment building. Smilla quickly rejects the official verdict of accidental death when she observes the footprints the boy left in the snow, and starts investigating.
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Mr. Dickens and His Carol by Samantha Silva. After poor reviews about his latest book, writer Charles Dickens is given a one-month ultimatum by his publisher to write a successful, nostalgic Christmas book, a challenge that is complicated by self-doubt and the hardships of an impoverished young woman and her son.

Little Women by Louisa May Alcott. The classic tale chronicles the joys and sorrows of the four March sisters as they grow into young ladies in nineteenth-century New England.

The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman. In an alternative world in which every human being is accompanied by an animal familiar, the disappearance of several children prompts Lyra and her bear protector to undertake a journey to the frozen Arctic in pursuit of kidnappers.

 

CPL Staff’s Favorite Reads of 2019

As you might imagine, our library staff reads a lot of books! I recently asked CPL staffers what their favorite reads of the last year were, and the list was varied and long, a mix of fiction and nonfiction, older titles and new releases. If you’re looking for some “librarian-approved” reading, we’ve got quite a few suggestions for you!

Print Fiction:

Audiobook:

Graphic Novel:

Print Nonfiction:

Susan’s Best Reads of 2019

I don’t read as much as I wish I could; I just don’t have time at the moment. It doesn’t help that I wind up with sometimes 600 page books in my hands, and those take longer.  I never know what I’ll read next, and I read a bunch of good ones last year. Here are some of my favorites:

One of the two best books I read this year, I’ve already blogged about: Creativity, Inc, by Ed Catmull, was amazing. Not just a history of Pixar films, it’s also the best darned, most entertaining book on business and employee management you will read. Pixar is a 5-star company for a reason.

The second of my Best Reads this year is The Man from the Train: The Solving of a Century-Old Serial Killer Mystery by Bill James and Rachel McCarthy James.  From approximately 1898 to 1912, a serial killer traversed the US by train – coming through New Haven’s Union Station on the way – with an MO of bludgeoning his victims with the back of an axe. Because of communications at the time, few people were able to connect the murders. James painstakingly, with the utmost detail, traces the dozens of murders and examines them, deciding if they were likely by the same killer or not, and why. He traces the paths through the states and the seasons, chasing the trail to a man who was most likely the killer. By the time he’s done, you are convinced and amazed. I could not stop reading this book. I read it while waiting for the school bus. I read it while cooking. I would have read it in the shower if I could have. If you love a mystery, if you love history, if you love crime stories, this book is a must.

I’m only 30 years late in reading Neuromancer, the Hugo-winning cyberpunk novel by William Gibson. I can see why it is held as one of the greatest novels of our time. Gibson predicts and writes about today’s modern computers and internet and gaming – long before they existed. The scenarios he describes are both familiar and futuristic at the same time. While not only visionary, it’s written in  a flawless style and with realistic, interesting characters. If you loved Ready Player One or The Matrix (which has to have been influenced by this book), you will love Neuromancer.

If you’re aware of social and racial issues, I strongly recommend Survival Math, by Mitchell S. Jackson. A professor of writing, in achingly beautiful prose worthy of Martin Luther King Jr., with the voice of a preacher without being preachy, Johnson breaks down the issues faced in his own family, examining how he came to where he is, how racism played into it without even being visible, and how despite all the odds, it’s possible to thrive. He covers harsh topics without flinching. The book is brilliant, spellbinding, and a superb read from a voice that soars with truth.

Far more than I expected, I loved Total Recall, an older door-stop of a biography on Arnold Schwarzenegger. From his birth in a tiny town in Austria (which still has only 2500 people) to his divorce from Maria Shriver, Arnold is witty and candid and down to Earth. No matter what you think of his politics or his movies or his personal life, this book may be older, but it was highly entertaining. His best friend just died in September of this year.

Not my favorite, but worth mentioning because of its local importance, is Frog Hollow  by Susan Campbell. Campbell, a former reporter with the Hartford Courant, digs into the history of the notorious Frog Hollow section of Hartford, and through tireless research shows the former glory of the neighborhood as not only an important area in Colonial times, but once a major manufacturing center (in 1898, Pope automotive made half the cars in the US). I was hoping for a deep sociologic dissection of the issues, but instead Campbell gives us an upbeat view from street level about the good aspects of Hartford and the people who live there, not just the doom and gloom of ad-selling news clips.

Last but not least, I’ll throw in a kid’s series you probably missed; with 18 years between my last two kids, I certainly did, but my youngest is so hooked on the British easy reader series Urgency Emergency! by Dosh Archer, I wound up buying most of them. The series is so witty and enjoyable you don’t mind reading them over and over again. Doctor Glenda, Nurse Percy, and the Pengamedics, in predictable melodrama, assist the maladies of Humpty Dumpty, The Big Bad Wolf, the Itsy Bitsy Spider, and many more. They are a delight. The library has several of the stories; be sure to read them all!