Tag Archives: The Great Gatsby

A Super Tuesday Reading List

The presidential primary season, when we pick the candidates who will compete for our nation’s highest office, is inevitably among the dumbest times in our history. And while we’re not historians, it’s a safe bet that 2016 is among the dumbest we have seen. Today is Super Tuesday, when multiple states cast their votes in this spectacle of our shame, so to smarten up the place a bit, we decided to recommend a few books to the supporters of the various candidates.  We want everyone to have an opportunity to tune out the [unintelligible yelling] and enjoy some good reading.

Hillary Clinton

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America’s Ten Favorite Books are Better Than You Expected

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Among the embarrassing surveys of how few Americans can find Ukraine on a map and/or the dismal polls of people who believe the Senate should be controlled by Republicans, this week saw the release of a cultural indicator that actually bears good news.

Tuesday, Harris Interactive published the results of a poll asking Americans which books they love most. The survey — which last ran in 2008 — revealed that The Bible, by God, was America’s favorite. No surprises there, as other studies have clearly shown that Americans largely identify as Christian. The good book maintained the #1 spot it held in 2008, while Gone With the Wind also kept its ranking, coming in again at #2. The Lord of the Rings and Harry Potter collections (each counted as one book, which is not altogether sporting, if you ask me) traded positions in the #3 and #4 spots, with Potter taking higher honors this year. Other books that appeared on the 2008 list did not fare as well — which is actually the best part. A number of blockbuster novels on the previous list were replaced by a handful of American classics.

Perhaps most interesting is the way the changes from ’08 to now sync up oddly well with the typical evolution of many American readers.

In 2008 we read like eager young adolescents, just starting to take on “big” books (as in 300+ pages, ostensibly written for adults) and devouring anything that caught our interest. This explains our 2008 affinity for Stephen King’s The Stand (#5); the Dan Brown books (Da Vinci Code #6 and Angels and Demons #8); and of course, Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, a hallmark of enthusiastic youngsters and Congressional staffers discovering the nascent thrill of thinking that they are thinking for themselves.

In 2014, we stepped up our game. We are now reading like older, slightly more sophisticated adolescents.  The Stand has been displaced by To Kill a Mockingbird in the #5 spot, followed by #6 Moby Dick, #7 The Catcher in the Rye, #8 Little Women, #9 The Grapes of Wrath and #10 The Great Gatsby.

This trend indicates that, in the last six years, our nation must have felt the influence of a really important English or Drama teacher, someone who helped us figure out a lot of stuff we were going through recently and who we’re never going to forget. If the trend holds, we should all be getting into experimental fiction and Annie Dillard by 2020.

Whatever the case may be, we should all just be happy that Atlas Shrugged has fallen off the list. For those of you who think that’s bad, well, the last poll was taken in 2008. You know whose fault this is: 

– Michael Moats

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Books that Mattered in 2013: The Great Gatsby

The Great Gatsby

Because it drove people into bookstores and prompted big discussions like “Why Every American Should Read The Great Gatsby, Again” and “Five reasons ‘Gatsby’ is the great American novel” and “Why I Despise The Great Gatsby.” Is there any writer who’ll be making this much hullaballoo 88 years from now?

See all the Books that Mattered in 2013.

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CRITICAL HIT AWARDS with Tom Lutz of the Los Angeles Review of Books

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The best new book reviews on the Interwebs (as chosen by Tom Lutz, founder and editor-in-chief of the Los Angeles Review of Books) are about debating The Great Gatsby, growing up with Black Panthers, and hating on Tao Lin.

And Lutz says the taboo in our Q&A:

“The novels and book reviews I respond to remind me — not explicitly, of course, or obnoxiously — that the writer is smarter, or more adroit, or more knowledgeable, or more skillful (or all of those things) than I am.”

Check it all out here.

– Brian Hurley

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Some Gatsbys are Greater than Others, Ctd.

And then there’s Kathryn Schulz at New York Magazine, who doesn’t think any Gatsbys are worth a damn:

Gatsby is in a class by itself. It is the only book I have read so often despite failing—in the face of real effort and sincere ­intentions—to derive almost any pleasure at all from the experience.

Schulz finds The Great Gatsby to be “aesthetically overrated, psychologically vacant, and morally complacent,” and believes that “we kid ourselves about the lessons it contains.” Experience the full brunt of her dislike here. Feel free to let us know if you agree or disagree in the comments.

More of Fiction Advocate’s Gatsby coverage here.

– Michael Moats

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Some Gatsbys are Greater than Others

FA Gatsby CoverLast week, the New York Times reported that The Great Gatsby “is dividing the nation’s booksellers with dueling paperback editions: the enigmatic blue cover of the original and the movie tie-in book that went on sale Tuesday, a brash, flashy version with Leonardo DiCaprio front and center.” The hero of the story was Kevin Cassem at New York’s McNally Jackson Books, who explained, “We’re selling the classic cover and have no intention of selling the new one.” Mr. Cassem, saying what we’ve all been thinking, added: “I think it would bring shame to anyone who was trying to read that book on the subway.”

Not surprisingly, these feelings are not shared by the people of Wal-Mart, who don’t tend to evaluate things based on subway cred, and more often think in terms of amassing “fresh green” that is “commensurate to [their] capacity for wonder.” The mega store will be selling the novel in the Leonardo DiCaprio cover and only the Leonardo DiCaprio cover, which, honestly, will be much more effective at luring people into a story that couldn’t be further from everyday low prices.

The good news in all of this is that people are talking about The Great Gatsby and thinking about good, old fashioned book covers. At this point in the year, sales of Gatsby are projected to put it among the best selling books of the year, allowing it to serve as “a literary palate cleanser to follow 2012, when the American book-buying public gorged on the Fifty Shades erotica series.”

Over the years, there have been many different covers of The Great Gatsby, some greater than others. The Times again has the scoop, and has collected images of the book from over the years and around the world.

(FYI — McNally Jackson’s Book of the Month is Renata Adler’s Speedboat, which Brian Hurley is excited to tell you all about.)

– Michael Moats

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